Being a Convert - How to Navigate

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Being a Convert - How to Navigate
« on: December 18, 2019, 10:51:53 PM »
Part of my grandparents' abuse of their kids and me and my sister has been spiritual in some way or another. My mom was almost married off to one of my grandfather's friends - he thought there was nothing better for her than being a pastor's wife, so clearly, the solution was to marry her off at 18 before she'd experienced anything of life. Fortunately, she was able to break away and go to college, and she met my dad after college.

However, she still raised us Lutheran, as she was (though more open-minded than she had been raised), and I was taught...some things that she learned from her dad that were not correct, at best. I became super - depressed, because I thought if I believed in Total Depravity, then I was a horrible human being who had no right to be alive, and who only existed at God's capricious whim. I was thinking like this at 12. So...yeah. I was not exactly the healthiest person.

I eventually, through a long process that took a lot of divine (and saintly) intercession as well as careful study, I made the decision to Catholicism. This was after my mom had been dead for a year and a half, and, to be honest, I would have been terrified to convert if she had been still alive, because what I believed her reaction would be. However, my grandparents...took even less well.

My grandfather said I now serve a man who serves Satan, that Catholics are Pelagian heretics, etc...I'm sure you Catholics on the forum have heard it all before and in more creative ways than my grandfather said. But then the big whoppers came

  • ]that I had personally betrayed him, the man who baptised me as if his administration of God's sacrament meant I owed him fealty before anything else
  • that I had broken my confirmation vows to God I went through Lutheran confirmation because it was expected - I had major problems with Lutheran doctrine even at 14, but even if I didn''s not my job not to have theological revelations after I hit the age of 14.
  • that I had betrayed everything my mother taught me because I owed it to my *dead* mother to pay lip service to a belief system I no longer subscribed to so that her father wouldn't have to face hard truths

There were more emotionally abusive and manipulative things said at that conversation, but those are the most egregious. It really rankled me that he told me I essentially failed my mother, when she almost left Christianity entirely because of his abusive tactics. Sure, she wouldn't have been HAPPY, but she at least she would've realised I was an adult who was free to make my own theological decisions, and after I would have explained my theological findings, she would have at least respected the two years or so I took in serious study of the Church before I even joined RCIA.

And then my sister converted to Eastern Catholicism this year. That blew up even worse - probably because our grandfather realised, with his only other grandchild besides us being raised essentially agnostic leaning to Christian, none of the next generation would be raised in the Lutheran tradition, and that the big Lutheran culture on Mom's side of the family was dying. He insinuated my sister knew nothing of suffering and sacrifice...after our mother - HIS DAUGHTER - had been dead for more than 4.5 years. Yeah. He tried to accuse her of lying to him because she hadn't shared her every spiritual doubt about Lutheranism with the man who had told her years before she should be slapped for saying "like" a lot.  ::) He made a horrible and crass joke about how she would never get married and have sex (presumably because she's a bigger woman). He refused to even eat dinner with her and our grandmother took him dinner for him to eat in the back room, placating his childish tantrum.

For now, DH and I have decided to keep being in contact with them, because it would cause more headaches at this point than it would free up drama. We have friends in my hometown, so we'll meet them for lunch once while visiting said friends, but never for dinner (because I have been at dinner with them, and it always ends in my drunk grandpa insulting at least one person. My question is this: how do you deal with disentangling the spiritual differences from his just being a mean ol' drunk cuss? I know that he will never see my disagreement with his beliefs as anything but an attack on him personally, because I don't recognise his headship of the family (which dad is still alive? Why should I have to kowtow to you above him?), but I need to find a few standard phrases so I can keep my cool and not be baited into an emotional knockdown dragout, which is what he wants.

Also, if you're religious, please pray for me, and for him. He's nearing the end of his life, and I truly want him to repent and make amends, no matter how unlikely that is, for the good of his own soul.



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Re: Being a Convert - How to Navigate
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2019, 12:23:14 PM »
puellareginae - how worthy and wise to examine and decide for yourself what you believe and how you will live out those most sacred and personal decisions and determinations.

Spiritual abuse is particularly shaming and compelling I have experienced. The abuse and vitriol you and your dear sister have endured from your grandfather is unconscionable.  I am so sorry.

In my own FOO, where I was expected to stay within my parent's rigid religious system and raise up my children as they decreed for me was theologically and morally "right" I had to set a firm boundary and not engage in discussion around my different choices. My own parents were absolutely not above abusive and dramatic sweeping predictions of the ills that would befall me and my children from having strayed from my "roots".

