Difficult Family & Reunions - please help


#1

Hi all,

I am very Conservative in many things; I've always been this way.

And yet, somehow, I grew up in an extremely "liberal" family: pro-choice, pro-euthanasia, pro growth of the Federal State, pro Mao... you name it, if it's anti-life/liberty, they are for it. If it means more "wicca worship" - ah, yes, by all means, let's have more of it. Et cetera.

To me, they seem absolutely insane. And always have.

Now, I also have many aquaintences who are likewise minded - very "liberal." However, somehow I can handle that a little better; it doesn't "get" to me quite the same way.

I am simply unable to be around my family and not speak my mind. But either way, I'm miserable. If I don't speak, I steam for days, sometimes weeks. If I do speak, I think of all the things I could have said, etc. In short, whatever I do, I am not at all happy when I'm around them; and it often affects me for a long time afterwards.

So gradually I've decided to spend less and less time around them.

But then, sometimes I think - they are my only "biological" family; of course they matter, etc. I am missing much, perhaps, by not being around them. et cetera.

Anyone else have this problem? I can't be the only one! LOL.

Any advice? Suck it up and pray and just be quiet around them? :shrug:

I don't know. :blush:

Thanks for any response.

~cawbs


#2

I have close family members who adopt religious and political views precisely because they contradict mine and waste no time letting me know it on every possible occasion. My solution has been to limit time spent with them, and to smile and change the subject when they start in on me, and to leave with a gracious farewell when the whole crew turns on me, my husband and my kids. So we get together for an afternoon about once every 5 years or when someone dies (nobody on that side believes in marriage as we know it so that does not arise any more).


#3

[quote="puzzleannie, post:2, topic:208744"]
I have close family members who adopt religious and political views precisely because they contradict mine and waste no time letting me know it on every possible occasion. My solution has been to limit time spent with them, and to smile and change the subject when they start in on me, and to leave with a gracious farewell when the whole crew turns on me, my husband and my kids. So we get together for an afternoon about once every 5 years or when someone dies (nobody on that side believes in marriage as we know it so that does not arise any more).

[/quote]

Unfortunately, that is the direction I'm heading towards. It seems like a very sad place to me. But what else can you do? :shrug:

Pray - and limit the time around them, I suppose.


#4

[quote="Micawber, post:1, topic:208744"]
Any advice? Suck it up and pray and just be quiet around them?

[/quote]

I have a similar situation.

You just don't get into theological discussions or political discussions with them. There are many other things to talk about. And if they disagree on religious or political views, don't take it personal. I know a priest, and two (different denomination) ministers that will debate scripture all day, but at the end of it, they'll go play golf together. You just understand and respect their positions and move on.

Now, when you don't respect their positions (I've got one family member that was raised Catholic but now is "well... I don't know. I'm thinking maybe Baptist this week but I'm looking at Buddhism..." for no good reason other than to be different), that's harder. Just avoid all religious discussion, smile for the few hours you're together, then go home and pray for him or her.


#5

[quote="CoffeeHound, post:4, topic:208744"]
I have a similar situation.

You just don't get into theological discussions or political discussions with them. There are many other things to talk about. And if they disagree on religious or political views, don't take it personal. I know a priest, and two (different denomination) ministers that will debate scripture all day, but at the end of it, they'll go play golf together. You just understand and respect their positions and move on.

Now, when you don't respect their positions (I've got one family member that was raised Catholic but now is "well... I don't know. I'm thinking maybe Baptist this week but I'm looking at Buddhism..." for no good reason other than to be different), that's harder. Just avoid all religious discussion, smile for the few hours you're together, then go home and pray for him or her.

[/quote]

Yes - however, maybe this is a little demon in me, but when I am in the presence of outrageous error, falsehoods, and even things verging on evil, how can I help but speak? How can anyone? I'm just not like that - can't keep my mouth shut.

Then I think: why can't I speak but be a bit of G.K. Chesterton - do it joyfully, not be angered. The thing is, I can do that around aquaintances - but somehow, family is different that way. At least it is for me. Hard to keep quiet; hard to keep cool.

Those two ministers - i'll bet they ain't brothers! :)


#6

CoffeeHound,

The other things is, almost any topic verges right up against Theology & Politics - maybe its me, but I don't think we can separate things that way.


