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A member asks:

“How do you handle fundamentalist friends and relatives – do you recommend ‘playing things by ear’ by situation? Coming out fully regardless of the consequences? Or keeping your mouth shut?”

Here’s my answer:


Actually, I do play things by ear. Why? Because it is about relationship, not confession or conversion. Especially with friends and family.

It’s not about confession means that when we are in a relationship with someone, it’s not our job to get someone to confess everything about themselves. Self-disclosure should always be voluntary. And it isn’t my job to spill my guts to everyone all the time. Relationships just don’t work this way. The truth is I only take in what I can handle, and that goes for others as well.

It’s not about conversion means that I am unwilling to convert someone to my way of thinking aggressively. I try to be as authentic as possible, but also as considerate as possible. I take care in what I say so that I don’t unnecessarily expose myself to misunderstanding or attack, and so that I don’t give too much too soon to the one I’m in conversation with.

Of course, when it is a crucial and urgent issue, I will speak my mind. If someone is on their deathbed terrified of the fires of hell licking at their heels, of course I’m going to do everything in my power to convince this person that this is not the case and attempt to comfort him.

In fact, this did happen to me years ago. I was able to comfort the man by persuading him that his mistakes in life are met with compassion and grace. He died peacefully.