To be clear, like you, my egregious spiritual downfall was leaving a system, not God in any way, and I continued to pursue Biblical truth for myself and a committed spiritual life as my faith is foundational to everything I do.  I just happen to honor each person's right to decide these important things for themselves and live them out as is best and right for them. :yes:

I get continuing some kind of vLC to avoid the drama of NC. I have made that very hard choice as well. Smart to meet at a neutral place earlier in the day before your grandfather has had too much "truth serum" aka alcohol.

The way I was able to tease out the differences between disordered and abusive tendencies in my parents and spiritual or theological differences is the level of respect with which the conversation takes place. I have found that anything, religion, health, lifestyle choices, career path, education - can and will be used and abused by a person with toxic and controlling tendencies and a voracious need for validation and control.

If your grandfather's consistent behavior over time is to speak disrespectfully and throw tantrums when you and your sibling make spiritual choices that differ from his then, for me anyway, that is a subject that is not discussed.

I am learning to not engage in exchanges with anyone that are not productive and where respect, connection and a genuine attempt to see and hear the other person is not the foundation.  That has come to be a core value for me and helps guide me with issues like this.

I think the least attention and "heat" I can give someone looking for an all out brawl and an opportunity to grind me into the ground as having "left the faith" is a good starting gate position. Maintaining a calm, cool, composed demeanor has helped me stay focused on healthy responses to goading and digs meant to stir up my emotions and manipulate me to react out of character.

So, redirecting the conversation if grandpa is heading down that road - ignoring statements or minimizing your responses to questions is a first good step. Non committal responses like hmmm... huh... and my favorite - radio silence for a beat and then abrupt change of subject.

If he is persistent, some things I have done is kindly state something general and possible humorous... "we only discuss religion or politics on the 3rd Tuesday of the 13th month of the year grandpa." or "today is not about that" and then move on talking about the great monarch butterfly migration.  :yes:

Using our social skills and setting verbal boundaries and if he persists and stomps and storms off... you get to enjoy the peace and quiet and your grandmother's company, or you get to calmly leave and give him a good letting alone for awhile.

Learning not to Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain (more on JADE found here: and engage in circular conversations that go nowhere has been a great help to me.

What has also been key for me is to trust myself and stand firm in my beliefs and choices and to refuse offense. It is disconcerting to have to deal with this and it hurts when toxic things are said to us, such as you describe your grandfather speaking to your sister. I can move through that pain and choose to not be offended and not hold on to it all and let it harm me any further. I can also choose vvvvvvLC as well.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2019, 12:25:20 PM by Bloomie »
"You can understand and have compassion for someone and still not want a relationship with them."
Amanda E. White, LPC @therapyforwomen

Bloomie 🌸



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Re: Being a Convert - How to Navigate
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2019, 11:04:27 PM »
It sounds me like he was a rude crass and mean man and could have just as easily used the doctrines of another denomination or religion to abuse those around him.

You asked how to disentangle the faith differences  from the drunken of abuse.

I would look at the 100 traits list in the toolbox.  The list is essentially 100  forms of abuse pds use. 

Consider that there are decent folks in all denominations that are tolerant of and have friends,coworkers and even family members who subscribe to variations of Christian doctrine and yet they are polite and kind toward them.

I attend a multi denominational Church.  We have Lutheran's, Methodists, Baptists, Presbeyterians, Anglicans, Chatholics, and Pentacostals all attending, worshipping and praising together in Unity.

That we believe slightly differently on some perhaps less essential doctrines is okay and we can all have integrity because there is no expectation that we all are the same.

We unify around the tenants of the Apostals' Creed.  None of us find ourselfs being nasty to each other over doctrine, not even when having Bible study together with such a mixed bunch.




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Re: Being a Convert - How to Navigate
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2019, 02:40:30 PM »
I agree, different views of faith, different methods of worship, different interpretations of the scriptures... We should be able to all get along anyway. Across the faiths a major tenant is loving each other. I fear that your grandfather has missed that particular calling. I'm sorry that he's putting you and your family through this.

As for his patriarchal - Ness... Well that doesn't fly. You have not only your own father still living, but also a dh. In my small family my dh is now the "spiritual head" and we follow his lead.

If your grandfather is in fact a personality disordered individual, it's possible that he expects you to do as he says and basically submit to his control through religion. My disordered mother attempted to use religion to control me as well, so at a young age I too was struggling with certain aspects of my faith. Fortunately for me, in my teen years she started being "soooo sick" all the time so my more advanced faith instruction actually came by way of a Bible based distance learning curriculum.

