14

I am a 15 year old with differing religious views from my mother, who is Christian. I don't hate religion like my mother has come to believe, I am just not personally religious myself and she has taken this a very wrong way...

In detailing this question, I will try not to make too many assumptions about how my mother thinks, I try to keep it with in the realm of how she acts around this issue which leads me to more solid evidence in how she thinks.

This problem has been ongoing for several years now (around 4 or 5), and hasn't gotten any better despite my attempts to try and improve it. She just simply will not accept my beliefs no matter what. My assumption is that in her eyes, "improving" this issue would be for my beliefs to change to her own, and from what I can see this is the only option for her.

This might sound like a minor issue at first; a small religious difference between two people, but she cares heavily about what I believe and her in eyes I will not be successful in life unless I believe in and love God. She has stated this multiple times directly to me over the years, and even to our counselor, and other non-religious people.

She has told me, she has never in her life doubted the existence of God, which I personally have no issue with. The issue arises in her thinking that if you don't believe in God, you are evil and will not be successful in life, and since I am her son this scares her. This, in combination with her communication-dominate tendencies, leads some some serious issues between not only her, but our whole family.

This "fragmented communication" is essentially just her yelling over me whenever I want to communicate my ideas on the issue. She gets crazed, and yells over me when I try to speak my mind. She isn't particularly a quieter person, unlike me being very quiet. This repetitive yelling and put-downs (also with her husbands and boyfriends) and disapproval of my beliefs has lead me to depression, thoughts of suicide, self harm, drug use, etc. When she starts, she does NOT stop either... It will extend hours into the night, and sometimes she wont let me sleep either.

To make the matters even worse, she is almost always the one who starts these arguments. She is very passionate about her religious ideas and often tries to force them down on me in any random conversation we are having.

This has drove us very far apart, and I can hardly call us mother and son now, because it doesn't feel that way. Not only does it hurt me, but it is hurting her too. She has cried on several occasions, mentioned suicide a few times, and even prayed for me to believe countless times (as she has said this to me over and over).

Too me, this honestly feels psychopathic and like a form of manipulation, which I have finally come to realize over the years. She mentions suicide, but the only option she gives me is to conform to her own beliefs.

I really don't know what to do in this situation. Sometimes, the only option feels like moving far away when I'm 18 (with a person I'm in a secret relationship with, otherwise my mother would flip), but I don't feel like I can make it another 3 years.

I'm unable to move to other family members' homes because pretty much my whole family is religious, so they agree with her because she is the one telling the story, but they don't see the gross underbelly of this manipulation.

  • 1
    You stated "our counselor". Have you been to counseling together? Can you elaborate a bit on this? – anongoodnurse May 30 '16 at 16:16
  • 3
    @anongoodnurse We have gone to one counseling session together, which made it more worse than anything. I think we plan on going to the same place again, but not together in the same room. – user22320 May 30 '16 at 21:36
  • 1
    @TimGalvin OP says, more than once, that the antagonism is caused by the mother not the child, and that they child would happily let it lie if they were able to. – user19912 May 30 '16 at 21:54
  • 1
    @TimGalvin, if this were a situation where the child is gay, and the parent can't accept that, would you suggest that the child lie to the parent and pretend to be straight until the child moved out of the house? I'm not sure that suggesting that the OP deny her identity, her sense of true self, just to appease the parent is a great idea. What happens later when the child moves out and has to confront the fact that they have lied to the parent for the last several years? You are just putting off the pain, and letting the infection fester before getting it taken care of. – Paul Pehrson May 31 '16 at 16:47
  • 2
    @LeopoldoSparks agreed, but here what's morally right doesn't align with what's pragmatic. – Tim Galvin Jun 2 '16 at 22:34
4

Do you mind if I try to talk this through from a parent's perspective for a minute? I don't do this to justify your mother in this situation, but to provide a different perspective.

I have five kids. They are all younger than you. I am a religious person, and am trying to raise children who are also religious, because I value my personal relationship with God, and I see many wonderful things in my life because of my faith.

I see parents with children who "struggle in the faith." As parents, their hearts are broken as they watch their children struggle with issues that the parents believe could be alleviated or resolved through belief in a specific related religious principle. These parents have had their own trials and struggles, and have felt what they believe to be the sustaining power of faith to help them through those trials.

Let me give you an example. I believe in life after death. When my father died, while it was traumatic (and now ten years later still makes me cry sometimes), I was sustained by the faith that I believe I will see him again. If my kids were hurting because somebody they loved had died, I would want that same faith to give them a measure of comfort and peace as they dealt with the situation.

