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Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ The Religion Dilemma

Savvy Minds: Ask Dr. V ~ The Religion Dilemma

Dear Dr V ~

I’ve gone on a couple dates with a guy in the past few weeks. He’s been a lot of fun, very gentlemanly and respectful. I truly feel like there is chemistry between us. However, on our most recent date he told me that not only was he a Christian, but he couldn’t see himself in a relationship with someone who didn’t have, as he put it, “some kind of relationship with God.” I’m not an atheist, but religion is not a part of my life and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I really like this guy and don’t like the idea of losing him, but I don’t want to sell myself out either.


Dear Monica,

Who would have thought a few dates with a nice guy would lead you to such a existential, perhaps even spiritual crisis? I’ve often wondered why it is that the subjects of politics and religion get people so fired up, to the point of dissolving friendships (never mind the wars and oppression waged in their name). We can save geopolitical theories for another time, but, as I’ve said previously, I really think that for many of us, our political and spiritual understandings of the world are a major part of our sense of self, thus when our beliefs come under attack, we feel personally under attack. That and there are a lot of loony people out there.

However, you don’t seem to be one of the above-mentioned loons, and truth be told, this fellow you’re seeing doesn’t sound like a foam-mouthed fanatic either. While I definitely think you have some pondering and even some introspection to do before you can figure out how to move forward in this situation, I certainly don’t think you’re necessarily facing a deal-breaker at the moment.

In your letter, you made it clear that spirituality (let’s use that word instead of religion, as it will afford us both more freedom both in terms of discussing and resolving this issue) is not and has never been a major part of your life. And if you’re feeling fulfilled and generally OK, and not having to harm anyone or yourself to continue feeling fulfilled and generally OK, so be it. Perhaps a question to ask yourself would be if you’d be willing to try and expand your awareness and understanding of your existence. The man you’re seeing said he wanted to be with someone who had some kind of a relationship with God. While that statement does rule out atheists, it would seem to allow room for other belief systems, even those that do not use the terminology and symbolism of his faith. If what he means by “some kind of relationship with God” is simply someone with some sort of spiritual awareness or identity, then perhaps he’s not looking for a fellow Christian, but just someone who can appreciate the mysteries and wonder of the universe in a similar way with him, In my opinion, any relationship that is challenging and offers opportunities for positive growth is a worthwhile one. If you can open yourself to the idea of expanding beyond the mental, emotional and of course, spiritual place you’ve grown to be comfortable in, then it could be that this man is a good match for you.

As far as the idea of selling yourself out goes, I think you really need to listen to you heart on that one. If you think that even entertaining the idea of trying to develop a spiritual awareness is completely anathema to your identity as a person and you would feel disingenuous to even attempt any kind of growth in this area, then of course I wouldn’t advise you to try and force things. However, there is a difference between what I just mentioned and not wanting to discover and learn about certain aspects of ourselves because we could be afraid of what we might find. As in, “What if I come back from this Yoga retreat with the knowledge that I’m really an asshole and there’s nothing I can do about it?” I’m making light of the fear (it’s one that I grappled with in my own way years ago), but I think there’s some truth to it. Contentment and fear can either work for or against us, depending on the situation. Ultimately, only you can really divine (no pun intended) the direction your heart needs to go in.

A caveat to all I’ve said above: A red flag to “abort the mission” as it were, will be if, should you decide to stay with this man and in the process attempt to gain a better understanding of your spiritual identity, he starts to try and force you to make his beliefs yours. If a condition for the relationship to continue is for you to convert to his brand of Christianity, whatever it is, and you don’t want to, then obviously that would be a deal-breaker. There is a major difference between pushing ourselves to do things we may be reluctant to do because we want to try and better ourselves, and allowing others to coerce us into actions because we think it will make them happy, despite costing us our own happiness and well-being.

There are countless schools of thought on spirituality and religion and the role it should play in our lives. I think the true mark of spiritual enlightenment or of “some kind of relationship with God,” is when we can simultaneously accept what we know to be our own inner truth and be OK with everyone else having their own. I hope you can find this balance in your new relationship, and if not… keep on looking for it. It’s out there (and in you).

With Love and Light,

Dr. V

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