What is a Faith Transition?
A faith crisis or transition is a time where foundational beliefs, usually of a religious nature, are challenged, questioned, doubted, nuanced or even abandoned. This can lead towards conversion towards or away from religious traditions and communities. It is often experienced as an exciting and/or scary process that hits at the core of many parts of personal identity and relationships. It is a process that can take anywhere from weeks to years. Getting to a place where one feels things are “resolved” is highly subjective and depends on the individual and the system they are a part of.
Faith and spiritual exploration are normal processes of the human journey. Many stay in the faiths of their upbringings – and many do not. If you find that you are struggling please consider the following thoughts and ideas.
1. Take it slow. Although feelings of anxiety are common, there is usually no emergency in a faith transition - unless you are dealing with a fundamental sect. You can take all the time you need.
2. If married, involve your spouse as soon as possible. They may not react well at first. But it is usually better to involve them in the process of your change than for them to feel betrayed by not having been told that this was something going on in the first place.
3. Just like you have a right to your feelings and beliefs – so do your friends and family. Feeling supported by each other, especially in a marital relationship, will be an important task to prioritize and focus on -- especially if you do not agree on the issues you are bringing up.
4. If married, stay away from unilateral decisions. Include your spouse in the negotiation of the lifestyle changes that may be a part of your transition (i.e. change in church attendance or worship observance).
5. Remember that when facing change, we tend to focus on differences that stand out instead of similarities that persist. There are many, many things you will still have in common with the people you love. Principles such as love, charity, forgiveness, patience – these are things most of us value regardless of where you end up in relation to your faith traditions.
6. Seek professional help to aid you in the management of personal effects, marital and relational ramifications as well as complications you might face within your extended family and community at large.
Again, shifts in faith and belief are a normal part of a personal journey -- even necessary for spiritual growth and expansion. Getting the support you need is something you are deserving of and can find helpful in an otherwise tumultuous time.
What types of things have you found helpful during your own or a loved one's faith transition?
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST has been in practice as a mental health professional for over 20 years, primarily working with issues of relational health, faith transitions and journeys, and sexuality. She writes a blog called "The Mormon Therapist," and hosts the podcasts "Mormon Mental Health," and "Mormon Sex Info."