Navigating Attacks

Navigating attacks on your beliefs is not something we talk about enough and perhaps we should. Such confrontations often come at the most inconvenient times, catching us off guard. Unfortunately, we don’t discuss this enough in spiritual communities, leaving many unprepared for these challenging interactions. While discussing these interactions won’t make past experiences better, it will give us the self-confidence to handle them in the future.

Personal Experience of an Attack

Let me share a personal experience. My husband and I attended a multi-day event.  Earlier that week, I had given my business card to the wife of one of the attendees. I don’t hide my spirituality; she asked several questions, and I answered openly. Two days later, her husband confronted me about Jesus. I responded that he was a great teacher, like Buddha, Krishna, and many others. He then declared, “But he died on the cross for your sins—you are going to go to hell if you do not accept him as your personal savior.” With two glasses of wine in me, I was unprepared for such a statement. I looked at him and politely said, “Perhaps you need to reread the teachings of Christ; this is neither the time nor the place,” and walked away.

For two days, my husband and I reflected on this encounter. It was unprecedented for us. Our previous interactions with people of different beliefs had been pleasant, more about exchanging information than conversion attempts. It occurred to us that this person was living his spirituality as he was told, not as he experienced it. Many thoughts crossed my mind, like how he would be welcomed as he is in my church, yet I might be shunned in his. If you really follow the life of Christ, you understand that people followed him because he was full of kindness and love for all. He never tried to convert anyone. He was who he was, and the rest was history.

Handling Confrontations Gracefully

Seriously, we can all learn from one another even if, in the end, nothing changes and we part ways. The fundamental agreement should be charity towards others; all the rest is secondary, and perhaps more personal.  When someone attacks your beliefs, here are some strategies to handle the situation with grace and dignity:

Stay Calm and Composed

It’s essential to remain calm. Take a deep breath and center yourself. Reacting emotionally can escalate the situation. I know this is not easy, but you are not dealing with someone at your level of knowledge. Nor do they want to think for themselves. Social media has many positives, but it has also empowered many to say things without thinking them through.

Use Clarifying Questions

Respond with questions like, “Did you mean to say that out loud?” or “Could you repeat yourself?” or “I beg your pardon?” This can give you time to gather your thoughts and prompt them to reconsider their words, even if it is to end the conversation. The attack is not a reflection on you. Detach from the need to have everyone’s positive regard. Accepting that not everyone will like or value what you do is helpful as it will free you from needing the attacker to think well of you.

Pause and Reflect

Sometimes, a pause and a perplexed look can convey more than words. It shows that you are thinking deeply about their statement, which can make them rethink their approach. You can determine your next steps in the silence. Silence is a powerful tool in a conversation.

If you feel comfortable, share your beliefs respectfully. You might say, “I appreciate your passion, but my experience and understanding are different.” It is important to note that just because they have a certain religious belief that limits them, it does not limit you.

Set Boundaries Politely

You can say, “This is an important topic, but I don’t think this is the right time or place for such a discussion.” This sets a boundary without dismissing their beliefs. Sometimes, it’s best to agree to disagree. A statement like, “We may have different views, but I respect your right to your beliefs,” can end the conversation on a respectful note.

Cultivating Inclusivity in Spiritual Communities

It’s crucial for spiritual communities to cultivate an inclusive atmosphere where different beliefs are respected. Here are some ways to foster inclusivity:

Lead by Example

Navigating attacks on your beliefs can be challenging, but it also provides an opportunity for growth and deeper understanding. By handling such situations with grace, staying true to your beliefs, and fostering inclusivity, we can create a more compassionate and understanding world. Remember, it’s not about winning an argument; it’s about maintaining your integrity and promoting mutual respect.

As leaders in spiritual communities, demonstrate respect and inclusivity in your interactions. Your behavior sets the tone for others. Share how you have failed in the past and why it is important not to let those failures define you. Everyone has the right to believe or not believe. I think a person who mocks or hates another’s religion is not intelligent enough to understand your feelings and beliefs. Therefore, not worth the time or effort to make them see or care about your point of view because they won’t.

Encourage Open Dialogue

Create spaces for open dialogue where people feel safe to share their beliefs without fear of judgment or confrontation. In Spiritual Churches around the country, they have “Thought Exchange” sessions where people can explore subjects in a safe place and learn from one another. These sessions usually focus on a single topic, and everyone shares their understanding—not to convert, but to understand.

Offer Workshops on Interfaith Respect

Offer workshops or discussions on interfaith respect and understanding. Education can reduce fear and misconceptions about different beliefs. Encourage members to explore and share their personal spiritual experiences. This fosters a deeper understanding and respect for diverse paths.

Support Those Facing Confrontations

Provide support to those who have faced confrontations. Offer them a space to share their experiences and find comfort in the community. Let them know they will make mistakes along the way and that it is part of the process. Encourage them to share openly when appropriate.

Grace Comes with Experience

Those who are firm in their beliefs see others’ beliefs as inconsequential and non-threatening; they are not shaken by them.  Since many will attack you in the name of Jesus, perhaps you follow the example of Jesus who was not only mocked but abused, falsely accused, humiliated, and ultimately put to death. He responded to all with quiet dignity, forgiveness, and faith. Hebrews 12:2 provides an answer: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame,”. The advice: look beyond the world’s mockery and look to Heaven.

Regrettably, you have to have experience with these situations before you can handle them with grace. In sharing our experiences, we can assist one another with these future encounters.  The God of your own understand can defend themselves. If you can respond with grace and quiet dignity, your faith will shine in a world that is becoming increasingly dark and hate-filled.

Rev. Colleen Irwin
talkwithcolleen@gmail.com
Reverend Colleen Irwin is a Spiritual being having a human experience as a Blogger, Wife, Mother, Mentor, Healer and Public Speaker living in Rochester New York. Colleen, a Natural Born Medium, teaches, lectures and serves Spirit when called upon. She remembers speaking with Spirit as a child and learning how to share this knowledge with others has been an adventure that she captured in her book “Discovering Your Stream”. Colleen has been mentored by Reverend Jack Rudy, and ordained as a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek by the Reverend Dan Chesboro through the Sanctuary of the Beloved. When she is not doing her Spiritual work she is a volunteer docent sharing Susan B. Anthony's history to visitors of the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester. Her trust in Spirit gave her a new title – PREVIVOR. She now uses her platform to educate others about the BRCA genetic mutation and how one can take control of their health and well-being.
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