Among friends it is common to get to know each other on many levels, from hobbies and interests, to personal life stories, to passions and lifestyle choices. Among these topics religion is bound to come up. But how can you discuss the topic of religion in a manner that doesn’t threaten your friendship, but still allows you the opportunity to express what you believe? It can be done through love, respect, and humility.
It is of the utmost importance to remember this one thing when discussing the topic of religion: share your beliefs with love. Religions tend to have one main belief in common — they teach love for one another and love for everyone.
Bringing up the topic of religion in the spirit of contention is not of love. Tearing down the beliefs of others is a selfish endeavor. When you do this, you are trying to prove yourself right more than you are trying to improve the life of others. You may think that you are doing this for their own good, after all the intentions in your mind are to share what you know to be true. But genuine intentions of the heart, where you want to share something that brings joy into your life, will never be expressed in hurtful anger, only with love.
Always respect those with different beliefs no matter how much you disagree. How do you keep the respect even when you disagree? Simple — answer questions about religion with what you believe, not what you believe is wrong with someone else’s religion. If asked (and only if asked, attacking other religions only makes you look bad and your message will not be heard) about what you do not agree with of another religion, avoid name-calling and passive-aggressive snide remarks. You can express your disagreement in a mature manner: “I believe this, this is why I believe it, and therefore according to that reason I do not agree with that other belief.” See, there is no need to be cruel. Stick to your beliefs as much as possible and stay away from mudslinging like a nasty politician.
When you are humble you naturally display the utmost love and respect for others. But what does humility really mean in this situation? It means that while you hold your religion so close to your heart and you are certain of its truth, you are humble enough to understand that others may not see it the way you do. Humility is demonstrated by not being forceful. You can share your beliefs and want others to accept them as their own, but when they do not, you must be humble enough to still love them. Even if they never convert to your religion, have the humility to still be their friend, to respect your differences, and simply love them for who they are. After all, whatever caused you two to be friends in the first place is probably still in tact and worth keeping.
If you have a friend that does not abide by these principles and uses tactics of anger (arguing, belittling, manipulation, etc.) when discussing their beliefs (whether religious, lifestyle, or political), never forget that returning anger with anger only leads to more anger. It’s very hard to remember when anger is a natural reaction towards those that are angry, but you have got to fight that instinct. The best way to derail someone else’s anger is to actually use the principles of love, respect, and humility. You can still express your disagreement, but do so in a concise way that sticks to the point rather than a personal attack, and then follow it with positive remarks, such as discussing what your friendship is built upon, finding your common ground.
There are times you may also feel the need to point out to this friend that their behavior is inappropriate, but make that call on a case by case basis and try to do so in the most understanding and compassionate way. They are more likely to hear you out when they are approached with love. However, some people can be unreasonable and at some point you may have to decide that for your own sanity it is better to have distance. It doesn’t make you a bad person to end a friendship when it is no longer a friendship and just a strain on your life. Truth is, that makes you a wise person.
All in all, remember that if you decide to discuss your religious beliefs with others that you are volunteering to stand as an example of your religion. Be a good example by showing love, respect, and humility.