The purpose of the “Back to Center” advice column is to provide perspectives for personal realignment and empowered living in the COVID era. Sarah encourages you to reach out to her with requests for advice about self-development and emotional and mental well-being in these complicated times. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous and secure. Looking forward to hearing from you!
For all other inquiries, please direct your questions to email@example.com.
I’ve been following the senate’s upcoming plan to vote on “marriage equality,” and I have to say, it’s leaving me feeling ill. I’m worried about how this move to officially redefine marriage could impact our country, and especially our children. There’s such a push already to indoctrinate them against traditional family values, and to think it could possibly get worse…
On a much more personal note, though, all of this hits home for me in an especially painful way because I have a brother who identifies as gay. It’s been a struggle for me ever since he came out. I know that if this bill passes, he and his partner will be dancing in the streets. I just feel so angry and ashamed that a member of my own family is part of this bigger picture of corrupt, perverse behavior. I know I can’t control his mindset or decisions, so I just kind of feel helpless about the whole thing. How can I deal with this?
Thank you for sharing your struggle; I can hear how hard this is for you. It really is disturbing to see family values eroding in America, and when it shows up in your own family, even more so.
I want to point out that you’ve already taken hold of an important piece of wisdom in this situation: that you don’t have control over the decisions and beliefs of others – not those of America, not those of your brother. It’s when we think we can force people to see things our way, that’s when we’re likely to get stuck in misery and frustration, because we’ll soon find out just how hard that is to accomplish.
So, it seems to me that the main issues you’re dealing with are your feelings of helplessness and pain. And yes, it does hurt tremendously to see someone you care about participating in something you believe is so wrong.
What would it look like for you to focus on what you can control in this situation? For example, who do you want to be in your relationship with your brother – with him as a person, not his lifestyle choices? What do you want your interactions to look like? I know firsthand what it’s like to choose a very different life from that of your family members. While those elephants may be permanently in the room, they don’t have to take up all the space. In what ways can you support and become closer to your brother? Focusing on the positive relationship possibilities can often help the more difficult aspects feel lighter.
Beyond your brother, what else could you do to move away from your feelings of helplessness? Would you want to become involved in speaking out more publicly against the redefinition of marriage? There are many people in America who feel as you do; how could you possibly connect with them and the counter-movements that are out there, and work together to create something that highlights the beauty of traditional marriage?
It's also important to mention that while getting into productive action and taking hold of what we can control is so crucial, it doesn’t always make the pain go away entirely. I want to encourage you to let yourself feel that pain, whenever it comes up; don’t judge it or try to push it down. Find ways of releasing it that work for you – maybe journaling, talking with a trusted friend, taking a quiet walk out in the woods where you just breathe. When the intensity of the pain has passed for the time being, I think you’ll find that the space you’ve given yourself to feel it will result in some relief and renewed energy for more action.
These are tough times we’re living in, and I hope what I’ve shared here will help you to navigate them more peacefully. All the best!
Thanks so much for all you’re doing to support people these days! I could use some support myself. I’m a U.S. army veteran. I’ve always been so proud that I was able to serve my country in this way. It took a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice, but it all seemed worth it to me for the honor of defending America.
But I have to admit that right now, I feel ashamed of our country in many ways. It’s being overrun by liberal values like “wokeness,” which we even see infiltrating the U.S. military itself. It seems like the armed forces care more about making sure to use the correct pronouns for recruits - tiptoeing around to make everyone feel warm and cozy - than about making sure our young men and women are actually trained and prepared to defend America! It’s ridiculous!! This isn’t the America I fought for – the one that was about freedom, morals, and traditional values – and it disgusts me to no end. There are even moments where I wonder if the sacrifices I and my fellow soldiers made were worth it, if this is the direction the country is now going…
I want to start off by thanking you for your service! Putting your life on the line for your country is no small thing, and we owe you and your fellow soldiers an enormous debt of gratitude. Thank you.
Let’s get into your message. It must be incredibly painful to see the America you fought for going through such strange and disturbing changes. One thought I have to offer you is that this is where America is right now…but it doesn’t mean it will always be this way. We see throughout the country’s history that there have been ups and downs, waves of difficulty and times of more ease, periods when America was more aligned with the values of the founding fathers and times when the country went astray. This is the way life is – never static, always changing. And if something can change for the worse, you can be sure the potential for it to change for the better is there too.
