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Remaining connected with a friend on a spiritual journey

August 24, 2013 | By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
One friend is touting new religious beliefs while the other is losing faith in the friendship.

QUESTION

Hi,

I have a friend who I’ve known for about 21 years now. She is a wonderful person. Throughout the years, we’ve shared our ups and downs.

A few years ago, she went on a spiritual path, and has since been very vocal about it. She went as far as to tell me how she is always praying, and even started to refer to herself as a “healer.” As her friend, I’ve listened to her. But many times I get the feeling that she is having a taste of various religions.

I was raised as a Catholic, and even attended Catholic school. But this religion really has not met my spiritual needs for some time now. On a recent visit I was having some emotional problems and shared them with this friend. She drives in from another city to visit me, so she invited me to have lunch, as we usually do when we get together.

She drove me to a temple, which has a kitchen/cafe where people can buy lunch. I felt rather uncomfortable even going there to begin with, because I do admit I have issues with this congregation in particular.

I didn’t want to make a fuss about this since I hardly see her. After we had lunch and I shared my woes, she then suggested we go into their temple and pray. I was feeling really vulnerable already, and never anticipated ending up there in the first place, so I did go in with her. It felt strange for me. I sat in the back for about 15 minutes before walking out. I know that had I not done this, she would have stayed longer.

I must admit that I also felt that she decided to take care of her own spiritual needs and go to this congregation on our friendship time. Is there something such as spiritual boundary-crossing? I do follow some Eastern philosophies but am not at all congregational, nor do I desire to be. The whole idea about spirituality is a very personal matter, and I’m not on a mission to recruit/influence anyone about this.

Before I left, she advised me to find a spiritual teacher. I would appreciate some insight if you have any about this issue, or how to deal with something like this.

Signed, Sara

ANSWER

Hi Sara,

When a friend goes through a change, that transformation in turn alters the friendship itself. We often choose friends who are very similar to us. As such, realizing your friend has become different from you is unsettling.

In a sense, you might even be mourning the loss of your “old” friend, with whom you used to connect so easily. Just because you miss the harmony you two had before doesn’t mean you are judging her new choices–it’s a natural reaction.

As for how to move forward while preserving the strong parts of your friendship: I think the issue here is communication rather than spirituality per se. You need to talk to your friend, and tell her that while you very much appreciate her listening to you and trying to help you with your recent difficulties as she saw fit, you felt uncomfortable in the temple.

You could tell her that in the future, you’d like her to not mix her spiritual practices with your friend-dates. Finally, you could say that you are not interested in getting advice from a spiritual teacher. Instead, you’d like advice and support from her, speaking from HER perspective, and not that of her new religion.

Hopefully she will listen to you and respect your wishes in the future. There’s a chance that she will become defensive and reply that her religious beliefs are too much a part of who she is now—to set aside while she’s spending time with you. In that case, you’ll have to keep talking to see if you can come to a mutual understanding.

Pretending that everything is the same between you while quietly becoming annoyed with her and estranged from her is a good formula for an emotional blow-up down the line–something from which even the strongest friendships have trouble recovering. Talk it out now, and maybe you can re-negotiate the terms of your friendship.

Best wishes and I hope this helps!

Carlin Flora
Author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are


*Carlin Flora is a friend and colleague of the Friendship Doctor.

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Category: Communication

Comments (7)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Beatrix,

    Thank you very much for your reply. Honestly….you hit the nail on the head, in terms of where I am at about religion/spirituality. It is a very personal journey for those who authentically embark upon it, and seek it out. Really, for myself I have enough information about the wisdom about life that I need or want. The rest of it would just be overload. I also feel that if anyone is going to take up a certain religion, and they want to espouse doctrine about it, they should take it seriously and study. The biggest part for me is application. In my friend’s case, the interest in her brand of spirituality is lacking in continuity and application.

    When she first showed interest in spirituality, she told me she was writing a book. At first I thought, well wouldn’t one have been involved for some time to be writing a book about it? Well this book, it turns out was a very small, more like a pamphlet basically espousing her personal views about love and God. Really, it didn’t have real substance. It was very ego-based, and she even told me that some people criticized her. I could see why. I’m not trying to be mean about this, but in my opinion,
    she’s such a novice.

    She had a logo of an eye in the middle of a pyramid painted on the doors of her car a couple years ago, and below that it read “Spiritual Healer.” She’s even referred to herself as a monk. Well, she still likes to drink alcohol, gets very angry in traffic and flips people the bird. So how does that translate towards a spiritual path?

    As I said before, I was raised Catholic, I even attended Catholic school. So I’ve already had the experience of having a religion humm drummed into me.
    For political reasons I do not like the way this religion has handled it’s stand’s regarding women, then of course the recent scandals surrounding child abuse.

