Episode 107 Differentiation, Jff (1)

Differentiation and Your Adult Child, with guest Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

#107 – Differentiating Yourself from Your Adult Child When They Leave the LDS Church, with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

This is the first in a series of episodes for parents who have adult children leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is a well-respected therapist who focuses on creating healthy, mature relationships. Her insight on this sensitive topic is invaluable. If you have a child who has left the LDS church, this is a must-listen episode.

Full Transcript


Tina Gosney, Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  00:00

Love is the environment in which the best reveals itself anyway, right? When we feel loved and accepted and known, we’re more able to be true to the best in ourselves. And when we’re being judged and manipulated, then we will resent and rebel, or comply resentfully. But it doesn’t yield the best in ourselves.

Tina Gosney  00:29

I’m your host, Tina Gosney, a Family Relationship Coach. And this is the coaching your family relationships podcast, where you will learn how to think, feel and do differently in the way you show up in your relationship with yourself. So that you can be different in your relationships with your family, and find more love and connection in those relationships.

Tina Gosney  00:51

I’m really excited to have this episode aired today, because I loved loved loved this conversation that I had with Dr Finlayson five, I think I just love anything that she does, I just really love her work. And I have learned so much from her. This conversation was no different. I learned a lot in having this conversation with her. And she’s just so eloquent. And so just amazing in the way that she is able to express herself and speak. And so I’m really excited for you to hear this. This is the first episode in a series that I’ll be doing on helping parents whose kids are leaving the LDS church. Because I see so much fear and sadness, and anxiety, that uncertainty that sits within us when our children choose a different path feels really dangerous. So it makes sense that there’s that fear, right?

Tina Gosney  01:49

It feels like safety is in the way that we’ve always done things and we’re seeing our children just increasingly take different paths. Of course, it feels dangerous. We go into all of this in this podcast episode. But there are just a few things that really stood out to me that I’m going to point out, I want you to watch out for now, these are the things that stood out to me, maybe something else will stand out to you. When we talk about it not being your job, to bring your child back to God. That is not your job, you have a different job. Your job is to love them just as they are. And to let them know that you love them just as they are.

Tina Gosney  02:28

I love how Jennifer talks about her mother. And her mother was a different generation, the way that she talks about her mother. Well, of course her mother was a different generation, right. But she the way she talks about her mother was how she reacted to these things happening in her family was very uncommon at the time for her generation. I think it’s even uncommon today. But you have to have those reactions a generation ago, is even more amazing. Just shows you what an amazing woman Jennifer was raised by. And what a great example she can set for so many of us now. She talks about how the more that we allow for differences in relationships, that it helps us as we let well as we love through those differences, that it helps us grow in a stronger people.

Tina Gosney  03:19

It’s really easy to connect with someone who you agree with who someone you have a lot in common with. It is harder to connect with someone that you have, not as much in common with. And the church envelops so much of our culture of our family of our lives, that when your child leaves the church, sometimes it can feel like it’s hard to connect. Like you’re having trouble finding things in common. That would be normal. But imagine finding the love and the connection in spite of that, and how that can help you grow into a stronger relationship stronger individual. Enough of me, let’s get into this conversation with Jennifer Finlayson five. I’m really happy to invite Dr. Jennifer Finlayson five back on the podcast, the episodes that we did a couple of years ago, were some of my most downloaded episodes, I got a lot of feedback that they were very helpful. So we’re gonna have a topic today. That’s going to be I know also very helpful. So welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  04:25

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Tina Gosney  04:27

Would you give us a brief introduction about yourself? I know they’re probably most people are familiar with you. But I’m guessing there are probably some new listeners that you might be just new to So would you just give them sure


introduction to yourself?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  04:41

Sure. So let’s see. i Dr. Jennifer Finlayson five I have so I grew up as a Latter Day Saint went to Brigham Young University studied psychology and Women’s Studies and then got my PhD in Counseling Psychology at Boston College, wrote my dissertation Question on LDS women and sexual agency. And then, you know, ended up really focusing a lot of my practice on working with Latter Day Saints around sexuality issues, and how to create more intimate marriages and how to mature emotionally and sexually to be capable of more intimate connection with others, whether in marriage or knowing how to really know and be known be more at peace with oneself and able to be in honest relationships with others. So I do online courses and podcasts that are about, you know, often speaking in the language of our faith, to help people think more deliberately about their relationship to themselves to God, to sexuality, to faith, and to foster, or to facilitate people’s more deliberate choosing and thinking on these fronts.

