Questioning Your Religion? Why It’s Normal and How to Cope
What do you do when the source of comfort or strength now brings a sense of doubt or dread? If you’re questioning your religion, you might feel alone, scared, or guilty. These feelings can compound over time, exacerbating a more profound sense of shame.
Unfortunately, many people suffer in silence. They don’t know if it’s safe to express how they feel, and they might worry about being ostracized by others. That said, questioning your faith is normal. Here is why it happens and how you can cope.
Questioning Your Religion Is a Normal Part of Growth
Life forces us to evolve and adapt to numerous different circumstances. Yet, even if we prepare for these situations, we have no way of truly understanding how they will impact us. At the same time, we can’t accurately account for how they might make us feel.
Think about it- we change throughout life. You outgrow certain friendships. You no longer love a particular job. Every so often, you want a new hairstyle or car or exercise routine. Research even shows our personalities change over the lifespan.
These changes are typical, and it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad or weak person. Questioning can be synonymous with reflecting- you very well might be reflecting on the role your religion has in your life and well-being.
Religious Trauma Can Exacerbate Questioning
Religious trauma can occur within religious institutions and faith communities. It’s a broad term, but it can result in feelings of betrayal, guilt, loneliness, and anger. In some cases, it can also impact your self-esteem and the quality of your relationships.
Religious trauma can create PTSD-like responses to certain rituals, locations, and people. In addition, it may complicate how you feel about the religion itself, especially if you find it challenging to discern the faith from the adversity.
Some Religions Encourage Questioning
In some settings, questioning your religion is an essential component of spiritual advancement. This reflection can allow you to explore inward and unleash different parts of yourself.
You might find support within your religious community. For example, some organizations hold discussions about uncertainty and doubt. Additionally, it may be possible to speak with a like-minded mentor to provide you with validation or guidance.
How to Cope with Religious Uncertainty
If you feel torn and indecisive over your questioning, here are some helpful tips to consider.
Explore Your Feelings
Try to embrace being curious about your feelings. What might they be trying to tell you? Moreover, what needs require your attention right now?
Have you been feeling this way for a long time? Or are these feelings suddenly new and intense? Do you have any insight as to what might be causing them?
Exploring your feelings can feel dangerous, especially if you feel like you don’t have full permission. But allowing yourself this option may help you feel more empowered. If things feel out of control, reflecting on those triggers can open pathways for change.
Affirm Yourself with Love
As a conscious human being, it’s normal to ask questions about everything. This skepticism isn’t a flaw- instead, it is part of what makes you so unique and special.
It might be helpful to practice reciting positive affirmations like:
- It’s okay that I’m learning and growing every day.
- I am allowed to ask questions.
- My feelings are authentic and valid.
- I can still enjoy my faith even if I have questions.
- I trust that I am where I need to be on my journey.
Embrace Your Core Values
As an adult, you are responsible for your life and the choices you decide to make. This freedom can be just as incredible as it is frightening.
When it comes to coping with uncertainty, it might be helpful to focus on doing more of what feels healing or productive. Try to shift into a mindset of aligning your decisions with your core values.
If you aren’t sure about your core values, think about what’s most important in your life. What are your most critical priorities, the ones that you most want to guide your decision-making? Keep in mind that core values can change over time.
For instance, if spirituality is a core value, you might wish to continue praying because it helps you feel centered or connected to something greater than yourself. If a sense of belonging is a core value, you might decide to seek a new church if you no longer identify with the messages at your current one.
How Therapy Can Help
If you’re questioning your religion, therapy offers a safe, compassionate environment to explore any ambivalence. It’s not about choosing one set of beliefs over another- it’s about finding peace and acceptance over your situation.
While some doubt may be expected, ongoing distress and resentment may indicate the need for additional support. Together, we can explore conflicting feelings. Contact us today to get started.
Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.