    It always amazes me to meet people such as my friend, who really I feel that want to use spiritual practices and religion to pump up their own insecure egos, also.
    Thank you very much for your response, it really resonated with me, and I feel you know what I’m talking about.

    Sarah

    • greenbean says:

      Sarah,
      Just because your friend flips people the bird and gets angry in traffic doesn’t mean she’s not spiritual 🙂 spiritual is “life” everyday living, that’s more real and true than someone who sequesters themselves on a mountaintop somewhere claiming to be a guru, or someone who goes to church for the sake of appearing “good” or doing good deeds in order to appear good. It’s also not very spiritual to judge others 🙂 we are all each other’s brother’s and sisters in a way, everyone is different, following our own paths, some are more advanced than others. Stand back and see your friend as being on her own path, don’t judge, she’s learning, just like we all are, just like you are. Try and have some patience with her and try and have some patience with yourself. you may feel the structure of Catholic teachings was drummed into your head all your life, so maybe that isn’t the path for you, spirituality is not necessarily “organized religion” – religion is in a sense “man made”, of his interpretation… finding your own interpretation of what life is, is spirituality.

  2. Beatrix says:

    Oh dear.
    I’ve lived in India & Nepal for 15 yrs and run into these types all the time.
    It seems many Americans think India is some sort of ‘spiritual Disneyworld’ where enlightenment can be found on every corner.
    Well Americans, India is just another developing country and there’s no more ‘GOD’ or ‘enlightenment’ here than in the US or on the moon for that matter.
    Let me tell you the little speech I share with these ‘spiritual friends’-
    Spirituality is a personal journey of inner development.
    It does not require a specific temple, lamasery, guru or any other ‘unique’ institution or leader nor is it some elaborate system of punishment & rewards.
    Each of us must all follow our own unique ‘spiritual’ journey which may or may not follow the same institution or guide.
    “Religion was created in order to share the mystery and worship, not to oppress or convert others. The greatest manifestation of the miracle of God is life.”

    (Ok so I borrowed that last part from Paulo Coelho)

  3. Sheryl says:

    Excellent words of advice. Communication is key to preserve an important friendship, even though it can be so difficult to see a good friend taking a different path.

  4. monika says:

    I cannot find anything else to add to your comments because that’s a good advise you give.

  5. Angela says:

    Hi Sara

    Is the issue that you want to find your own way towards your spiritual needs? I’m asking as you mentioned that being a Catholic did not meet your spiritual needs..

    I think it’s important to note that whatever our initial beliefs, that we know that we’re all spiritual beings. Your friend is seeking truth to her existence as a spiritual being & so even if she is off track so to speak.. as you mentioned (you feel she is having a taste of various religions) she is nevertheless seeking her true existence.

    When we seek truth, we will find it, I found mine in Christ as I was seeking truth; “what am I hear for? what is life all about? surely I must have purpose”… We all do & it seems your friend is seeking to find hers. It’s a place we come to when we’re unsatisfied with the artificial. People say there are many & any paths, but there is actually only one that leads to the right door. I hope your friend finds the truth she is seeking & I hope you receive the fulfilment of your spiritual needs too.

    Sometimes we will have to separate from friends in order to grow & find our way.. We came into this world alone & we will leave alone. Your friend probably just wanted to share her journey with you, which I understand would have been better if she would have asked you beforehand rather than drive you there & then suggest that you go in. At least now you know the direction of her life & yes can set your boundaries. The thing to see here though is that she is seeking better than where she is or was, & that can never be a bad things unless she doesn’t actually find her way. I believe though, that as we seek ‘better’ we will find it.. I hope she finds the ‘best’ & you too.

    Hope this helps also..

    Angela

  6. greenbean says:

    I think Carlin gives very good advice to this poster.

    Just to add, everyone’s spiritual journey is different, what works for you may not work for your friend and vice versa. She simply may have been trying to introduce you to the concept, open your eyes a bit, invite you into her world and the things that are now important to her. However, if it’s not something you gel on, then the relationship may or may not come to end. Once someone has found spirituality, it’s pretty hard to rein them back in again and it’s unfair to do so as it is unfair for her to try and shove her beliefs down your throat. However, it sounds like she might simply have been trying to introduce you to it.

    As someone who has also found spirituality in a somewhat different way, I don’t try to shove it down people’s throats, I am respectful of their own beliefs, however, in the beginning I was a little gung ho about it and probably went overboard with a couple of friends who weren’t right into like I was lol but I think that’s normal, it’s just something you are excited about and wish everyone was just as excited 🙂 I have found friends who are on the same path as myself and I love those new friends dearly but I also love my old friends and make time for them as well doing the things we’ve always done 🙂

    Good luck 🙂

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