I also want to speak to the thought you sometimes have about whether all your effort was worth it. This points to a much broader idea that we can apply to so many facets of life, and that is that the effort stands on its own merit, separate from the outcome. If you give your very best effort to something, pouring all your heart, passion, and resources into it, and you don’t end up with the result you hoped for, it doesn’t mean that the effort was a waste. In life, we really only have control over the effort we put in; in most cases, the outcome is out of our hands.
So, let’s look at your effort. What kinds of things did you learn during your time in the service? In what ways did you grow? What good goals were you striving for? How does it feel to know that you gave your best? What kind of person does that make you?
Another thing about effort is that we don’t always see the end result clearly. A million good things might have come from your efforts that you’re not aware of because you can’t see the big picture. Each of us can only play the part we feel called to play in life to the best of our ability. Then, we have to let go and trust in the goodness of our efforts, even if the impact is hidden from us.
The decisions the leaders of the country and the army are making now have nothing to do with you. It sounds like you proved yourself to be a man of honor, integrity, and upright values, and you have nothing to regret or be ashamed of. Let’s hope and pray to see a swing back toward the America you fought for, the kind of country we can be proud of. All the best!
I am worried that I’m not doing a good enough job of protecting my children from all the negative cultural influences we see these days. I so want to shield them from the evils of the world and help my kids to grow up to be people of pure character and values. I try my best, but I feel like it’s a battle I can’t entirely win; the other side feels so strong. What more can I do to protect my children’s innocence in a world gone crazy?
You sound like such a lovely mother – so full of love and commitment to your children. Your desire to help mold them into people of strong character is so beautiful. You’re right – these times are definitely not easy to navigate as a parent. I’m glad you shared your struggle – it’s probably one that many of our readers share – and hope that what I have to say will be helpful.
When it comes to parenting, there are many different choices we can make as to the kind of environment we want our children to grow up in. We can carefully select a quality school for them or choose to homeschool. We can put boundaries around what they watch and listen to. We can create rules about where they can go, with whom, and when. We can have conscious conversations with them about right and wrong and work to instill the kind of values in them that we hope they’ll keep for a lifetime.
The thing is, though, our children still live in this world. And as you know well, this world is full of all kinds of influences and pulls that are negative, harmful, and not the sort of things we want our children to be around. And unless we choose to live in communities that are completely closed off to the outside world, our kids will come into contact with some of those influences sooner or later.
You used the word “protect” several times in your message in relation to your children. And yes, of course – we must always strive to help our children be safe and healthy – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But protecting is different from controlling.
As parents, it’s not our job to control what the rest of the world is doing, or even to control every little thing our kids see and hear and experience. Our job is to do our best to help our children become people who know right from wrong, give them tools for evaluating and handling what they experience in life, and then let go and trust them to make their own decisions.
Now, of course, there will likely be times when our kids choose paths that we’d much rather they didn’t, and also times when our hearts swell with happiness and pride over a beautiful decision they’ve made. It will probably be a mixed bag, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey of becoming people in this world. And when we show our kids that we trust and respect them as individuals separate from us, they feel it. Hopefully they’ll be more likely to make choices that are good and healthy for them, because we’ve given them the space to do it.
So, to focus in on you: How could you possibly shift your mindset from one of stress over whether you’re doing enough to shield your kids from the world to one of trust – trust that you as a parent are doing the best you can for your children, and trust in your children as they’re on their own journey? How could you relax more into your goals for your family, instead of worriedly trying to control all the details? How could you let go of what the world is doing and focus in on what you can do? Parenting is hard enough without also trying to carry the weight of the world and all of its craziness around too!
I don’t know you, but I would venture to guess that you’re doing great – that your children feel loved and safe. Just see what you can do to let go of the things you can’t control and expand into the things you can give to your kids as they grow. You’ve got this!
Okay, I’ve got a situation that I’m not sure how to handle. I am a Christian who is firmly pro-life. I’ve always believed that all lives, including those of unborn children, are sacred because we’re all made in the image of God. I recently met some people who are also Christians, but they don’t put themselves completely in the pro-life camp. They say they believe there are some instances where an abortion might be justified…that these situations are complicated (as in the case of rape, for example), and every case should be evaluated individually.
