What I Shared at the Wild Goose Festival (3): Talking to Family

My friend Bart Campolo and I had the opportunity to share together in an interactive session on “coming out” to fundamentalist/strict family members and friends about changes in our lives. Bart, of course, came out to his parents that he no longer considered himself a Christian or believer in God some years ago. (He and his dad, Tony, wrote a book about it, which you can order here.) Others come out to their families that they’re gay, or they they changed their traditional view on being gay, or that they no longer believe in the traditional heaven/hell formulation, or 6 day creationism, or that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are God’s favorites, or whatever. (By the way, if you would like personal counseling/coaching on this process, Bart can help you via Skype.)

The process we shared, in a nutshell, goes like this.

  1. Choose the time and place.
  2. Plan your message in advance.
  3. Make your message a sandwich – gratitude for all they have taught you and that you still value and agree with, a confession of what you can no longer in good conscience say or agree with, and reassurance that you still love them, want to be in good relationship with them, and don’t need them to agree with you for your relationship to be intact.)
  4. Follow up with honest questions devoid of attacks, insults, rejections, etc., and acknowledge/apologize when you make mistakes (because you will).

We talked about two helpful 4-word statements:

  • I see that differently.
  • I need your help.

We talked about the struggles of belonging to multiple communities, and the fears people have when they’re caught between accepting you and being rejected by their strict and exclusive community.

Twice during our session, we broke into groups of four and people did amazing work together, sharing and practicing and supporting each other. It was a highlight of Wild Goose for many, and there were many tears of pain, relief, and joy. I wish you could have been there … but there’s always next year.

For a story of a dad and daughter who came together, check this out from my buddy Jeff Burns.