Faith Crisis

Who can I talk to now that I've left my church?

After leaving a spiritual group, it is often uncomfortable — perhaps even impossible — to talk with friends who still belong. Continuing members will tend to react to your decision with confusion or disapproval.

Obviously, the other option for the airing of concern is to share your dilemmas with individuals outside the organization. But there too, alarming bias is generally encountered more frequently than understanding help. People outside the organization may be unable to understand the issues involved. Worse, they may be so unsympathetic to spiritual involvements generally, or to your former group specifically, as to be quite traumatic to talk to. These common circumstances generally eliminate the possibility of a satisfactory exchange with outsiders.

If you are fortunate enough to find an open-minded friend to confide in, be aware that the way you hold and present your problems will greatly affect the kind of response you will get. In this day and age, honesty has been primarily associated with negativity. People with pent-up grievances will tend to vent them at great length, as soon as they get a willing audience. As a result, you may create an impression that is more negative than you actually feel, misleading your would-be helpers in their effort to understand, comfort, and protect you.

Despite your objections, you most likely still admire and approve of much of what your former church or spiritual organization represents. Will you remember and express that? Or will you simply emphasize the bad parts? Resist the temptation to focus only on the negative. Taking a more balanced view will help you more than you think — and it will help you get better guidance from others, too.