Living Out Your Faith/My Life/Teen Life/Witness and Evangelization

Take a Stand: a Play-by-Play of How to Stand up for Your Beliefs

I think one of the weirdest, most unexpected times I defended my Catholic faith was in a college Spanish class.

Totally random, right? But then again, you never really know when you’re going to have to stand up for what you believe in. In this particular instance, a few of my classmates were presenting on the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Hispanic community. Some of my peers added poor, misguided, personal opinions to the presentation: “The Catholic Church has forced itself upon these people and stripped them of their culture. It’s the same type of bigoted nonsense they are doing today all over the world.”

As I listened to their words and their confusion, the little voice inside my head started to ask, “Should you say something?” I knew the truth beyond their confusion, but how could I speak truth in that moment? Where would I even start? The beauty of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe in particular came to mind. I knew there was so much truth and beauty beyond their confusion.

Defending the faith can be a really heavy, serious, and even daunting task. So, given what I’ve learned through my own personal trials, errors, mistakes, and prayer, let’s break down some practical ways we can respond when we’re challenged to stand up for what we believe.

1. Take a Deep Breath

Oftentimes, situations in which I need to stand up for my beliefs come out of left field or when I least expect them. I mean, Spanish class? Didn’t see that one coming. And with that, I know my knee-jerk reaction to what was said isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense or come from a good place, so I slow it down and get my emotions under control. The best and most constructive conversations are the ones that aren’t driven by emotions, but are driven by sense and logic. So when someone says something about my faith that causes me to feel hurt, angry, or even just surprised, I pause and think through what just happened — it isn’t a race, after all!

2. Be the Face of Mercy

Whatever you say in defense of your beliefs needs to be spoken from a place of mercy. This isn’t the time to point out the flaws, struggles, or perceived ignorance of the other person. Instead, this is an opportunity for you to clarify, converse, and bring unexpected mercy into his or her life.

Sometimes it’s hard to be merciful when someone’s words or actions go directly against your core values, but that’s when I try to remind myself of the humanity of the person in front of me — the fact that he or she is imperfect, just like me, and just as worthy of the Gospel. It’s in these instances that I need to remember that the person is most likely coming from a place of confusion, has been misguided, or may even have been wounded by an experience with the Church.

Fulton Sheen once said, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Your ability to show mercy to the person in front of you might be his or her opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ — the same Jesus who stooped down and extended a hand of mercy to the sinner, the hurt, and the misguided. The way Christians treat the people who challenge them is what will bear witness to the power of knowing and living your life like Jesus. Far more than any well thought out argument or challenge, our love for our brothers and sisters is what creates a desire to learn more about Christianity.

3. If you Don’t Know, be Honest

I need to remind myself not to shy away from the truth even though I know others might view me differently for what I’ve said. But, confrontation can be such an unexpected blessing if I allow it to be. When I embrace positive confrontation, I come to better understand where my brothers and sisters are most lost or confused, as well as learn where I need to grow in knowledge of my faith.

How surprising and contrary to the world it is for me to simply say, “Hey, I actually don’t understand this completely either. Can we look into this together?” When I find that I don’t know the full reason I believe something or am not equipped to answer the question? When you stand up for your beliefs, challenge yourself to look at it more as an opportunity to grow together in knowledge and lead others to conversion, rather than a time for correction or a chance to be right.

4. Follow up and Intercede

Don’t leave a friend or classmate hanging! I’ve found that the real moments of growth for others and myself are always when the dust settles. To be able to follow up with someone after I’ve stood up for my beliefs — adequately so or not — further communicates care for the individual rather than a desire to be right. It’s also an awesome opportunity to hear where they are coming from and possibly grow in friendship in that moment.

Following up with someone takes a lot of courage and humility, which they will notice and respect. If they don’t or if following up is impossible, turn to prayer. Pray for guidance and truth in the hearts of those you encounter who speak against truth.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44

We should always want to speak truth when we hear anything contrary to it, even when it’s challenging or hard.

In my Spanish class that day, I took a deep breath, spoke truth, and tried to be the face of mercy to my classmates. I shared with them the ways in which the Church recognizes the beauty of cultures around the world and invites these customs into the local practices of the faith. I shared how I saw this happen firsthand in Jamaica when they incorporated their particular style of music into the Mass and awesome parish parties. I also talked about my personal experience with the Catholic Church and the ways my faith has come to life. Although I felt awkward and some still struggled to agree with what I was saying, I know I spoke truth. To my surprise, I had a really beautiful follow up conversation with a guy in my class that day. Another girl thanked me for speaking what she had been feeling as well.

Remember, we’re all human, we’re all longing for truth, and we’re all capable of deeper conversion. Speak truth, be merciful, and trust in the ways Jesus is working in the hearts of each and every person you encounter — after all, He’s the one that will change their hearts.

About the Author

Kiernan Doyle

Florida State University graduate working in production in New York City. I’m the happiest when I’m hiking with good friends and listening to Mumford & Sons. Currently scheming to take over, “The Tonight Show” from Jimmy Fallon. Follow me @kiernandoyle.

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