There are three assumptions I can make about you if you’re deciding to convert to the Orthodox Church. First, I assume that your family is not Orthodox. Second, I assume that they are not familiar with fasting, praying twice a day, and going to Church multiple times a week to stand for hours at a time. Third, I assume that they believe you’re confused or outright deluded for wanting to convert to such a “strange” and “cult-like” Church. I’d like to share some tips for the inevitability of your family objecting to your desire for the Church that Lord Jesus Christ built.

A man’s biggest obstacle to his conversion to Orthodoxy is often his parents, particularly his mother. How dare you discard the faith your mother attempted to teach you and choose your own? Don’t you know that your mother figured it all out, and you simply need to believe what she believes? Amusingly, my Armenian mother was hostile to my return to her own Church, because I desired to have a level of faith that was different than her own. Either from your mother or someone close to you, there may be a concerted effort and fanatical panic to block your attempts at conversion that is based on emotion. You will be subjected to petty remarks, outrageous lies, hurtful blasphemies, and even accusations that the piety of clergy or monastics is “fake,” a “scam”, or “all about money.”

Your instinct will be to get angry, argue, and debate. I can tell you that this does not work, has never worked, and will never work. Even if the relative is lying, attempting to logically dismantle that lie will not go anywhere. Let me share an extreme example that unfortunately may be used on you if you have a Protestant parent who does not know much about Orthodoxy:

Parent: “The priests in the Orthodox Church are child abusers!”

You: “That’s totally wrong. The Orthodox Church doesn’t have that problem. You may be thinking of the Catholic Church.”

Parent: “How can you be so sure?”

You: “In the Orthodox Church, the priests are married. They’re devoted, family men. There are no abuse scandals. It’s simply not an issue.”

Parent: “No, I don’t trust them at all. You really have to be careful around them… they’re dangerous!”

You: “You’re just making things up. Do you have evidence that this is a problem in the Orthodox Church? Show me a news story.”

Parent: “Oh my God, they already got you. You’re being tricked! They’ve already brainwashed my son!” [Weeping commences]

You: “This is stupid… you’ve totally lost it! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

A fight ensues and the relationship becomes damaged. The following is a better way to respond to maintain peace with your parent:

Parent: “The priests in the Orthodox Church are child abusers!”

You: “I have researched this Church thoroughly and found that not to be the case, but thank you for sharing your concern with me. I will be very careful in who I trust.”

Parent: “But they will abuse you and groom you!”

You: “Thank you for your concern about my well-being.”

Parent: “But really they are going to get you! You shouldn’t go!”

You: “I’m an adult and know how to take care of myself. Thank you for your concern. I know you care about me, but I’m not being groomed or abused. I don’t want to discuss this further.”

The second dialogue will still upset you, but at least the conversation doesn’t escalate into a shouting match that will actually convince the relative that you are in the grips of some evil scheme. Understand that Satan will do all that he can to block your entry into the Church, right up to the moment you are baptized, and that includes tempting your relatives to attack you with absolute nonsense. Since they are not in the Church, they are partially or completely blind, and that blindness will be manipulated by Satan when you decide to have the full truth of Christ.

Oftentimes the remarks will be more subtle, but no less infuriating. You’ll be asked if the monastery is trying to “recruit” you. Your prayer life will be described as “excessive.” You’ll be asked if you’re only hanging out with “church people.” You’ll be described as “unhappy” because you don’t want to have “fun” anymore or “enjoy life” (i.e. commit sin). Your pride will be wounded, and you’ll want to lash back, as I often have, but I promise you that nothing good will come out of your snappy or irritated replies. Since your faith is greater than that of your attacker, it’s you who should absorb the blows, because you have the greater ability to do so. Respond to a lie with the truth, thank them for their concern about you, let them get the last word in, and then change the topic.

Beautiful young woman is ready to convert to Russian Orthodoxy and get married immediately but mom argues that she should “enjoy life” in her twenties and go to the megachurch down the street with the excellent rock band and laser light show.

Overall, here are five tips I recommend:

1. Do not debate. As a torchbearer of Christianity, always counter falsehood with the truth (never nod, agree, or say “maybe it’s possible” in response to lies), but don’t engage in a debate when your attacker has no interest in the truth.

2. Do not involve your emotions. If you are hurt by a comment, keep your mouth shut and recite the Jesus Prayer, because if you respond in such a hurtful state, an explosive argument is sure to follow.

