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Ask Merri and Webster: Telling parents about church absence

By Merri and Webster     3/22/17 8:00am

Easter is coming up. How do I tell my parents I’ve stopped going to church in college?

Merri: There are a lot of different shades between on the one hand lying to your parents about going to church and on the other hand spitting rejection in their faces. From your question, your relationship with your parents is important to you — but you have to juggle honesty and openness with your parents to do what’s comfortable for you, with wanting to protect them from learning something about you that might hurt them.

It’s up to you to weigh the potential consequences for when and how much you decide to tell them. For example, you could tell them you’ve stopped going to church because you’ve found better ways to have religion in your life, or because you’re too busy, or because you haven’t found one that’s right for you. There are a million ways to package your message; have a couple ready that you’d think they’d be receptive to — hopefully including a few that are true! If you’re comfortable, let them pray for you or go with them to church when you’re at home or something similar to let them know you still respect and appreciate their relationship with religion and their relationship with you.

Your parents might get upset no matter how careful you are. Sometimes that’s inevitable, but at this point most people have upset their parents at least a few times in their lives. Don’t push too hard if you think it’ll ruin your relationship, but if you’re at the point where you’ve decided you have to tell them, then your candidness will pay off more than lying to protect them.

In the end, just be honest and respectful — tell your parents what you want them to know and as much as you think they will be able to handle, and trust that they will come to terms with it eventually. Be resilient — this will likely be a conversation that you might have to have more than once. It might be hard, but if you’ve decided that’s what you need to tell them for your peace of mind, having the patience and openness to have that conversation deeply and thoughtfully will be better for everyone in the long run.

Webster: You have two options. Either lie out of your ass for the rest of your life, or break the news via cake with something snazzy written on it in icing. Something short and punchy that gets your point across but will also fit on a cake. Like “My condolences for your loss … of my faith!!!” or “Why did you raise me like this :(“ Make sure to include the frowny face, and also a lot of those tiny plastic Jesus crucifixes your parents probably gave to small children at Halloween instead of candy. Leave the cake in the kitchen for them to find in the morning. Leave before they find it. Change your name. Move to Nicaragua. Start a new life.

“Ask Merri and Webster” is an advice column authored by two Thresher editorial staff members. Readers can email their inquiries to thresher@rice.edu.

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