Tina Gosney  06:06

And we were, before we hit record, I was just telling Jennifer, about, my husband and I have been taking her courses. And now she’s in both of our heads all the time. And it’s just made a huge difference in the way that we deal with each other, the way that we deal with ourselves. And just, I think it’s carried over into probably every relationship that we have in our lives, not just with each other. But our children, our siblings, our parents, even out into work into the workforce. I know, he’s talked a lot about how it’s helped him just in dealing with his job and the things that he has to do without there. So I haven’t looked into Jennifer’s courses, I highly recommend to them. In fact, I’ve been sending them to lots of people, you need to take this course this is a link for you. So been sending people there, and I would highly recommend them. Even if it’s you have don’t feel like you have any sexuality problems at all. That’s really, it’s a byproduct of other things. And that’s what was really very eye opening to me when I started taking your courses, was it I didn’t take them because I wanted to deal with my sexuality. It was because I wanted to see what was behind that. And that’s where I got some real eye openers.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  07:26

Yeah, great. Yeah. Okay,

Tina Gosney  07:29

so thank you for that. And we’re gonna get on to our topic today of talking about how to differentiate yourself as a parent, from your adult child. And this is a really tricky one. Because I think it’s even more tricky for I would say mothers than it is for fathers just because we tend to view so much of ourselves carried over into how our children then leave our homes, and the decisions that they make, and the way that they live their lives, we just let that direct li reflect our parenting and our self worth. And there are so many children, adults, children in the church now that are choosing to leave the church and leave the gospel leave the faith, that it’s become a big issue for women in the church. And so although we will talk to both parents, I think we might focus mostly on women today. Sure,

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  08:27

sure. Yeah. What

Tina Gosney  08:29

do you want to talk about differentiating? And I think that’s probably a term that most people don’t are not familiar with? Yeah, can you give us a good definition of what that means? Sure.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  08:41

So the shortest version of understanding differentiation is maturation. So that is like the more we mature, the more differentiated we are. And what I mean by maturation is the ability. And this is a Marie Bowen concept, who was a theorist that developed a lot of family systems therapy, that’s very, very brilliant man. But he talked about differentiation as the ability to regulate, and I think of like a little bit better way to say that, but the ability to know your own thoughts and beliefs and feelings, to kind of regulate your own psychological functioning while you were in close relationship with others. And that is a measure of maturation, because what we tend to do when we’re immature is we either will think the way our group thinks in order to belong, or we will separate from others. So we can maybe have our own thoughts, but we aren’t able to be close to people who think and feel differently than we do. And so the measure sometimes people confuse differentiation for separation, or autonomy in the kind of separate sense of the John Wayne view, kind of, but what it really is is your ability to belong to your Self while you belong to others.

Tina Gosney  10:03

And I’ve heard you say this in other words, in that we all want to belong to ourselves. Yes, we all want to belong with others. And we really have a difficult time in knowing how to do both of those at the same time. That’s right. That’s right. And so as we differentiate, we’re able to hold the discomfort of both of those at the same time. Yes,

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  10:24

exactly. And so just a way to make it a little more concrete, as I talk about a lot of times in my courses that when we’re poorly differentiated, or when we’re struggling with the issues of differentiation, we’ll do one of three things will either pressure others to be like us, or to validate what we feel believe want, or will yield to others to keep them happy with us. So I’ll do what you want, think, feel believe, so you’ll be happy with me. And a lot of times those two styles get married, right? Where one is pressuring and one is yielding, or you will disengage from others. That’s the third option. So pressure yield, or disinvest. And those are all markers of struggle with psychological differentiation.

Tina Gosney  11:15

Let’s talk about what that might look like in a parent, let’s just say that their adult 30 year old married child with two kids comes and tells them you know, I’ve been struggling with the church, and I think I’m going to leave. I’ve seen all three of those things happen with parents. And oh, no, you need to come back. And let me tell you all the reasons that you should be hearing, you know, like the bearing the testimony and sending articles and articles and the Relief Society president.


Right, right. Right. Yes, or, and then yielding right out look like?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  11:57

Well, what yielding might look like is, I want so much for you to be comfortable with me that I won’t share any of my divergent views, right, I’ll just not speak up. Even if I think you’re doing something that I think of differently. That’s a little tricky, because I don’t mean that you need to still be parenting, but you’re actually masking your mind. In order to keep someone happy with you. Now, that might happen a little bit less parent child, because part of the parenting role is to be the one who knows things. But it still can happen, which I won’t give my honest view because I don’t want you to be unhappy with me, but probably more likely, is the manipulation or the distance. Okay, well, I’ll be less involved with your life because it makes me feel sad, because I don’t know what to say to you. Because I don’t know how to relate to how you think. And I’m afraid of what impact it might have on me. So I’ll just keep my distance. Right.