3. Do not immediately try to evangelize. One mistake is to try to convert relatives and friends when you’re barely in the Church. First, be received into the Church, work on your faith, understand Church teachings, and develop a solid and consistent spiritual life. Your attempts to bring someone into the church before you’re ready to evangelize can have the opposite effect you intended. When you’re a new Orthodox Christian, it can be hard to discern between zeal and pride.

4. Do not be overtly pious. Don’t make a show of your faith with large cross necklaces, hundreds of prostrations, refusal to eat mom’s Christmas meatloaf because you’re “fasting,” and incessant talk of the spiritual life. Such displays will aggravate the relative and lead to a heated reaction.

5. Share the depth of your faith only with those who are seeking. I learned that if a relative doesn’t ask questions about my faith, they are simply not interested. Try to remember your behavior upon your conversion: how many questions did you ask priests, monks, or Orthodox laymen? How many web searches did you do to inquire about the faith? How many Orthodox books did you read? If someone is interested, you will know, because they will ask questions. Other than that, you’re forcing it upon them, and they will not be happy.

Everyone’s situation is different, but if I followed the above five tips when I first returned to Christ, I would have saved countless arguments that temporarily strained my family relationships. Not a single debate I’ve had with a relative ever brought them one step closer to the Church. If I just absorbed their own anxieties, fears, and empty arguments with a simple, “That’s not correct but thank you for your concern about my well-being,” I would have saved a lot of needless pain.

As a person becomes more spiritual, so much fewer rights does he has in this life. It is obligatory to be patient, to accept injustice, to accept evil words from others. A crooked stick (perverted person) who is distant from God has many rights: to strike and shout and act unrighteously. Our rights God keeps for the other life. Out of ignorance however we often seek our rights here. Let us not damage things at all. If they say anything to us, immediately we give them the right [i.e. we fight back]. And later we think we trust in God. That is a big joke. Human justice doesn’t mean anything to a spiritual person. But it is a great concern for the perverted person. —Saint Paisios of Mount Athos

The convert fantasy is that he found the Truth and now he’s going to get everyone he knows immediately into the Church and they’ll all believe in what he believes and everyone will be saved and go to Church together. Unfortunately, that fantasy is a delusion. It’s more likely you’ll find that many relatives who are so against your conversion that they try to block it, and just wait until your longtime friends find out about your new spiritual direction. Unlike family, there is no blood binding them to you, so prepare for the necessity of making new (Orthodox) friends.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. —Matthew 10:34-39

As newly illumined members of God’s Church, we have to find a way to be on good terms with family members who are not in the Church, up to the point where they’ve made it clear that they choose to be an enemy of Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike friends, we can’t swap out relatives for new ones. Develop your faith, don’t aggravate relatives who don’t want Orthodoxy or simply don’t want to understand it, and wait patiently for the many months or years until one day you get a text message from a relative who not long ago attacked your faith with the question, “Can I come and see your church this Sunday?” Once a relative’s heart is softened by God, you’ll be there to guide them with a deeper level of spiritual understanding.

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Great article! Very helpful for those (like me) new, and who have that zeal which ends up confessing our egos instead of Christ! Fr Kosmas from OrthodoxTalks continually brings up, that when we come to the Church, a huge problem is trying to 'convert' everyone - we make them worse almost in every single case.


This starts at ~59:00 speaking about Christ, and how He responded to Herod, and Pilate - why did he not speak to Herod, why did he speak very little to Pilate, and how we apply this to ourselves - we serve up greater sins for people who aren't ready and do not want to hear about the Church. Then about +5 min, what happens when a zealous (convert, or someone in the Church, who starts to become practicing) starts trying to convert everyone:
"Some Orthodox Christians are like tornados - wherever they go they just destroy everything - here he comes he's spinning around, have you confessed? Just keeps going, that knocks that person down, are you not reading the Bible? You are going to hell - not realizing they are making people worse."

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Thanks for this article. It is really helpful. What do you think about just not telling anyone?

I like the picture of the granny wagging her finger :laughter:

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All this advice is relevant to cradle Orthodox as well. If one member of a nominally Orthodox non-observant family starts living a liturgical life the fireworks can actually be even worse. Those that have tried to sweep God under the carpet and organise their lives to the exclusion of any thoughts on spiritual or moral matters can be very uncomfortable with your new found faith even if you volunteer nothing in conversation. Just the fact that they see you observing the fasts and going to church can be enough. They don't appreciate their conscience being pricked out of the blue with a living example. To them it can feel as if the fact that you are now a church goer essentially implies that your previous life (i.e. their current life) was inferior. Then all of the tropes come out to try to reel you back into their comfort zone - why are you acting like a monk, we're worried about you, you've become wierd, you're acting like a pensioner etc.