#7

[quote="Micawber, post:5, topic:208744"]
Yes - however, maybe this is a little demon in me, but when I am in the presence of outrageous error, falsehoods, and even things verging on evil, how can I help but speak? How can anyone? I'm just not like that - can't keep my mouth shut.

Then I think: why can't I speak but be a bit of G.K. Chesterton - do it joyfully, not be angered. The thing is, I can do that around aquaintances - but somehow, family is different that way. At least it is for me. Hard to keep quiet; hard to keep cool.

Those two ministers - i'll bet they ain't brothers! :)

[/quote]

I would say , Micawber, it is up to you , You must try to accept the things you can't change and change the things you can. Get on your knees BFORE all visits and God will guide you!

God bless you in it all, Peace Carlan.

e


#8

[quote="Carlan, post:7, topic:208744"]
I would say , Micawber, it is up to you , You must try to accept the things you can't change and change the things you can. Get on your knees BFORE all visits and God will guide you!

God bless you in it all, Peace Carlan.

e

[/quote]

Thanks - do you think it's a sin to avoid visiting unless absolutely necessary (say, a death)? What would Christ do? What would a saint do? Turn away - or walk straight into the trouble, come what may?


#9

[quote="puzzleannie, post:2, topic:208744"]
I have close family members who adopt religious and political views precisely because they contradict mine and waste no time letting me know it on every possible occasion. My solution has been to limit time spent with them, and to smile and change the subject when they start in on me, and to leave with a gracious farewell when the whole crew turns on me, my husband and my kids. So we get together for an afternoon about once every 5 years or when someone dies (nobody on that side believes in marriage as we know it so that does not arise any more).

[/quote]

This is pretty much our situation as well. Our "family" now consists of people that are not blood related.

OP, I wonder, is part of the problem that they don't seem to respect your views and opinions? Because I too find I can talk about religious and other differences around acquintances and friends and even a few family members, but I find with the most difficult family members, it is more difficult because there is no respect from them. And at the end of the day, after spending time with them, I just would feel beat up emotionally.

What we have found that has worked on a limited basis, is to spend time with smaller groups of the family, like just with my husband's sister and her family. But the big social family gatherings, unless its a death or a wedding, it doesn't work for us.


#10

It’s difficult to say - there are so many weird dynamics in a family anyway, jealousies, rivalries. It’s very complex. And perhaps in part because of this, I think we might demand more respect from them. Or, at least we are most sensitive to any lack of respect, perceived or not. But yes, I think there’s a dismissing that’s hard to take - especially when there are many of them, and only one of you. The group dynamic can be very, very hard. And it makes me angry - and that can’t be good.


#11

I suppose my core questions are:

***is it a sin to avoid visiting unless absolutely necessary (say, a death)?

What would Christ do? What would a saint do? Turn away? Or walk straight into the trouble, come what may?***


#12

Obviously your situation is not all that uncommon.

First of all, in order that you might feel comfortable with where you are spiritually I suggest you read the following passages in the Gospels.

Mt 12:46-50
Mt 19:27-29
Mt 10:32-38

So - Do not fear about your not getting on with your family. Christ predicted just such conflicts.

Since you feel the need to express yourself, do not be afraid. What you might choose to do is pray before visiting them asking the Holy Spirit to be with you and to provide you with what you need to say.

Speak quietly and charitably. Do not "argue". And if they take to talking over each other, and "shouting you down" (not uncommon in these situations) simply "shut up". Then, when you are able, explain to them that you welcome the opportunites to discuss these matters, but only in a charitable manner. Volume and numbers do not make a position correct.

If the above is not feasable, then do as annie does, and simply leave (shake the dust from your feet). The most important thing is to not lose your peace over this. You cannot change their minds. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

Peace
James


#13

[quote="JRKH, post:12, topic:208744"]
Obviously your situation is not all that uncommon.

First of all, in order that you might feel comfortable with where you are spiritually I suggest you read the following passages in the Gospels.

Mt 12:46-50
Mt 19:27-29
Mt 10:32-38

So - Do not fear about your not getting on with your family. Christ predicted just such conflicts.

Since you feel the need to express yourself, do not be afraid. What you might choose to do is pray before visiting them asking the Holy Spirit to be with you and to provide you with what you need to say.