Tina Gosney  13:02

And both of those are, are really difficult places for parents to be in that neither neither of those actions, either the pressure or the disengaging really form a connected relationship with your child. Right. Even even in the you know, you have an adult child where you’re not as, as engaged in their life as say, You were when they lived in your home, and before they became an adult, but you still want to have some connection with your child. And both of those make it very difficult to do that.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  13:36

Yeah, they push the issues of differentiation, right, and they absolutely are difficult. And I think they’re very connected to the ability to love.

Tina Gosney  13:46

Say more about that?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  13:48

Well, you know, I’ll give the example that’s a little more concrete in my own life, which is that my, my child, one of my children in high school was really struggling with depression, and was struggling to self define basically, in the pressures around who he thought others thought he should be, versus who he wanted to be. And so he would sort of get depressed and retreat and kind of move into this kind of futile mindset, futile mindset. Right? And, and so when I would watch him do that, I would be trying to tell him how to think differently. It would panic me. No, no, that Kinder No, don’t think of it that way. Think of it this way, but if I’m gonna give it I’m being like a terrible therapist, but I’m just like, No, here’s the right idea. You know, you just have to think this, you know, when it’s somebody else’s child way different than when it’s mine, because it would make me so anxious. And then, you know, so I wasn’t really listening. I’m just trying to get him to think the way that I think he should think or I would disengage, like I would feel sort of feel like powerless. And so then I would want to sort of retreat until I kind of grew up a bit around it and realize, look, it isn’t actually my problem to solve, which helps me a lot. Paradoxically, like, I don’t just solve him for me to then prove I’m a good mother to myself, or, you know, wherever I think I need to prove that I need to just care about him. You know, I remember him saying to me, you’re not a very good listener. And I’m like a professional listener. And he was right on the money. I wasn’t because I, I didn’t want to know things I couldn’t manage somehow to make better, where if I let go of the idea that it was my job, then I could say, No, I just care about this person. And I care about what he is trying to sort out for himself, and what he’s thinking about and recognizing it’s his to solve, not mine. And so I might as well just care about him in that and calm myself down around what isn’t my job. And that’s, that’s not easy, you know that that was deliberate, I had to really think about, I still have to think about it sometimes right like that I can kind of fall into one or the other. But it is that’s what’s loving is like, I do care about you. And I care about what you care about. And I care about what you’re trying to sort through and I’m not making you a reflection of me. Because as soon as I do that, I’ll need to get away from you or control you. Right.

Tina Gosney  16:28

And at that last part that you just said, I think a lot of people can relate to that making our children a reflection of ourselves. Yes, even if we don’t always admit that to ourselves. And I think right, often a really hard thing to admit to ourselves, yes, but it’s a very natural, immature, absolutely, for us to do.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  16:50

It is we we judge, we judge parents, often by their children, right? We right? That’s an easy thing to do. And I don’t mean that parents don’t have an impact on their children. But it’s very seldom a one to one, I mean, it you know, these are people with agency. But again, it’s more the issue of differentiation like that this is an individual that I have birthed into the world, who has his or her own agency and their own gifts and their own liabilities and so on. And they’re going to sort out their path. And to love them is to invest in them without making them a self object. And we instinctively do that. We’re trying to prove ourselves to ourselves. And we often use our relationships to do that. Right?

Tina Gosney  17:35

Do you think that there’s ever? Like, why don’t you just go back to this example that you gave with your son? When you It sounded like you wanted him to figure it out? Like, let me just give you the answer. So you don’t have to go through all the process of trying to figure it out on your own. Just let me give you the answer. So then you can be better

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  17:56


Tina Gosney  17:58

that still have some reflection on you, right? Because then it’s I can’t handle these feelings of watching you struggle.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  18:05

That’s exactly right. But also,

Tina Gosney  18:09

I just need to hurry up and get rid of this feeling for myself so that you can figure it out. And we can go on and do something

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  18:16

else. That Exactly. So exactly, I want you to just be together, you know, because that just makes me look better. But also very much what you’re saying, I think it’s hard for me to watch you struggle and to feel so powerless in it, right? Because so much of parenting is trying to alleviate our children’s suffering, they’re crying, you go get them you pick them up. Right. And, you know, I would often say to myself, I still say it to myself with my kids. This is a process that belongs to my child, right? This is theirs to figure out, it isn’t about me. And so trust it and calm down and let them have their own path. And remembering back to me sorting out my path that I needed that space to do that. And it probably helped that my mom had eight children, because it was diffused across eight where I only have three so I can get more more, you know, hovering in an unhelpful way.

