A reader writes:
I am from Kentucky and was raised in a very strong Christian home. Within the past couple of years I have rejected Christianity and my parents and family are none too happy to say the least. I am the black sheep. Not only am I gay but an atheist who has been looking to Buddhism as a way to deal with the stress of my family. So my question is this. I have a cousin who is very judgmental of everyone. She is one of those Christians who knows she is always right and it’s her duty to tell the rest of the world how wrong we all are. She preaches harshly towards me about going to Hell and how wrong I am for being gay. Funny thing is, she has many skeletons in her own closet she wouldn’t want anyone to know about. I can honestly say, I don’t like her.
How do I deal with these feelings? I know we will see each other many times at family functions but, I want to be able to talk to her with out my very strong negative feelings for her getting in the way. Any insight would be helpful. And please keep in mind, I really don’t like her. also, when are you going to start more podcasts? I have not heard all of them yet so you may have answered this and I just not gotten there yet.
Thanks again! Your show has been the best help for me in searching and learning the Buddhist way so far. I have much respect for you!
First of all, accept that you can’t change her. I know how it is when you want to prove someone else’s beliefs are wrong. You use logic and common sense, and facts and science; the other person may defend their beliefs for a little while, but eventually just reverts to “Well, that’s what I believe anyway, it’s all just faith.” You cannot win this argument at a family gathering. It just isn’t going to happen, especially in a discussion with a woman who has zero respect for your thoughts, wishes, and choices. You are wrong in her eyes, and nothing short of time and exposure to you can change that.
As far as her being a hypocrite with her own skeletons, I assume you aren’t the only one in the family who realizes this. It’s been said that you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family. Sometimes we get stuck with someone we’d rather not have to deal with; you don’t get that choice either. One of your big consolations is knowing that everyone else knows she’s a hypocrite, even if they aren’t her target or victim.
None of the above is especially Buddhist, and I’m sure anyone could have told you that. If you don’t like her as much as you say, it would probably just be to everyone’s benefit to avoid her, but that’s not always going to be possible with family gatherings and the like.
Probably the worst problem I see here is that you are holding onto this anger and hate. That’s not good. Rather than dwell on this hateful woman’s words and attacks, just drop it. Give it no more thought than last Tuesday’s weather. A Buddhist wouldn’t attach any importance to her words. You realize her words are only words, and they are impermanent. Let them go right through you or make them slide off. Is she going to change anyone’s mind with her ranting, either yours or someone in your family? Probably not. Most of all, don’t extend the argument or fight back.
She is as impermanent as you are; don’t dwell on the argument; there are some things you cannot change.
At least that’s my opinion. Others, feel free to chime in on this in the comment section below.