Speak quietly and charitably. Do not "argue". And if they take to talking over each other, and "shouting you down" (not uncommon in these situations) simply "shut up". Then, when you are able, explain to them that you welcome the opportunites to discuss these matters, but only in a charitable manner. Volume and numbers do not make a position correct.

If the above is not feasable, then do as annie does, and simply leave (shake the dust from your feet). The most important thing is to not lose your peace over this. You cannot change their minds. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

Peace
James

[/quote]

James,

What a perceptive & wise post. Thanks so very much for that.

Yours in Christ,

~cawbs


#14

I have a similar family situation, except that I believed what I had been told until the age of 20. At one point I was more liberal than they were, but now I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum.

If the situation is bad enough, I think there are reasons why you would cut off almost all contact. But I think you'd have to really be sure that the situation was bad enough. Who is bringing up the hot topics that result in you speaking your mind (which there is nothing wrong with)? If it is you, then your obligation is to stop poking the bear, rather than avoiding them altogether. If this is just your difficulty being around them even if they don't throw it in face, then I think that is an issue you have to deal with and move beyond. We are called to be peacemakers, and if we can't coexist near people who disagree with us when they're not throwing it in our faces, then that is a spiritual lack on our part.

If they are instigating arguments, then you should explain to them that for the sake of family unity, you need to not be arguing about those issues, and therefore, you'd like to avoid those conversations when you're together. When they bring it up, you remind them that this is an "off-limits" conversation and change the topic to something acceptable. Lather, rinse, repeat. After a while, if this doesn't work, then separation may be necessary. But I wouldn't go from zero to sixty. Start with visiting them, but ending your visit when the conversation takes the wrong turn. Visiting less frequently might be helpful in allowing you to appreciate the things about each other that you like, while not wasting your shorter visits on arguing. Cutting off all contact should be a last resort IMHO.

I recently removed my brother from my friends list on Facebook for this reason. I'm still miffed about the conversations I watched him have on his wall, but I suspect that as time goes, and we steer clear of those topics, we'll be able to have our relationship. We live far from each other and only see each other once a year, but if we were closer, we would see each other at family events and other occasional times. But our lives wouldn't be intermingled. Both of us would be busy with people whose lives and values are more similar to ours. My parents do live close, and even without political arguments, our weekly visits can be difficult, but I think good (mostly) for our kids, and important enough not to stop. At least for now. I would limit contact if I had to, and dh and I have discussed this, but it would be a really sad thing if it came to that - so I will do everything I can not to let it come to that.


#15

ThykingdomCome,

  1. I don't know that I can - or should - compartmentalize faith in that way. To me, it seems to seep into virtually everything. Art? Education? History? Yep, yep, yep. Few topics - if any - aren't ultimately "theological." I dunno, maybe I'm a fanatic. lol. :shrug:

  2. Aren't we called to teach? I have to sit and listen to my brother-in-law (an engineer) go into the most baldfaced positivist explanations for everything - to me, an ugly and false perspective. But there he is, spreading it around; and everyone else nodding and eating it up. I can't stand it. I simply have to say something. Yeah, fanatic I suppose. :blush:

  3. I don't get this --->"I suspect that as time goes, and we steer clear of those topics, we'll be able to have our relationship."

How can you have a "relationship" with a brother that excludes Christ and requires silence about worlds and worlds of ideas and things? It's like a big black hole in your "relationship." Better than nothing? I suppose so.


#16

[quote="Micawber, post:11, topic:208744"]
I suppose my core questions are:

**is it a sin to avoid visiting unless absolutely necessary (say, a death)? **

What would Christ do? What would a saint do? Turn away? Or walk straight into the trouble, come what may?

[/quote]

Jesus would not sin, even in the presences of really agrivating sinners. Nothing personal, but you aren't Jesus--you're a sinner, (like the rest of us.:))

In the Act of Contrition we promise to "avoid the near occassion of sin." A saint would avoid sin. Ask yourself if these visits cause you to sin. If the visits presents an occassion of sin for you, then don't feel guilty about avoiding them.

If the visits don't present an occassion of sin for you, then ask yourself if those visits do more good or more harm. If you have children, does it do harm to frequently expose your children to such relatives' philosophies and viewpoints? If there are other children and young adults present, is it good for them to be frequently exposed to your faith and viewpoints?

Those are the types of thoughts I have and questions I ask myself when it comes to dealing relatives who hold secular viewpoints that are contrary to our Catholic faith. The answers I get vary, depending on a variety of factors.