Tina Gosney  19:17

Right? And it also sounds like there was some scarcity around you just needing for the process to go quicker. Where as if we look to ourselves, we can see how long it’s taken for us to get to where we are, yes. And when we pull our own value away from what our kids are doing or how they’re feeling or reacting to the world, then it allows us to just give them more time and space to figure it out without trying to control that outcome for them.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  19:50

Exactly. Exactly. Just trusting in what growth is in their agency in their desire to thrive, that they 82 are up against those internal struggles of anxiety about moving into uncertainty, coupled with their own organic desire to grow and thrive and kind of, I think the more that I lovingly hand, the dilemmas back to my children, like, you know, that if I feel that we are colluding and me taking on more responsibility than his mind, than me, just kind of, you know, in my response, keeping it, where it belongs, that more trust emerges in the relationship, trying to think of what’s the right way to say it. Like they trust that I believe in them. And I can trust them more, I’m not letting my fear take over. I’m not letting my fear lead the way instinctively. And just really, you know, so much linked to what love is. When our when our proving ourselves gets involved. It’s, it’s, it’s fake love.

Tina Gosney  21:06

Rain, right. And fear, I think, is something that is pretty much taking over a lot of mothers, especially right now, when they see this happening with their kids.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  21:18

Well, exactly. And so much, you know, I think especially mothers who have been home with their children full time and have really invested a lot of self in a project of raising their children in the church very involved. Like, who can blame I mean, even if their kids are staying in the church and moving on and getting married, that’s still a difficult identity to let go of, or to loosen, right. But then if they are then rejecting the very thing that their mother that was offered, through many sacrifices, and so on, it can be especially painful and disorienting, kind of like, you know, who am I, like, I have my own perhaps fears for my child’s welfare. But then I also feel that who I am is kind of being rejected. And what I’ve offered is being rejected. And so it can really be difficult to grow into a new relationship with that child without bringing some of your own pain and feelings of rejection into the relationship.

Tina Gosney  22:30

Right. And when it’s been over the course of 18 plus years, you invested in that in teaching them. This is the way I we believe as a family, and this is the way that you should be living your life. And then that’s rejected. Yes, that is very disorienting. Yes, it’s very identity challenging, like you said,

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  22:51

Yes. And one of my clients would say often, like, I just miss, like, I love my children, and I can even accept their choices. But I miss being able to go and worship with them and sit in a church pew with them. And just, it’s like a part of our family identity as a part of our family experience. And, and I don’t have that with them anymore. And so even just the loss of tradition, and a way of belonging to each other, it can be a painful loss for everybody in that.

Tina Gosney  23:21

How did you How have you helped your client deal with that pain?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  23:29

I mean, I’m thinking about that, I don’t know that I’ve had a really great, you know, except to acknowledge the loss with her, this particular client. Because I think, you know, at least in the phase in which we were having that conversation, the loss was relatively new. And the kids were more in a kind of angry rejection, even not just a rejection. And so it wasn’t even just No, thank you. It was kind of like, You’ve hurt me through these ideas by giving me ideas that have worked against me. So I think it was very much like, there was like, no room to sit there. And there wasn’t yet a new way to be together or a new way to find a kind of identity with one another. i One of the things that I think my mother has done very well is that she, she was she never did the manipulative thing, or because I have several siblings and, um, have left the church and my mother, I think. I think there was sadness for sure for her but she would always say, I just know, I know who my kids are. I know what good people they are. And I know that God loves them and so she just kind of held a trust. Better than I think I’ve done sometimes my own children to be honest, that, that they were that all of her kids that God was going to be compassionate and loving, and it would ultimately be okay. The reason why I think that has been such a good thing is that even though my siblings have been, many of them have been completely disconnected from the church, they don’t have ill will, because it’s not been connected to rejection for them. And so they will still come and go to church, if they come into town, see my mom or whatever, like there’s like a, there’s, there’s still a, like, I think every one of my siblings would still say, I’m a Mormon, right? Because there’s this sort of cultural identification, and a lot of appreciation for a lot of the good that was there for them because it didn’t ever get connected to rejecting them, not by the people that mattered most. And so there, I think that that would be unfair, unfair to say that there wasn’t still a loss for my mother, in that. But I think it’s been mitigated by the fact that there’s a lot of honest appreciation for what she offered through the church, even if they haven’t stayed fully connected to it.

Tina Gosney  26:17

And I, I appreciate you sharing that, because I think no matter how differentiated you are, does it mean that you don’t still have emotions? about what’s happening? Yes. It’s what you do with those emotions that yes,

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  26:30

absolutely. Absolutely. Right. And there’s no question I think that my mother would prefer that all of her kids were in in a way that would be most aligned with herself and who she is. And that’s just wonderful. It’s easier, right? Like, the areas with your spouse that you share a similar I mean, it’s just great comfort, you know, like my husband, I both love certain shows, and we’d love to watch them together. Because we share a shared appreciation. So there’s nothing wrong with when you have those places have a similarity and identification. And there’s nothing wrong with the fact that it’s more difficult when you don’t. But can I still love and care and reach out to this person who’s different than me, even when they don’t validate my view?