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I'm so guilty of overly defending myself. When I converted 2 years ago I was (and still am) the only Christian in my family aside from my Catholic grandmother, and my parents / siblings would try and roast me initially, so I would fight them tooth and nail. I felt like I was being lukewarm if I didn't. In retrospect calm deflection would have been better.

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Thanks for this article. It is really helpful. What do you think about just not telling anyone?

I like the picture of the granny wagging her finger :laughter:

I told my parents about my baptism after it happened. They did not need to know before since they weren't interested. You can try to feel them out by saying, "I think I will get baptized in a month or two." Unless they show interest, you could decide not to tell them. Before baptism, you will go through many demonic temptations, so it's best to minimize angles of attack.

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All this advice is relevant to cradle Orthodox as well. If one member of a nominally Orthodox non-observant family starts living a liturgical life the fireworks can actually be even worse. Those that have tried to sweep God under the carpet and organise their lives to the exclusion of any thoughts on spiritual or moral matters can be very uncomfortable with your new found faith even if you volunteer nothing in conversation. Just the fact that they see you observing the fasts and going to church can be enough. They don't appreciate their conscience being pricked out of the blue with a living example. To them it can feel as if the fact that you are now a church goer essentially implies that your previous life (i.e. their current life) was inferior. Then all of the tropes come out to try to reel you back into their comfort zone - why are you acting like a monk, we're worried about you, you've become wierd, you're acting like a pensioner etc.

Good point. My mom was more critical than my father, even though she was already in the Church (Armenian).

When a parent sees that their child is more pious than themselves, they have one or two choices when it comes to their train of thought:

1. "My child is more pious than me. He is right about the faith and I am wrong. I will examine my faith and make changes to do the correct things my son is doing."

2. "My child is more pious than me. He is wrong about the faith and I am right. Therefore, I do not need to make any changes. Instead, I will express to him that he is wrong."

99% of parents will choose option two, due to pride, but thankfully, some do come around. However, that takes many months or years. This is why we must have patience, but upon your conversion, you almost always will receive neutral or negative responses from your parents. The neutral responses tend to be from parents who don't know what Orthodoxy is. When they find out that it is a very serious faith, they usually turn critical. Some will become outright hysterical.

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This is great.

I'd be curious to also hear Michael Witcoff's experience in this regard, for obvious reasons.

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This is really good advice that I wish I had sooner. My parents are Armenian, and they have the biggest issue with me leaving their church. I made the mistake of telling them what I really thought about the Armenian church; I told them it was more "Armenian" than it was "church". (Funnily enough, their reaction was to tell me about how the church was a great political center for the Armenian people and a part of our history and nation, only confirming what I was telling them). More recently I have just dedicated myself to keeping my head down and not talking about my Orthodox faith unless my family inquires of me directly.
I actually used to go to the same Armenian church as Roosh did. I saw him a few times, but was largely unaware of who he was. It sucks for me that the minute I discovered Roosh was the same minute he left the church I had been coming to :sad:

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Good point. My mom was more critical than my father, even though she was already in the Church.

When a parent sees that their child is more pious than themselves, they have one or two choices when it comes to their train of thought:

1. "My child is more pious than me. He is right about the faith and I am wrong. I will examine my faith and make changes to do the correct things my son is doing."

2. "My child is more pious than me. He is wrong about the faith and I am right. Therefore, I do not need to make any changes. Instead, I will express to him that he is wrong."

99% of parents will choose option two, due to pride, but thankfully, some do come around. However, that takes many months or years. This is why we must have patience, but upon your conversion, you almost always will receive neutral or negative responses from your parents. The neutral responses tend to be from parents who don't know what Orthodoxy is. When they find out that it is a very serious faith, they usually turn critical. Some will become outright hysterical.

Interesting that you say your mom was critical. How did your parents view your previous life when you were involved in teaching fornication? Was there more or less disapproval with that life than your current life that is centered around your faith?

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All this advice is relevant to cradle Orthodox as well. If one member of a nominally Orthodox non-observant family starts living a liturgical life the fireworks can actually be even worse. Those that have tried to sweep God under the carpet and organise their lives to the exclusion of any thoughts on spiritual or moral matters can be very uncomfortable with your new found faith even if you volunteer nothing in conversation.

I think there's a tendency among Orthodox to be very critical; everyone who does things my way is right, those who are slightly different are wrong (one is more gracious to those who are actually different). Which is a human trait.

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Interesting that you say your mom was critical. How did your parents view your previous life when you were involved in teaching fornication? Was there more or less disapproval with that life than your current life that is centered around your faith?

