I get this kind of email every month. These emails drive me crazy, but I try to be patient and kind while driving home the point. Here is my 'composite' email, which I'm writing just to pull in the usual elements:
Dear Fr. George,
I really like your blog and get so much out of it. [insert further ego strokes here]
My boyfriend/girlfriend is really great, and we are totally in love, but he/she has a problem with [insert immoral activity here]. He/she does not believe in God the way I do, and he/she says that he/she does not think there is anything wrong with it.
[insert description of immoral activity and writer's futile attempts to fix the situation here]
Since I can't use religious materials or persuasion, can you provide me with something else so I can get he/she to stop?
After I stop banging my head against the desk, I try to compose myself and remember that most folks have no idea about what the real problem is.
The real problem is with the writer himself/herself. He/she is trying to 'fix' another person, and this is not only a hugely ego-maniacal decision, it is immoral, unfair, selfish, and futile... and those are the more acceptable aspects of it.
No, I will not help you dominate another person because you have strong feelings for him/her. This person does not believe in God, and it is his/her right to do so. It is also his/her right to defile himself/herself in any manner he/she sees fit. He/she has no obligation to believe in God or get better just because you are attracted to someone who is an atheist and a bit of a pervert to boot.
Let's get real: Perversion is calling what is bad 'good.' Addiction is a perversion when the addict says he likes his addiction and there is nothing wrong with it. This is abnormal. You are a pervert if you think getting stoned or drunk or debauched is a good thing. It ceases to be a perversion when you reject it and start the recovery process.
Why would a perfectly 'normal' guy or gal want a pervert in his or her life? Beats me. I have a hard enough time with all the normal people around me.
Why would you say you are a Christian and love God more than anything, but then get hung up with someone who thinks that this is rubbish? Oh, no, he/she doesn't mind if I believe. Yeah, we are allowed to have different 'opinions.'
Is your faith just an opinion, or is it your reality? I would not date a person who thinks the sky normally purple. I would not date a person who thinks the earth is made out of cheese. After all, if this person is willing to part with obvious realities, then I am going to have real problems in the future when it comes to making decisions together when we can't even decide who's 'reality' we are going to operate under.
Yes, it is that simple: people who reject God are rejecting reality. In the 12 Steps, the addict returns to God as reality. That's it. Very simple.
If someone wants to reject reality, I don't fight with them, but I also don't get my life enmeshed in his or hers because it will never work. There will always be conflict.
Now, for me to assume that I can 'fix' this person is already a nutty idea. Frankly, I have convinced very few people of anything that they were not first interested in changing their minds about. Humans are notoriously hard to force into a change of opinions. Even torture does not work once the red-hot pokers are put away.
You have to have a real ego problem to assume that you are so beloved and so special that someone is going to give up his or her addiction... just for you.
No, they won't. Plus, you are doing it because you want the jackpot: you want the person you 'fixed' all to yourself. Think about it.
Would you go to a counselor who fixes patients so he/she can 'have' them? You would find that creepy and immoral (well, you should). Yet, the writer wants to play the 'superior' and 'counsel' his/her mate into sobriety so that he/she can benefit from 'having' this other person more completely!
Yes, sometime I do feel like this when people miss how really insane their requests seem to me. But, I try to remember that most people have not had the displeasure of plunging into the absurd regions that these types of dysfunctions lead to, and so I have to be the one to break the bad news:
You can't fix anyone.
You should not fix someone that you plan to benefit from.
You should not get involved with someone who is broken and happy with it.
Am I telling you to dump your addicted or even just plain ole atheist girlfriend/boyfriend? Yes, I am... since you asked. But, if you want to keep him/her, then it is your problem and not mine.
Now, if you dump him/her, and he/she goes and gets help or converts, and then comes back and asks to take up the relationship, should you take him/her back? Yes, if you want to... since you asked. Again, it is your decision.
If your perspective mate is willing to explore your faith with a sincere open mind, then I think it is worthy to explore that possibility. However, if he/she has entrenched opinions, you must be willing to accept that person as he/she is and not how you'd like him/her to be.
People are not 'fixer-uppers.' Stop treating your mate like car with a cracked radiator.
If you are going to have any kind of relationship, it must be one of mutual respect. You can't 'fix' one another without looking down on one another. Don't get involved with someone you look down on, because eventually the other person will figure that out and hate you for it.
If you are scared that you can't do better, then you need to work more on your Faith in God. With God, all things are possible. If someone as ugly and obnoxious as me can 'marry up,' then you have plenty of hope. Don't sell yourself that short.