Tina Gosney  27:24

What we’ve talked about some of the things that are just hard about differentiating what else do you think gets in the way? That’s, that’s really just difficult for us to get there to release our own value to be able to stay in connection with someone when they wouldn’t, we’re not agreeing. What else would you say that we haven’t touched on there?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  27:46

Well, I do think, you know, just kind of thinking back to my mom there for a minute, I think that this idea of a god that was just and loving and could see the good in her children, even if they were making decisions in a different way. I think that helped a lot. Because I think there are people who I’ve worked with who really fear that their children will not be with them in the next life, that they’re not just losing them. Now they’re losing them, ultimately. And then there’s a lot more a panic and anxiety. That, of course, because they do love their child, that they’re going to lose them if they can’t get their child to see things differently. And so I think in a way, the way that that helped for my mom was it just made it not her job to get it all solved, that they had to relate her children had a relationship with God, there was a God that loved them. And that it wasn’t my mom’s job to solve that. So I think that does help a lot. And to trust in spiritual progression as a path and something that takes time. And something that belongs really to the individual.

Tina Gosney  28:56

Write individual in the way that we’re hearing messages at church, the way that we’re interpreting what they mean to us and to our family.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  29:04

Yeah, or just, you know, right. So, you know, I know for myself, there was a period where I was just couldn’t I couldn’t make the temple work. And it was it was distressing to me. And so I made a decision to stop going for a while. And I knew that I will, I was confident that it would disappoint my mother. And so I remember saying to her, I have struggled with this for years I have struggled to make it work. And I just can’t make it work. And so I but I don’t want to disappoint your mom, I don’t want to break your heart around it. And she stopped me and she said, You don’t need to apologize to me or explain yourself to me. You do so much good in the world. This is before I was doing all the things I do now she just was just saying that as me as a mother of young children and so when she was saying you do something good in the world, you you know, our kind good soul and I, I have my own things to work out in my life, I trust your ability to work that out for yourself in your relationship with God. So she was just reinforcing that. It wasn’t her job to solve it was mine to figure out and she trusted my ability to discern what was best for me. And that was just a huge gift for me, because she was just saying, I believe in you, and you don’t have to prove yourself to me, you already have my acceptance. And I believe in a loving God as well. And I trust you to sort it through. It also made it makes it so that is partly why I love the church and love members of the Church is because how do they I’ve been loved through it. Do you see I mean, so my mom was modeling love, even when I was believing and thinking in a way incongruent with what some people would say, would define a good member of the church. And so because she could sit see the truth, or like she could love me through it. It’s kept my heart open to all of it.

Tina Gosney  31:17

I think that’s a key too, because our natural instinct is to want to just come down hard and and try to, you know, Let’s rally the troops. Let’s get Jennifer back into where she’s supposed to be. Let’s call it reinforcements. But she just let you. I think the trust is what you were mentioning before, in that she just showed so much trust in you that I think you can figure this out.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  31:43

Because absolutely, I think it’s my mom had moved into control or manipulation, it would have pushed me out. Because like, well to be here I have to get manipulated and condescended to I don’t want to do that, like I want, I want my own dignity. And so when we manipulate and pressure, we think we’re getting away with it, or that we’re going to just leave the right article, you know, I had a friend who left the church and her mother in law was always leaving ensigns and things around. Of course, this just made them get more entrenched in distance, because they were basically being told that who they were was wrong, and there wasn’t anything legitimate in their difficulty. And so it, it just pressures people into polarity into polarized positions, where you know, to feel that you’re loved and trusted, allows you to hold more complexity and see that even if others think differently than I do, that there’s truth in how they think, even if I don’t see it that way, or that doesn’t work for me at this point. And so it just makes room for there to be more ability to embrace one another in our differences in our complexity, and still really care about what matters most is just loving each other, looking after each other, and allowing each other to be honest and live sincerely, there’s so much pressure sometimes to comply and to say what we think others want to hear from us that we are ultimately dishonest with each other. And when we don’t have enough truth in our midst, even if it’s divergent, were weaker for it. And we hide more. And the more we love, the more that we allow for difference, honest difference. And we let that difference help us grow into stronger people.

Tina Gosney  33:35

I really, I love that explanation that you gave. Because I think when when you allow that difference to be there and don’t try to control them manipulate. It strengthens both people. Right because we’re not then the person that’s is leaving is not reacting against what aspirants trying to do exactly. You don’t have to spend their energy trying to prove their point or react because they’re being controlled or manipulated. It allows them more mental and emotional and spiritual freedom to then say, okay, I don’t have to comply with my parents wishes that I stay here. What do I want for myself? Rather than I’m reacting against what my parents want for me. Exactly.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  34:21

And, you know, I had a brother who left when he was in his 20s and like, kind of a hard lead like he was out and and then he came into a crisis in his life maybe 20 years later. But because he didn’t feel like he was harshly judged, or he just decided, you know, he came back to church sat in the back they were singing Come Come ye saints, he cried through the whole thing, you know, and he’s like, I just need to be here. My soul needs to be here. But he didn’t. He didn’t need to save face or hide it from anyone or you know, because he was free to be there. without proving he’d been wrong for being gone, you know, and so it allowed him to figure out his path for himself.

