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  #1  
Old Jan 8, '13, 12:16 pm
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mommamaree mommamaree is offline
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Default Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

Hello everyone,

I have a question about how to apply St. Augustine's exhortation to relationships, specifically female friendships. I have a lot of new friendships forming, slowly but steadily, now that I have been a convert and member of my parish for a couple of years. And I am learning a lot about genuine, adult, Christian friendships. But one thing that is still not clear to me, is how to properly navigate conversations on doubtful matters without carelessly activating people whose choices differ from my own.
For example, the choice of breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, the decision to use public school vs. private school vs. homeschool, the decision to cloth diaper vs. disposable diapering, to wear skirts vs. pants, to headcover or not in the Mass or at adoration or confession. These are all issues that, IMHO, fall into the doubtful things category of St. Augustine's exhortation. There may be good reasons why someone might feel one is the superior choice (at least for them and their family), but is not a necessary/essential matter in which unity of mind is important.
Yet, navigating conversations centered on these choices can be a minefield of careless offenses and hurt feelings. Most of the time, if I know that I am not in accord with a person on one of these matters, then I prefer not to speak about the matter at all. But this is not practical or honest. In fact, many times, I need to ask for advice or other perspectives in order to be more informed about my own options. I also need to hear other women expressing their reasons for their choices, as well as be able to express the reservations I may have about my own choices. I am not one of those people who chooses a path and then feels confident that path is the right and only choice. This applies to all these touchy subjects of how to feed one's baby, how to diaper, whether or not to spank, choice of education, stay-at-home or go to work. It helps me greatly to know why other women make the choices they do, even if I ultimately make a different decision. And to have taboo topics with friends keeps the walls up and makes it harder to develop that closeness that we are working to cultivate.
So how do I, or how do we as Christians, navigate difficult topics with humility and sincerity? I know hurt feelings will sometimes occur, but I really want to learn how to be a better friend and how to be ready for deeper friendships should the Lord bring such opportunities into my life. Also, I need to be able to handle subtle condemnation from friends who can be overbearing about certain topics but are otherwise excellent Christian women.
Any advice offered, or book suggestions, etc. is very welcome. I am realizing that this year is presenting me with many opportunities to widen my circle of Christian women friends, Catholic and Protestant, and I want to become a better friend to them, as well as learn how to "take the best and leave the rest" when it comes to advice or opinions that are delivered in an overbearing way.
Whoo, that was a long question. Thank you in advance to anyone who can help me.
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  #2  
Old Jan 8, '13, 1:33 pm
St Francis St Francis is offline
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Default Re: Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

This is a tough one! I constantly had women whose chdren went to school explain why they weren't homeschooling...

I think it is easiest when everyone has the attitude that what people do wrt parenting and other things is what is best for their situation. In each scenario related to parenting, there are good points and bad points, and each family must prayerfully determine what is best for their own families.

I think it is really sad when people get judgemental about these prudential matters. I try to offer a sort of personal explanation for what we do so that others won't feel like I think they are doing the wrong thing, iyswim, like, well, I am bfing, but our family has a history of allergies, and the like.


Are congratutions in order? I notice you mentioned a number of things that new mothers discuss
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"The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love."
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  #3  
Old Jan 8, '13, 1:56 pm
KellyPalmer KellyPalmer is offline
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Default Re: Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

I guess I just assume that other people make choices on these matters because they believe either that their choice is the superior choice or that there is no superior choice since I do the same. And I keep in mind that their expression of either of these things is not a personal attack on my choices. It rarely bothers me to discuss these things unless someone makes particularly inflammatory statements. Generally assume benign intent and be open to the reasons other women share for their choices. I find it helpful to hear women talk about the reasons for these types of choices. And I would hope it would help others to hear why I make my own choices. Not necessarily helpful in making my own decisions (although sometimes that too) but helpful in having understanding and compassion towards others. Consider that those who are overbearing are probably very passionate. That doesn't make it ok for them to push their views on you but at least you can look at the bright side of their trait!
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Old Jan 8, '13, 2:53 pm
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mommamaree mommamaree is offline
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Default Re: Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

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Originally Posted by St Francis View Post
This is a tough one! I constantly had women whose chdren went to school explain why they weren't homeschooling...

I think it is easiest when everyone has the attitude that what people do wrt parenting and other things is what is best for their situation. In each scenario related to parenting, there are good points and bad points, and each family must prayerfully determine what is best for their own families.

I think it is really sad when people get judgemental about these prudential matters. I try to offer a sort of personal explanation for what we do so that others won't feel like I think they are doing the wrong thing, iyswim, like, well, I am bfing, but our family has a history of allergies, and the like.