That's a personal question, but the general trend is there is more critique against what I'm doing now than before.

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About the all-to-classic (and unfair) attack on Christian converts, when one snarky relative says : "but, Priests are child abusers", I think a truthful answer would be:

1- the Catholic Church sometimes has problems like that, because many gays are infiltrating the Catholic Church, and actually the Pope Benedikt has denounced this gay mafia infiltrating the Vatican. Once the Catholic Church gets rid of its gay infiltrators, the problem of child abuse will naturally vanish.

2- the Orthodox Church has no problem like this, because Orthodox priests are serious married men, therefore they can't be gay. Also, Orthodox Church originally comes/developed from Slavic countries, where gays and child abusers almost don't exist.

But maybe you're right and it's better not to enter this discussion with an angry relative, in such a situation. Better to keep serene, not antagonize them, and wait, as you said, until one day they ask for spiritual guidance. Because this day always comes.

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That's a personal question, but the general trend is there is more critique against what I'm doing now than before.

Then you might point out this paradox to them. Maybe that would give them pause. But, it might also infuriate them more, it's hard to know.
So, waiting with serenity, not entering fiery conversations with parents, seems the best behaviour, yes, as you said.

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Even though I am quite a bit older than average for a convert (I think) at 53, I chose not to confront my aging, VERY lutheran, parents with my baptism in the Orthodox Church. I told myself it was better to avoid conflict and that they would be happy that I was regularly attending liturgy and living a Christian life more fully. I was wrong...my discussions of the friends I made and the beautiful traditions surrounding the major feasts led to a confrontation with my father, who asked me straight up: "What....did you convert????". My approach was the truth, very much in line with Roosh's article. I had no desire to hurt him but I also did not want to lie. That has proven to be a good choice - although they don't ask much about our church life anymore unfortunately.

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I like the part you mentioned about how as Christians we have less rights than non believers and should rather take their blows

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The evening before my confirmation was brutal - I repeatedly had to fight off temptations being thrown at me by demons. Lasted a couple of hours. I told my sponsor (Godfather) the next morning and he had one of the deacons bless me.

I wish I had known to pray to my guardian angel that evening. Now I pray to him multiple times a day.

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All this advice is relevant to cradle Orthodox as well. If one member of a nominally Orthodox non-observant family starts living a liturgical life the fireworks can actually be even worse. Those that have tried to sweep God under the carpet and organise their lives to the exclusion of any thoughts on spiritual or moral matters can be very uncomfortable with your new found faith even if you volunteer nothing in conversation. Just the fact that they see you observing the fasts and going to church can be enough. They don't appreciate their conscience being pricked out of the blue with a living example. To them it can feel as if the fact that you are now a church goer essentially implies that your previous life (i.e. their current life) was inferior. Then all of the tropes come out to try to reel you back into their comfort zone - why are you acting like a monk, we're worried about you, you've become wierd, you're acting like a pensioner etc.

This is my situation right now. I spent Lent with my family (mom, brother, uncles) and every step towards faith was received with comments: "dear, you are not such a big sinner like others are, you don't need to fast every day, you are not in the monastery, you don't want to become a Pharisee (habotnic), don't you? We love you just the way you are, don't be so harsh on yourself. Enjoy your life, it's the only one you have!" And they consider themselves Orthodox Christians.
Sadly I was weak and failed, I fasted only on Wednesdays and Fridays (I told myself I shouldn't offend my mother and her cooking), and I feel very bad about it. I don't know yet how to reconcile my spiritually indifferent family with my search for faith and my weak and agreeable personality.

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I feel very bad about it.

Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

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A key lesson I've learned is that we are ought to realize that the people in the Matrix will fight us when we're trying to unplug them from it, as Morpheus rightfully and poignantly said. Once one comes to the truth and starts going down the seemingly endless rabbit hole, a key knee jerk reaction is: I've got to tell this to the world, people are in danger, in essence you quite frankly start to panic, as you get in a daze of daily cognitive dissonance resulting from a fastly and continuously changing world view.

What I learned is that we can take the horse to water, but we can't make it drink. People are so desperately dependent on the system that if they don't come to the conclusions about reality themselves, they'll refuse to hear a morsel of truth. Ask them the right questions, give them the right direction, offer some sources that may be useful for them and that could cause a breakthrough, a dent in the Matrix for them to continue on, a step in the direction of the path of truth. Don't feel spiteful, don't be argumentative, use your social awareness and social calibration, vet the people around you very well so you know where they stand on the spectrum of illusion, and work from there.

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