I was finally able to reconcile because it revealed to me just what a big hypocrite she was. After that, I stopped listening to what she told me to believe, choosing instead for myself what I felt the truth actually was.

I'm not Catholic, I guess you could call me Baptist... But even there I don't totally fit in. For me, that's okay. At the end of the day the only thing that really matters to me is that God loves us. All of us.  :bighug:

Your grandfather may never reconcile with you. Pds generally don't. They have a hard time accepting they could be wrong, about anything. I know from a catholic viewpoint that might cause you distress or fear about what might then happen to him. If it brings you peace, then maybe light a candle for him, pray for him, but I wouldn't expect him to change. We can always hope for the best though.

I don't know if it is any comfort to you, but by my beliefs, you need not worry about his soul so long as he has faith in the blood of Christ.

Nevertheless, I'll be praying for you and your family.  :yes:


Call Me Cordelia

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Re: Being a Convert - How to Navigate
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2019, 03:21:41 PM »
Hugs, puella. You’ve gotten very good input already. Your grandfather’s reaction is disappointing but par for the course with PDs. I agree with the idea that they say anything to get you in line, regardless of reality. (He baptized you so it’s a personal betrayal? Oh my gosh. That’s not how any of this works. You don’t own the people you baptize!)

I wanted to share some of my story too because you are definitely not alone! I was born into a Catholic family, but definitely a more liberal one. As I entered adulthood I became more traditional in my faith life. Wearing a veil, Latin Mass, that sort of thing. My uNF had. A. Cow. Lots of the same kind of behavior as your grandfather. It was a personal betrayal because uNF’s mentors worked so hard in the 70s and 80s to “stamp out all that nonsense.” Even the phrase “personal betrayal” was used frequently. He really thought I was being traditional AT him just to make him mad. No recognition that I had my own conscience and spiritual life that had nothing to do with his experiences before I was even born. :stars: The verbal abuse and shaming was extreme. He thought he was in his rights to boycott my wedding over this, but didn’t go through with it because it might make him look bad to other people. Wish he had! I was still very much in the FOG in general but this was the first major area of my life I claimed as my own and did not allow my parents any control whatsoever. It also firmly cemented my place as the scapegoat, which had been somewhat fluid previously.

All that to say, their opinions simply aren’t worth considering. Even if they are “religious” people, the things you are hearing are lies, I believe straight from the Evil One (as all lies are). I realized through this experience just how badly my spiritual life and conception of God had been damaged by the spiritual abuse I’d endured my whole life. (In my opinion all abuse is spiritual, but I’m talking specifically religious manipulations.) I reclaimed my own relationship with God and I hope you continue to do the same. The ironic thing for me is that in becoming “more Catholic” I shed what I had always called “Catholic guilt.” No, it wasn’t my Catholicism that was the problem, it was my parents’ twisted version of it that they used to control me!!! God bless you.



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Re: Being a Convert - How to Navigate
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2019, 04:23:44 PM »
how do you deal with disentangling the spiritual differences from his just being a mean ol' drunk cuss? I know that he will never see my disagreement with his beliefs as anything but an attack on him personally, because I don't recognise his headship of the family (which dad is still alive? Why should I have to kowtow to you above him?)
My thoughts are that if your grandfather is an alcoholic then this is what to address. With addiction the whole family is ill. So the family system is dysfunctional with addiction/codependency. Everyone in the family is effected. If grandfather is the 'leader' then he is leading from a very dysfunctional place and in a very dysfunctional way. Anyone going along with his leadership is also sick with codependency. IMO/IME
So I would tell him " Im sorry you feel that way." "I love you but I disagree. " "Lets agree to disagree on this" "I dont think Mom would say/feel that" "I will not continue to discuss this with you" You are entitled to believe what you want just as I am" "Mom would have respected my beliefs even though they are different" "
I would not take anything an alcoholic says personally. I definately would not take into consideration anything he says about your beliefs. His mind is not the same as it was before alcohol abuse, meaning he is suffering from brain damage of some extent.
I hope sincerely that you protect yourself and your foc whether it is an addict, or a personality disorder, or not, from someone who trying to punish/hurt you into complying with their wishes!
If there is a hidden seed of evil inside of children adults planted it there -LundyBancroft  Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong good or bad -DebbieFord The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none -Thomas Carlyle