Tina Gosney  35:11

This has been a really hard, long road for me to figure this out in my own, my own self and my own kids. And, and I think I started down this road. It’s been more than 10 years ago, but we had one child who was, you know, leaving the things that we had taught them. And that was, I was all into the control and manipulation thinking, this is my job. It’s my job to bring this child back. And if I’m not doing this, then I’m not doing my job. Right. And, and I really viewed that I was doing the right thing I really thought I was, but looking back at it now, I really do see that it was a lot more about me than it was about her. Yes, exactly. And that I did have a lot of my own value based in the choices that she was making. Yes. And I, it took me about five years to get to a good place again. And to kind of come back from that, and to go back and repair some of the damage that I had done in that relationship with her. And then our son told us that he was gay. And it took me about five seconds to go back into that self control and manipulation. And, and this, that was a really deep dark place for me. Yes. And it was about three days of pretty dark thoughts, and seeing a dark future. And I had my husband give me a blessing, because I didn’t see anything happening. Good. After that. Yes. And I will, I will. I’ve shared this so many times. But every time I do I just go, you know, kind of go back there in my own mind, and I get a little bit emotional. And in this bussing, my husband said, Your Heavenly Parents want you to stop worrying about your kids salvation. Yeah. Because they haven’t taken care of. Yeah, they want you to start worrying about your own. No, that’s. And that’s pretty much the only thing I remember about that blessing. Yeah. And I wouldn’t say that I was immediately able to do that. That was definitely that was about five years ago. Yeah. And it’s been a process of trying to do what you’re talking about today, letting go, letting them have their own lives, me showing up and loving them with disagreeing and feeling all the feelings involved. But I would say that we’re in a much better place now. And it’s because I was able to let go, if I had held on to all the control in the manipulation that I was doing, then my children would not be a member, they would not be participating in our family relationships. Yes.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  38:06

That’s right. No, it’s 100%. Right. And yeah, I think, you know, first of all, I think that when we’re raising young children, it’s intense. But our sense of control is very high. Right, relatively speaking, Little do we know how good we have it when we’re getting up.

Tina Gosney  38:27

We think nothing can be harder than this. No, and

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  38:31

then you just have to wait. Because, you know, my husband would sometimes say, well, the tool bag is small when they’re young, but you just have to use it a lot. But when they get older, the tool bag, it just requires your own development, to grow into someone who can love another soul that isn’t going to validate your sense of control or your sense of who you are, or who you thought they would be. They just aren’t. They’re their own expressions of divinity, and they are going to grow in their own ways. And they may even at times work against their best selves, right? You know, there’s the challenge of them just being different, even if they’re thriving in their own way. And then there’s the challenge of them not thriving and worrying about their well being. But I think that that loss of control after so much investment is is just acutely painful. It can be so so difficult to feel a sense of hope there’s so much loss connected to it. And so, you know, that revelation is like, just feels very true because it’s like five years ahead of where you were, like I can relate to that in my life, you know, where you sort of feel like something’s true, but you just can’t get there yet. But you kind of know it’s where you need to get. But you know, we sometimes mistake manipulation with love. We’re like, oh, well, I know the truth and therefore whatever I do to get you to think it is legitimate. That’s just not true. Right? It’s just not a good way to think and yet we we live it culturally very slowly. And instead, like that blessing said, worry about your own, not not your children’s and they’ll, they’ll find they’re going to be okay. They’ll find their way. And love is the environment in which the best reveals itself anyway, right? When we feel loved and accepted and known, we’re more able to be true to the best in ourselves. And when we’re being judged and manipulated, then we will resent and rebel, or comply resentfully. But it doesn’t yield the best in ourselves.

