Last summer I told you about teaching a class at Lansing Pagan Pride Day about how to talk to others from religions different from yours. I never went into detail about the material that I covered in that class and during a recent meditation it was suggested to me that I do so.
I thought I would share my personal guidelines that I try to live by. They are pretty simple and I hope that you find them useful.
Know Where You Are On Your Path
You can’t expect to have a meaningful conversation with anyone if you don’t know where you stand when it comes to where you are on your path. Be prepared to talk about your cosmology. What is the origin story you follow? How do you see the universe? Be able to explain your path in a concise way. This can be a hard thing to nail down if you are Eclectic and work with multiple pantheons or traditions, but I really feel that this is something vital that we all need to do for ourselves. I always try to remember that if I’m talking to someone who knows nothing about Paganism or Wicca then I am going to be the face of how this person perceives our religions. If I come off a flaky, then that’s what they are going to take away from the encounter.
That Being Said, Don’t Think You’re an Expert
When answering questions remember to state that your answer is from your experiences only and that it can be different for others. That’s probably one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned about people in my time as a witch. Even in my own coven, we all have varying perspectives and we have to be respectful of that. So don’t put the responsibility on yourself that you know everything there is to know about Paganism in general.
Listen as much as you talk about your faith and experiences when having a conversation. If you show a willingness to the other person that you are as interested in their experiences as you are your own that can go a long way in bridging an inter-faith dialog.
I feel that this goes hand in hand with listening. But make sure you ask in a respectful way, not judgmental. For example, instead of being challenging and asking “What do you Christians have against tattooing anyway?”
… your question might be better received if it was worded like this instead…
“Can you explain to me why you don’t think tattoos are a good idea?”
If you know you are going to have a negative experience, don’t bother
I think this is kind of self-explanatory. If you know a conversation is going to be really negative, then don’t bother. You have the right to not enter into some that you know is going to be toxic and just save the hair loss.
Find Common Ground
If you are a student of your Path then you know that most religions have things in common, so acknowledging them can help you relate to the person you are having a conversation with and maybe even understand them. It’s been my experience that most world religions have a basis of love, peace and helping your fellow man. I feel that the only effective way we can live together on this planet is to celebrate our commonalities and accept that the differences exist. They aren’t going to go away. The only thing we can control is out we react.
Know When to Say When
If you made the choice to enter into a conversation and it goes to a negative place, it’s okay to stop it before things get out of hand.
Bottom line, treat others like you want to be treated
These are some of the words that come to my mind that I want to experience when having a discussion about something that is really important to me. When two people come from a place of respect, compassion and equality in how they deal with each other, that will speak volumes and more importantly it will help others feel like they can have a real conversation with you.
I try to use these guidelines in all things, not just talking about my spirituality. I really respect the opinions of all you out there and I welcome any and all comments on this subject. Is there something you feel that I missed or didn’t explain well enough? Let me know!
Thanks for reading and walking the Path a little while with me and until next time… Blessed Be!