[To other forum members, please note this is not me asking for others to critique my faith or beliefs, nor am I suggesting that all people should share my beliefs, nor am I even asserting that my beliefs are factually correct in this case. I'm trying to draw parallels with the original poster, whose mother is a religious person.]

So, I can understand why a parent could suffer hurt or disappointment when a child does not share their faith. The parent has a genuine belief that life would be better for the child if they also followed the faith.

I have a sister who left our religious tradition, but did so after she had moved away from home. My parents were very sad. They felt hurt. They felt betrayed. They wanted her to partake in the blessings offered by the faith tradition. It took a long time, but my sister and mom (my dad, as I said earlier, passed away) are very good friends, today. My mom has finally been able to adjust her expectations, and my sister tried to maintain good ties through that whole time. It took a while, but they made it.

In the end, I guess I can understand why your mother would struggle with your beliefs, and your situation and your choices. This does not give your mother the right to lash out and cause you any harm, but maybe understanding that she is hurting might help.

I believe that your mother may be suffering grief because of the situation. Most people have to go through several stages of grief. During most of this cycle, she is going to continue wishing/hoping/praying that you will change.

The Grieving Cycle, borrowed from blog.focus-mediation.co.uk

(Image credit)

As others have said in this conversation, if you feel like you are being verbally or emotionally abused, you need to seek help from somebody qualified to help you. Maybe you can talk to a counselor at school. Maybe you have an open-minded relative you can call. Maybe you can go to the religious leader and openly talk through your decision/belief/ect., and ask for his or her help in working with your mother. You do not need to stay in an abusive situation. Also, you are not responsible for your mother's happiness and emotional stability and well-being.

From your post, it sounds like you need to get help from somebody who can provide real help in your situation. On the internet, we are not going to be able to understand the situation with enough clarity to give you definite advice on specific decisions you need to make. Find somebody who can help you through that. It sounds like your mother also needs to get help. From your post, it seems your mother is threatening killing herself because of your life choices/decisions/beliefs/etc. If that is true, she needs medical treatment. And remember, you are not responsible for her happiness. She is. She chooses how she reacts. Her choices are her responsibility.

You are a good person, regardless of your religious belief or unbelief. You deserve to be respected and loved by everybody, especially your family, for being your genuine self. You have my best wishes as you try to get to that point with your family.

  • 1
    Thank you very much for your response. The one problem about the treatment piece, is that she feels God is her treatment, which perpetuates the issue to some degree. But, since we have gone to counseling not too long ago, I would call that a start. – user22320 May 31 '16 at 23:09
  • 2
    Good answer from the POV of the mother. I believe the part about grieving is spot-on - though what she is doing is not a healthy form of grieving. – sleske Jun 1 '16 at 7:26
  • Imagine if you heard the same story from a neighbor, but it was not christianity that was the religion it was about - how would you react? – Per Alexandersson Jun 2 '16 at 1:48
  • 1
    @PerAlexandersson I don't think the specific religion is a factor. In my mind, this boils down to a parent who is religious, and a child that does not have the same belief. The parent is shaming and manipulating the child in hopes of a "change of heart." The parent is grieving because of the child's choices and beliefs and is threatening self harm. The child is experiencing dissonance between the parent's expectations/desires and the child's true inner self. My advice is sound irrespective of the specific religion. So I would see another case with a different religion the same way. – Paul Pehrson Jun 2 '16 at 2:35
7

Too me, this honestly feels psychopathic and like a form of manipulation

I am afraid this is the heart of the matter. This is difficult to judge from the outside (or even from the inside), but from your description it looks like your mother is manipulating you to conform to her beliefs. This is abusive behavior that must stop.

Coping with this type of behavior is very difficult, especially if it comes from someone you are close to, like in your case.

Since you cannot change your mother, you will probably have to learn to set boundaries. How to do this exactly depends on many factors, but it is something you will have to learn. One relatively simple technique is to flat out refuse to discuss the issue: Whenever she broaches the topic, say: "I do not want to discuss this with you. Please respect that." If she persists, repeat that exact sentence, and if it starts to annoy you, leave (if you can).

She mentions suicide, but the only option she gives me is to conform to her own beliefs.

Do not let yourself be initimidated by these mentions/threats. Try to judge as best as you can whether it is really her intention or just an empty threat. If it is an empty threat, calmly tell her so. If you (even remotely) believe she is serious, then this is an emergency, and you should seek emergency help. Where I live (Germany), when someone threatens suicide, you can and should call the authorities (''Gesundheitsamt''), or even an ambulance. They will come immediately, evaluate the person's state and, if needs be, take them to a mental institution (in extreme cases even against their will).