Are congratutions in order? I notice you mentioned a number of things that new mothers discuss
I am not a new mother, but my fourth baby is due next month. I am having these convo opportunities because me and my friends all like storytelling as a way of relating, and so many parenting decisions have recently become a battleground. It is like since the way of the world is "anything goes" and moral relativism, in Christian circles the overreaction is to fear any kind of differentmindedness. It is good to be in accord on matters of faith and morals, but prudential judgement in areas of parenting should not upset us so. And yet they do...
I don't like the tension, and I want to be easygoing and humble in order to enjoy my friends and learn from them, while still reserving the right to do things a bit differently. I cannot control their reaction of course. But I just want to do my part to sow peace.
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Old Jan 8, '13, 2:56 pm
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mommamaree mommamaree is offline
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Default Re: Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

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Originally Posted by KellyPalmer View Post
I guess I just assume that other people make choices on these matters because they believe either that their choice is the superior choice or that there is no superior choice since I do the same. And I keep in mind that their expression of either of these things is not a personal attack on my choices. It rarely bothers me to discuss these things unless someone makes particularly inflammatory statements. Generally assume benign intent and be open to the reasons other women share for their choices. I find it helpful to hear women talk about the reasons for these types of choices. And I would hope it would help others to hear why I make my own choices. Not necessarily helpful in making my own decisions (although sometimes that too) but helpful in having understanding and compassion towards others. Consider that those who are overbearing are probably very passionate. That doesn't make it ok for them to push their views on you but at least you can look at the bright side of their trait!
All very true and helpful things for me to internalize. Thank you. I will give this much thought. I also can be very enthusiastic about things, and yet I am sensitive to the fact that, if I am not careful, I could hurt or alienate a friend by carelessly espousing a view that differs from her own. That would make me sad to have done so.
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Old Jan 10, '13, 6:27 am
St Francis St Francis is offline
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Default Re: Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

Quote:
Originally Posted by mommamaree View Post
I am not a new mother, but my fourth baby is due next month. I am having these convo opportunities because me and my friends all like storytelling as a way of relating, and so many parenting decisions have recently become a battleground. It is like since the way of the world is "anything goes" and moral relativism, in Christian circles the overreaction is to fear any kind of differentmindedness. It is good to be in accord on matters of faith and morals, but prudential judgement in areas of parenting should not upset us so. And yet they do...
I don't like the tension, and I want to be easygoing and humble in order to enjoy my friends and learn from them, while still reserving the right to do things a bit differently. I cannot control their reaction of course. But I just want to do my part to sow peace.
If you have a circle of friends in which this is happening, it might be that your concerns are also bothering others? Maybe you could bring your concerns up when y'all get together?

I actually made an agreement with my bf many years ago to be open about when we need to get off the phone, and it has been so great So this may be something that, if resolved, could bring your friends closer together, whereas it sounds like if no one does anything that things might fall apart in the growing tension.


And I think you have put your finger on a possible source of the need to be following the right path. I know that my attempts to be a good Catholic in the Bible Belt have often led me into places that were not a good idea.
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"The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love."
-Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P



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  #7  
Old Jan 10, '13, 7:58 am
EasterJoy EasterJoy is offline
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Default Re: Relationships and St. Augustine's "in essential things, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in all things, charity"

Quote:
Originally Posted by mommamaree View Post
...Most of the time, if I know that I am not in accord with a person on one of these matters, then I prefer not to speak about the matter at all. But this is not practical or honest...
Oh, but it is. The world would be both much more practical and much more honest if far fewer opinions were thrown out onto the table. Most of the time, biting your tongue is not dishonest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mommamaree View Post
In fact, many times, I need to ask for advice or other perspectives in order to be more informed about my own options. I also need to hear other women expressing their reasons for their choices, as well as be able to express the reservations I may have about my own choices. I am not one of those people who chooses a path and then feels confident that path is the right and only choice....
If you play the "reporter" in these situations, and merely encourage others to give their opinions, then you'll find that a great many are very happy to give you their opinions without being the least bit bothered that you are not offering your own.

The other piece of advice I have is to listen and reply as if everyone on every side of this issue could overhear what you say. If you refuse to badmouth anyone and soft pedal the rash words others say (as if you knew someone was eavesdropping, but the speaker did not know), you will be OK.

Remember, there are people with whom you cannot avoid conflict and people who aren't going to be satisfied unless you agree with them. It is OK to refuse to even try, and certainly OK if you do not take it to heart that they are unhappy that you aren't saying more. Better that than that they are unhappy because you said something you cannot take back.

Likewise, if you feel a need to speak up, then with an angel as your witness, speak up! Be kind and gentle, avoid judging others, but do not worry if you really are in one of those positions where you have to say something and someone else decides to be emotionally vindictive.

IOW, do the right thing, don't add fuel to these fires, and take an occasional landmine as par for the course.
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