I understand that sometimes there are really bad circumstances around women becoming pregnant – and I don’t wish them on anyone, God forbid – but it’s still a black and white issue for me: abortion equals murder. My friends and I have had numerous conversations about this, and I can’t get my head around how people could call themselves Christians and see abortion as a gray issue. How do I handle this?
Thank you for your question! To be sure, the topic of abortion is a big, super-charged one that people feel very intensely about one way or the other. I can hear how much these discussions with your new acquaintances have been bothering you.
Let’s just focus in on you to begin with. Anytime we feel deeply bothered by something in a “I just can’t let this go” sort of way – especially when it comes to other people’s opinions or behavior – it’s important for us to ask ourselves “Why?” Why does this bother me so much? Why is this particular person or issue triggering me so strongly? Why is it so hard for me to move on from this disagreement? Try asking yourself these questions and listening in to what the answers might be.
As I read your message, it seems to me that perhaps the main issue you’re having with these people is not solely about their views on abortion, but on how they can claim to be Christians and see abortion this way. Try to imagine for a moment that you’re speaking about abortion with someone who is totally secular and “pro-choice.” How would that conversation feel to you? Would it fill you with the same outrage and indignation, or would there be something different about it for you?
If you do feel that there would be a difference between that conversation and the ones you’re having with your fellow Christians, that could be something to explore. What does it mean to you to be a Christian? What does it mean to you that someone could say they share your faith, but disagree with you so strongly on an issue like abortion? What does it say to you about them and their faith? What does it say to you about you and your faith? What does it say to you about God? What feelings does all of this bring up in you?
When it comes to those conversations, try thinking about what it is that you really want. Do you want to change your friends’ minds about abortion and bring them over to your side? Do you want to feel heard and respected, even if your friends don’t agree with you? Do you want to try to understand where they’re coming from? What is it that you really want to accomplish here?
I know I’ve given you a lot of questions here! They’re all meant to help you understand more clearly what’s going on inside you around this situation, so I hope you’ll take time to explore them.
I think that the situation you’ve shared here is a good reminder that as people, we are all much more complex than the labels we give ourselves or that others may assign to us. If we can keep that in mind as we go into complicated conversations with others, it will help us to focus on the actual people in front of us as they are, not as we come in thinking they should be. To me, that sounds like the beginning of a beautiful, fruitful conversation! All the best!
- ‘I know Scripture approves of 2nd Amendment rights, but the idea leaves me uneasy’
- ‘I was an approval-seeking people-pleaser’
- 'God is a God of justice, right? Where’s my justice?'
- ‘I’ve tried my best to be faithful and live a holy life; now I don’t know what to believe’
- 'Kids gravitate toward honest answers, even when they’re tough answers'
- 'I used to be a pretty positive person, but the world is different now'
- 'Do I have an obligation to say something to my friend who is about to inject her one-year-old?'
- 'How do I respond to wild hatred?'
- ‘All my friends have abandoned me’
- ‘Who am I to build a better world?’
- 'The world does not have to understand or approve of your choices'
- 'I get tired and overwhelmed'
- 'I vacillate between feeling inspired and useless'
- ‘I pity the people creating the lies’
- ‘The anger and hurt feelings are costing you too much’
- ‘People who once treated each other with so much love and kindness are now at odds’
- ‘Struggling with my relationship with God since COVID’
- 'I have lost confidence in our healthcare system, including my own personal doctors'
- 'Can you forgive yourself for the years you couldn’t be there with your daughter?'
- 'My wife is willing to take the sacrifice for her sister and I'm sick to my stomach thinking about it'
- 'I deeply regret taking the vaccine'
- 'Married 39 years and I thought we were on the same page when it came to things that mattered most'
- ‘How do I repair this relationship or accept that I may never see my son again?’
- ‘How can I stop fear from controlling my every thought and ruining my dreams?’
- 'How can I pursue my dream to find the person to marry, when it's so hard to connect with new people because of COVID?'
- 'How can I feel safe these days?'
- Advice column premier: Back to Center
Sarah encourages you to reach out to her with requests for advice! Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous and secure