And most importantly: Do not trust random advice on the Internet (such as this one). Instead, find a qualified counselor you can trust, and get support. Your mother most likely needs counseling too, but that is not your decision.

You mention that you "had counseling session together, which made it more worse", so you should probably see the counselor alone at first, to get your situation and your needs sorted. Then you can invite your mother along, if you want.

Good luck!

  • 3
    In addition to the "find a qualified counselor" (which alone is excellent advice) let me add that you need to keep trying until you find a counselor who you connect with. If you don't like the counselor your mom chose, then find your own. You may not click with the first (or second, or third) counselor you try, and that is okay. Like any relationship, it is one built on trust, mutual respect and mutual understanding. Don't give up if it doesn't work out with the first person you meet with. – Paul Pehrson May 31 '16 at 16:12
3

Speaking as a Christian parent, whose deepest hope is that my children will gain their own relationship with God, here are some arguments I would personally respond to:

  1. Everyone needs to personally come to their own relationship with God, it can't be forced on someone.
  2. She's poisoning your relationship with the church, and driving you further from Christ.
  3. She's already done everything she can, she needs to pray and leave it in God's hands. To do otherwise at this point doesn't show much faith.

I've know many people who grew up in religious homes and ended up atheist, and just as many who grew up atheist and ended up in the church. If she really dreams of you one day having a strong relationship with God through Christ, she needs to give you some time and space to come to that place for yourself.

There's one more argument, which, for obvious reasons you can't probably make yourself, but which a trusted family friend might be able to make on your behalf. She's made herself into someone you don't trust with your secrets, so it actually places you in more danger, because you'll be making decisions without the benefit of her advice and guidance.

  • Good to see an answer from the point of view of a faithful Christian, showing that this situation can be handled differently. – sleske Jun 2 '16 at 6:59
2

You have my deep sympathy. As a desperate measure, perhaps you could set up a counseling meeting with a priest / other religious leader your mother trusts and whose views she appreciates more than some anonymous counselors. Fighting fire with fire, so to speak. That's obviously not necessarily someone you trust, but chances are that he/she is not as ill as your mother, and could make her realize that, on an emotional level, she is actually actively pushing you away from her religion with that behavior.

But I do suggest that you talk to that person alone first, to verify that he/she has more sane views about trying to push someone aggressively into their religion (which is not always the case, you know), and this isn't going to make things even worse.

That said, your mother suffers obviously from some deep emotional troubles, which she has been passing onto you. These things take a long time to cure, even when a person finds good help. So probably the best you and your mother can do now is to find an arrangement where both of you don't suffer so much, and seek psychological help as soon as you can.

1

Unfortunately the heart of this issue is religion, which is going to make this situation either really difficult, or (depending on her relationship with Christ) really easy.

If your Mom has a relationship with Christ, giving her examples of Christ's love and how Christ did act in certain situations throughout the four books of The Gospel, and then giving God some time to work in her, should do the trick. If she is simply religious without a relationship with Christ, this could stay messy =/

A few things you may ask her to go over with you in The Bible:

Matthew 9:10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard it, He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

And John 8:7 He who is without sin, cast the first stone. In context, a woman was caught in the act of adultery, but Jesus refused to condemn her.

This is showing that Jesus had love and compassion for those that did not believe in God/Christ or who were "sinners" in people's eyes. He would spend time with them. Eat with them. Show them kindness. Most importantly, he would not condemn them.

She needs to be reminded that (1 John 4:19) we love Him because He first loved us. If she cannot show love to you, she cannot expect you to show love to her or God, seeing as she is supposed to be an example. The whole of 1 John 4 would be good for her to read/think about.

  • Honestly, it seems a bit inauthentic for a non-believer to use scripture to justify their non-belief, however well intentioned. – Paul Pehrson Jun 2 '16 at 3:10
  • In no way is the above designed to justify non-belief. It is designed to have the Mom open her eyes as to what she is doing to her son. What she is doing is dreadful, and in no way lead by Christ. – Jeff.Clark Jun 2 '16 at 5:10
  • Which I understand. But I think that if you were a Muslim and I, a non-Muslim, tried to use the Quran to show you that you weren't being a very good Muslim, you might find that somewhat self-serving and offensive. – Paul Pehrson Jun 2 '16 at 5:15
  • I see where you are coming from. We should probably move this to chat, but I am not sure how to do that without it prompting me here in a couple replies :) In response, The Bible is also called "The Living Word", because as we read it, hopefully God touches our heart to give us wisdom and understanding. That is what I am trying to do here to the Mom. I cannot contact the Mom, but the son can, and hopefully having her read some parts of scripture that apply, God will change her heart about this situation. – Jeff.Clark Jun 2 '16 at 15:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy