1Timothy315 asked a question about How to Handle Protestant Friends Getting Upset on our old discussion forum and received some insightful answers from the Coming Home Network community. We’ve curated the topic for you here. Feel free to continue discussion in the comment box below.
Hello… I’m new here. I really hope I get a lot of responses to my question! I’m so curious to know how other converts handled their conversion process as it pertains to close Protestant friends. (I just told my friends – yikes.) I spent four years studying the Catholic faith after a lifetime of being evangelical Protestant, even earning degrees from a conservative Bible College. If you had told me I’d one day become a Catholic, I’d have told you you were crazy.
I only shared my decision with my Protestant friends after I’d made it. Sure, I engaged them in some discussion about the holes in their sola Scriptura stance along the way of my conversion, but I never came right out and expressed where my doubts were leading me. (Even in these discussions, they got highly emotional and basically had to dismiss my questions because they couldn’t answer them.… I didn’t find even those mild discussions comfortable or helpful.) Now that I’ve told them I’ve joined the Church, they are hurt and upset that I didn’t share my process of conversion with them… that I went through it allowing others to speak into me (Catholic people I knew, and Catholic and Protestant people I didn’t know – authors, apologists, theologians, etc) but not “giving them the chance” to do the same. They’re upset that I “kept them out of” this journey I’ve been on for years now.
I understand their hurt. I might feel the same way were the tables turned. My question is this: is what I did THAT unusual when a Protestant “crosses over” to Rome? I mean, don’t the majority of converts work through it mostly on their own (of course involving the spouse) without consulting their current Protestant circle of friends?
I’ve read and listened to countless conversion stories along the road of my own conversion. I honestly don’t recall many of them sharing how they worked through their conversion with their Protestant friends. It seemed more like, maybe they put some questions out there to probe them a bit, got the predictable reactions, then went along their journey and simply informed their friends after they made their final decision.
“Hey, guys, I’m sort of thinking that maybe the Bible isn’t the sole source of Truth.…” Yep, it didn’t go down well after I’d decided it, so I don’t see how it would’ve gone down much better had I simply said it sooner.
I am a revert, so my situation may be different, but I don’t think so. I never even talked to my wife about either leaving the Church for Evangelical Protestantism OR about studying my way back. I figured Catholics would want me to stay in the Church and Evangelicals would want me in their camp so I didn’t see the point of talking to either side. I was confused enough without adding a cacophony of voices and opinions to the mix.
I’m guessing your Protestant friends are upset because they figured they could Bible verse you into staying and they didn’t get the opportunity to save you from yourself.
My conversion was a long process of attraction to Catholic spirituality while seeing and sharing the truth of Catholicism. Since most of my friends were United Methodists who understood and felt the attraction themselves, their reaction was mostly, “Well, it’s about time!”
My only friend who was an anti-Catholic, ex-Catholic Fundamentalist reverted before I converted and blamed/thanked me for it. He found the peace with God he had been unable to find as a Fundamentalist.
I told my wife of my intentions before I made my move, and her objections were mostly relational, and we are still working through those. My kids were grown, and knew about the attraction for years, so no big surprise.
Also, we moved 200 miles from our previous place of residence, and my conversion coincided with the move.
David W. Emery:
What you describe, 1Timothy, is what Protestants do when one of their number starts looking into matters leading to the Catholic faith. Having been involved with this forum for the past 15 years, I’ve seen it happen over and over. It’s an emotional reaction, based on their fear of anything Catholic, so it has nothing at all to do with your behavior. If you had shared with them every step of the way, it would have made no difference. They would still have complained that you didn’t give them a chance to convince you not to go that way.
You saw early on that they had nothing substantial to offer in the way of reasoning. They were unable to engage you in a proper manner. So what you did was entirely reasonable. You gave them a chance, and they failed. That’s their problem, not yours.
It is inevitable that your Protestant friends will drift away. After all, you are not “one of them” any more. There’s nothing you can do about that. Just concentrate on making new friends where you are now, and everything will eventually settle down again.
Thanks for the replies. I do basically sense that what they are really saying is, “Why didn’t you give us a chance to talk you out of it?”