Tina Gosney  40:36

I think when we are able to love and to, to let them figure things out on their own, and still be showing up in loving ways. I think that that when we’re able to do that it is a direct reflection of the love that our heavenly parents have for them. Because you see so many people now, they we do such a great job of tying God to the church, don’t we? Like you find God through the church, this is the vehicle that you will, you will have access to him. Right. But when they leave the church, they’re also leaving God, which right in my mind is a tragedy? Because right, there are many people outside of our church that are able to have wonderful relationships with heavenly parents. And that’s right, and, and God and find that strength. And so when we are able to hold what you’re talking about the love through the differentiation, yes. And allow them the space and the time to work out what they need to work out, while loving them through the process. I think that that allows them to see the love that their heavenly parents have for them. Yes. And it makes it easier for them when they’re ready to to then be open themselves up to a relationship with God again, yes,

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  41:58

it does, it just you know, allows them to hold the idea of a loving presence in their souls, right, because they feel it in relationship to you easier to feel it in relationship to the Divine, or even just in the world in which they inhabit. Psychologically, love is very much connected to it. And so it’s a, it’s a great gift to give a child is to be able to hold a sense of being cared about as they live their day to day lives. A lot of people believe in God, but the God that’s inside them as a judgmental manipulative God, right. And so it’s not clear that that makes their lives more peaceful or richer, because they’re actually worshipping a false god, in a sense, right? Because it’s been delivered to them at the level that their parents understood it. And so when you can learn to truly love, well, you know, you, you can, then you know, that you can just carry that within your heart that you are cared about, even as you struggle through imperfectly, and there’s grace for you, there’s room for you to get it wrong, and then to self correct and get it right. But not to prove yourself, but because you’re worth, your worth. You’re worth the struggle, you’re worth the making mistakes, it’s okay. To go through that process. It’s more than okay, it’s designed to go through it. Even if you lose your way, at times, that that process of growth is a fundamentally Divine One, no matter how your child engages in it, or you can engage in it or any of us do, right?

Tina Gosney  43:46

That’s a hard thing to watch your and allow your children to go through that process of trying to find themselves and making mistakes and learning through. That’s a really hard thing to, to not want to take it over. And just let me give you the answer. Oh, yeah, just get this right. Let me give you the answer. Right.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  44:09

Yep, doesn’t work.

Tina Gosney  44:13

I think that, especially I think we were raised in the same generation, and very much heard about the straight and narrow path and holding on to the rod of iron. And if you don’t venture off the path, or you have to stay there to be safe. And so And that’s we’re raising these children, right. And so that’s the what we have passed on to them. Also, because that’s how we understood it. I don’t I don’t understand things that way anymore. I think in fact, I saw an Instagram post the other day that was saying that in Lehigh time there was no there was no concept of a rod of iron being like a rod that goes from one place to another it was actually referring to Shepherd staff. And so if we look at holding on to the rod of iron, like, oh, like he was talking about in his dream,

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  45:09

like gives us stability as we walk into uncertain terrain,

Tina Gosney  45:13

are we holding on to Christ? are we holding on to him let it being able to guide us. Right. But that there is no straight and narrow. There is a lot of detours. And there’s a lot of hills and valleys and a lot of tripping and falling and picking yourself back up.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  45:32

Yeah, that’s a way better interpretation. I’ve never thought of that. But it’s like something that gives us a stability while we go through uncertain terrain, while we’re moving into the dark sometimes and narrow passages, but we have a stabilizing reality. That That doesn’t mean that it’s all just, you know, that straight and narrow is just like you walk it you hold on and everything’s gonna go great for you. Right. Right. I mean, that’s just a fantasy that we all collude in. But that’s just not true.

Tina Gosney  46:04

Right? Well, and if that, just imagine if that was the case, that would not allow us to do the things and to mature in the ways that we need to on this

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  46:14

earth. That’s right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, in that narrow rod idea, also then makes it feel like if our child goes in a direction we don’t feel good about, it’s because we weren’t on that rock, you know, we weren’t obeying enough. And therefore, it’s our fault. We’ve done something wrong. So it also makes it hard to love a child that you think incriminates you, right? Makes you look like you fail. Right. And so it’s, it’s just, you know, so much about coming to know, God is like, as we go through our life experience, we learn more about as you say that, you know, we it’s a different model than what I thought I thought it was the straight and narrow, perfectionistic idea, when really to grow into wisdom requires the ability to tolerate uncertainty, to love in the face of, of uncertainty, to love in the face of difference that’s closer to knowing God than the original idea that I had.

Tina Gosney  47:22

And isn’t that I think when we are able to shift that view, it just kind of opens things up a little bit. Yes, it makes it not as dire that we control things. Yeah, we’re able to trust in the process of what we’re here to do. It’s not just our child’s there, they might be leaving the church questioning their faith, whatever is happening there. It’s not just theirs to figure out as we go through this relationship with them, that also pressures, our own development, and our own ability to grow, and to expand our view of what we thought was going to happen, and maybe our own view of God and His plan as well.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  48:07

Yep, absolutely. I think absolutely. That’s right.