#17

Thanks! Great way of looking at it.

[quote="gardenswithkids, post:16, topic:208744"]
Nothing personal, but you aren't Jesus--you're a sinner, (like the rest of us.:))

[/quote]

Ummmm, nothing personal but I never said I am. ;)


#18

[quote="Micawber, post:15, topic:208744"]
ThykingdomCome,

  1. I don't know that I can - or should - compartmentalize faith in that way. To me, it seems to seep into virtually everything. Art? Education? History? Yep, yep, yep. Few topics - if any - aren't ultimately "theological." I dunno, maybe I'm a fanatic. lol. :shrug:

[/quote]

It's not that you're compartmentalizing your faith, but you're restricting the conversations you have with your family members. It is true that faith can permeate everything, and it does with me. So the conversations could end up being very restricted, and may stay with polite conversation rather than deep, thoughtful and informative. I guess you could say you're compartmentalizing your family.

[quote="Micawber, post:15, topic:208744"]
2. Aren't we called to teach? I have to sit and listen to my brother-in-law (an engineer) go into the most baldfaced positivist explanations for everything - to me, an ugly and false perspective. But there he is, spreading it around; and everyone else nodding and eating it up. I can't stand it. I simply have to say something. Yeah, fanatic I suppose. :blush:

[/quote]

We're called to be witnesses, but that doesn't always mean lecturing our family members every chance we get. St. Francis said, "Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words." In other words, living your life as a Christian IS a witness, and getting into a contentious argument with someone is not likely to convert them. Win the battle, lose the war, you know?

And I do agree, as I have said, that there is nothing wrong with charitably and prudently arguing the truth when a person is speaking against it. And in some cases it is necessary. But you are stating that you're so frustrated with it that you're ready to cut off almost all contact. So obviously, this sort of "teaching" isn't working for you. So given the fact that you aren't able to have that middle ground, the question is: which allows you to teach/preach/spread the faith more: zero contact with you, or a shallow relationship in which they have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of your faith, and in which little seeds may be planted over a long period of time?

[quote="Micawber, post:15, topic:208744"]
3. I don't get this --->"I suspect that as time goes, and we steer clear of those topics, we'll be able to have our relationship."

How can you have a "relationship" with a brother that excludes Christ and requires silence about worlds and worlds of ideas and things? It's like a big black hole in your "relationship." Better than nothing? I suppose so.

[/quote]

My faith permeates my life, and for this reason, I will probably never have a very deep relationship with my brother, because we don't agree on so many of the fundamentals. But just because I don't argue with him about Christ (which is what me "teaching" him would turn into), doesn't mean Christ is out of my relationship. I am still able to be kind to him, show an interest in his music, ask him for advice on teaching my kids' piano, make simple, non-offensive jokes with our very-similar senses of humor etc...We look alike, we have the same history, we love some of the same people... Christ is there where there is love, so I haven't eliminated him from my relationships. And my hope is that by being a kind, loving sister, perhaps my brother will see something attractive about my Christ-centered life (assuming I am living it well)

In your case, you have three issues going on:

1-your responsibility as a Christian to evangelize
2-your responsibility to have relationships with family
3-your personal desires (for either close family relationships, personal peace, or satisfaction in being right).

I didn't list the 3 issues to imply that there is something wrong with #3, or to criticize you. But it is important that you differentiate which of those things is driving your decisions and your assessments of your relationships.

Remember that being right and proving a point could really be serving the third desire and actually doing nothing or hurting the first. Holding back your impulse to verbally correct, and working on being patient might actually serve the goal of evangelization better, AND might provide you with an opportunity to grow in holiness. The goal here is to find a way to combine the 3 issues in a way that you can handle. Evangelization sometimes has to be very subtle, very quiet, and very patient.. Family relationships need to be honored, but sometimes have to be honored from far away. Our desires for closeness with our families sometimes need to be reconciled with the reality that we may have to settle for something less than the ideal.

In my case, my maintaining a shallow relationship with my brother meets all three of those goals. I know direct preaching would push him away. So I hope that I can give a silent, gentle witness. I am respecting him as family, and respecting my family of origin by maintaining contact. And I enjoy talking and laughing with him. I would miss him if he were completely out of my life. I can't take him in large doses, but that doesn't mean I can't take him at all. My relationships with my family (because this is an issue with both of my siblings AND my parents, and most of my in-laws) are a work in progress, but I really think it is right for me to have them. Not that it isn't different for everyone. But cutting out family altogether, really should be a last resort, and something done in sadness, not something just to satisfy #3.