A few things:
- I’m not sure how to say this to them without sounding like a colossal prideful know-it-all, but what objections and “reasons” were they possibly going to bring to me that I MYSELF, as a lifelong Protestant, didn’t also have? I mean, I was fighting with myself… I didn’t want to fight with my friends too. Basically, I didn’t really need their input. But, that sounds awful and harsh.
- Two of them asked, suspiciously, “Did you think we were going to talk you out of it?!” — and come to find out what they honestly thought was that I somehow “knew deep down I was doing the wrong thing” and didn’t want to hear the Truth. Um, no. More like, I just didn’t want to deal with the inevitable conflict because they weren’t going to talk me out of it. Not when all of history and the Church fathers themselves were contradicting my well-meaning friends. And I told them, “Feel free to talk me out of it now if you want.” I mean, you are right – they were going to respond the same way regardless of if they’d known the whole time or just at the end.
- I feel it’s a reasonable and honest assessment to say that, when I investigating Catholicism, it was never supposed to be a real “thing” in my life… it was just going to be something I looked into, saw specifically how wrong it was, and then shut the door on it and went on with my life. I was neck deep and still telling myself, “But I’m not actually going to become a Catholic.” Ha ha!! All that to say, I just kept getting deeper and deeper in, and then it just got harder and harder to share because of the reactions I knew I’d get.
- They are telling me I need to be OK with them “giving push back” (in love) to my new beliefs. I am OK with that. I have reasonable answers. But what I don’t think they are prepared for is the inevitable “push back” I will be giving to them when I answer them. Because, of course, my conversion isn’t merely embracing Catholicism, it’s rejecting the current foundational beliefs of their faith. That won’t go down well. Like I said, I did it before (without them really realizing it), and they got exasperated with me.
- Also, the day I joined the Church and had my first two children baptized on Easter was one of the absolute best days of my entire life. But I couldn’t share it, because I knew it wouldn’t be applauded. While they wouldn’t have been jerks, it still would’ve been strained, and me just knowing they weren’t rejoicing with me, but actually judging me, would’ve put a damper on my joy. Frankly, I just didn’t want that, and I think that’s understandable. Right?
Hi 1 Timothy 3:15:
Your journey is a lot like mine was when I started searching for the truth. I had studied three years before I made my decision that I had to return to Catholicism. (I was a convert in 1998 — was not raised Catholic — but fell away from the church and landed in an Evangelical non-denominational church that I worked at for 11 years.) I did not share my decision with my Protestant friends because I knew it would turn into a Catholic vs. Protestant debate. When I made my decision, I didn’t share it with my husband until I had talked with a priest to see if it was even possible for me to return.
I don’t feel that what you did is that unusual. There is a big difference in faith between Protestants and Catholicism, and there is the never-ending debate that will go on from now until eternity. I guess the question would be is how important your Protestant friends are, would it affect your decision if they disagreed with your decision? I had a handful of Protestant friends who now consider me a distant friend and don’t really include me any more, but I was prepared for that kind of reaction.
I’m not sure how to say this to them without sounding like a colossal prideful know-it-all… but what objections and “reasons” were they possibly going to bring to me that I MYSELF, as a lifelong Protestant, didn’t also have? I mean, I was fighting with myself. I didn’t want to fight with my friends too. Basically, I didn’t really need their input. But, that sounds awful and harsh.
I actually remember saying this to my daughters and to a couple of long-time friends. “Do you really think I am just leaping into this with my eyes closed? Is that what you KNOW of my faith? You have known how strong my faith has been for X number of years; do you really, REALLY, think I haven’t studied this issue to the end and back again, and then once more just to make sure? Do you REALLY think I am that willy-nilly with my faith?” I don’t think that is a harsh thing to say, as long as you are really asking them honestly and reminding them honestly of the faith they know you have! And I tell you, it did shut them down, because they knew what the answers to those questions were. A couple of my friends linked me to this or that diatribe against the Catholic Church, and within minutes of starting to watch them, I would message back that I have already studied those questions to death, and Rev. So-and-so is not going to teach me anything I don’t already know.” It does sound bold and brash, but it was also true! Most converts from evangelical Protestantism KNOW the issues, because they had to know them, or there was just no way we were going to step foot into the Catholic Church. It is not harsh to say so, although they may take it harshly; but then a lot of truth falls harshly on ears which refuse to listen to it. There is nothing you or I can do about that.