#19

[quote="ThyKingdomCome, post:18, topic:208744"]
It's not that you're compartmentalizing your faith, but you're restricting the conversations you have with your family members. It is true that faith can permeate everything, and it does with me. So the conversations could end up being very restricted, and may stay with polite conversation rather than deep, thoughtful and informative. I guess you could say you're compartmentalizing your family.

We're called to be witnesses, but that doesn't always mean lecturing our family members every chance we get. St. Francis said, "Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words." In other words, living your life as a Christian IS a witness, and getting into a contentious argument with someone is not likely to convert them. Win the battle, lose the war, you know?

And I do agree, as I have said, that there is nothing wrong with charitably and prudently arguing the truth when a person is speaking against it. And in some cases it is necessary. But you are stating that you're so frustrated with it that you're ready to cut off almost all contact. So obviously, this sort of "teaching" isn't working for you. So given the fact that you aren't able to have that middle ground, the question is: which allows you to teach/preach/spread the faith more: zero contact with you, or a shallow relationship in which they have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of your faith, and in which little seeds may be planted over a long period of time?

My faith permeates my life, and for this reason, I will probably never have a very deep relationship with my brother, because we don't agree on so many of the fundamentals. But just because I don't argue with him about Christ (which is what me "teaching" him would turn into), doesn't mean Christ is out of my relationship. I am still able to be kind to him, show an interest in his music, ask him for advice on teaching my kids' piano, make simple, non-offensive jokes with our very-similar senses of humor etc...We look alike, we have the same history, we love some of the same people... Christ is there where there is love, so I haven't eliminated him from my relationships. And my hope is that by being a kind, loving sister, perhaps my brother will see something attractive about my Christ-centered life (assuming I am living it well)

In your case, you have three issues going on:

1-your responsibility as a Christian to evangelize
2-your responsibility to have relationships with family
3-your personal desires (for either close family relationships, personal peace, or satisfaction in being right).

I didn't list the 3 issues to imply that there is something wrong with #3, or to criticize you. But it is important that you differentiate which of those things is driving your decisions and your assessments of your relationships.

Remember that being right and proving a point could really be serving the third desire and actually doing nothing or hurting the first. Holding back your impulse to verbally correct, and working on being patient might actually serve the goal of evangelization better, AND might provide you with an opportunity to grow in holiness. The goal here is to find a way to combine the 3 issues in a way that you can handle. Evangelization sometimes has to be very subtle, very quiet, and very patient.. Family relationships need to be honored, but sometimes have to be honored from far away. Our desires for closeness with our families sometimes need to be reconciled with the reality that we may have to settle for something less than the ideal.

In my case, my maintaining a shallow relationship with my brother meets all three of those goals. I know direct preaching would push him away. So I hope that I can give a silent, gentle witness. I am respecting him as family, and respecting my family of origin by maintaining contact. And I enjoy talking and laughing with him. I would miss him if he were completely out of my life. I can't take him in large doses, but that doesn't mean I can't take him at all. My relationships with my family (because this is an issue with both of my siblings AND my parents, and most of my in-laws) are a work in progress, but I really think it is right for me to have them. Not that it isn't different for everyone. But cutting out family altogether, really should be a last resort, and something done in sadness, not something just to satisfy #3.

[/quote]

Very well said indeed. Thanks - you've given me a lot to think about.

In Xto,

~cawbs


#20

Oh and like you haven't "listened" to me long enough...

I feel for you, really I do, about having to listen to your bil going on and on, "preaching" drivel. You don't have to just sit there and take it though. You could either:
a) get up and leave the room when the conversation turns that way. If you ahve children, bring them with you so they aren't subjected to it.
b) state that you don't want to get into a big argument, neither one of you is going to convince the other, and request that we change the topic to something less controversial (and then change the topic yourself - have something in mind ahead of time)
c) Sit in the room quietly and think about something else, staying out of the conversation.

If it really is impossible to manage, then it's understandable that you would want to limit visits with a person that is THAT obnoxious. But it makes sense to give them the benefit of the doubt first and see if the situation can't be worked with.


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