Tina Gosney  48:12

What else have we maybe not touched on today that you think would be helpful for parents?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  48:23

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really kind of to the point that you just made Tina, but maybe to just underscore it is that a lot of times we have our idea of who God is, or what goodness is or what faith is and how it should look. And we’re trying to get reality to conform to our idea, as opposed to using reality, to shape our understanding of truth. Right, that God is revealing. That divinity is revealing itself through our experiences. And so rather than this is going all the wrong way. Rather, what can I learn from what is happening, like to stay humble, to stay open, to stay teachable? To see truth as it unfolds, as painful as that can be because we like to have our plans. And we like to feel a sense of control. If I do these things, this will yield this outcome. But so much of life is when we are disillusioned that our plans are not in fact, you know, coming to fruition in the way that we expected. And instead of like, oh, something’s gone wrong, I am wrong, you know, my kids are wrong. Rather, what can I understand about God and truth and myself and my relationship to my child? What can I understand about what love is through this difficulty? Because when we can do that we can take so much more truth. from it. We can take so much more Good from it.

Tina Gosney  50:03

And just taken what you just said. And given the fact that there are so many families that are experiencing this now, it feels to me, and I could just be totally putting some conjecture out there. But it feels to me that we, as a group individually and as a group, as a society, are being pressured into more mature ways of thinking, Yes, we are and of being and have been of loving each other? I

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  50:36

absolutely think so. We really are. And I think how I see it, this is very much how I talk in my podcasts and my classes and so on is that it’s pushing us to, to a higher interpretation of our theology, we’ve tended to gravitate, given the maturity of the group, we’ve tended to gravitate towards the behavioristic perfectionistic, more black and white thinking that’s a function of younger development. But as we’re moving towards more complexity, no, I argue that we have a theology that supports that higher complexity, and can be there for us, but in a different way, we just have to step out of our current paradigm to be able to look at it and see a lot of wisdom and truth in it, we have the idea that we just need to obey and everything will go great, and we’ll all will be saved, you know, literally and figuratively. And that’s just, that does help us to a point, but only to a point. Because then we have to move out of that dependency into more ability to discern and to become wise, like our parents in heaven. So our theology is about growing into wise beings, not just interdependent, automatons being commanded in all things. But a lot of times the way we talk, it’s as if that would be the end goal is it you’re just 100% obedient. But that only gets you to a certain place and to live in to the best of our theology, you have to move into one capable of love and wisdom, and the ability to act in the world. Now, Adam, and Eve is like a perfect sounding story, because it’s going from a world of innocence and protection into a dark and dreary world, in which you have to choose often when you want to good things, but you only get one. And you have to still assert choices that have loss connected to them. And that that’s fundamental to agency and spiritual development. But this is not a world that’s easy. And it is not like just do it all. It all comes together, and there’s no suffering, suffering is part of the process. And if we can take that less personally and think we’re doing less likely to think we’re doing something wrong, and more ability to use our spirituality, to use our suffering productively, to learn from it, to grow more compassion from it, to be more humble, to be kinder to others who also suffer. Well, then we’re using, we’re coming together in a world that’s imperfect and hurts us at times, and learning how to really care for one another in that.

Tina Gosney  53:24

Have you read Terrell Givens book doors of faith? I haven’t read that one. No, it was a series of lectures that he did at BYU a few years ago, to he that he gave to the administration, the faculty and staff, when they saw that so many of the kids that were coming, were struggling with their faith. And so he did this series of lectures, and he’s talking about the exact same thing that you just said. And he talks about Adam and Eve, and how it could have, they could have chosen to stay in the garden and stay in this state of innocence and not open themselves up to the complexities of life and, and further growth. But Eve being the brave woman that she was, you chose to take that fruit and said, I know I’m gonna go through some really hard things. Yes, I’m willing and able to go through it. And I’m going to take this and Adam, why don’t you come with me? So, so that was her opening herself up to this. That’s when, from what I’m hearing you say, if we’re not taking this step ourselves, we’re trying to stay in the black and white trying to stay in the manipulation and control or the disengagement. Yes, that’s us not being willing to take the fruit. Yeah, it’s wanting to stay in this little state of innocence in paradise and not really into a more mature state of being.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  54:45

That’s right. And I would say it looks like faith, right? Because it’s like, no, I’m just trying to be obedient and do the things and get you to do the things. But it’s actually faith less maybe that’s a little harsh, but it’s it’s too little faith. In the process in the complexity to believe in the good despite the dark, despite the uncertainty despite the loss, right, we we love control. But it’s the more we hang on to it, the less control we have, and the less good that is achieved. And so it’s how do we allow our experiences to teach us and shape our souls in good ways?

Tina Gosney  55:26

Right. I love that. Let’s, that’s a good place to end right there. Thank you for this conversation. This has been really I love having these conversations. And, and with you, it’s even more special to me. So thank you so much for that. Thanks, Tina. Glad if people want to find you, or or get a hold of you later, how would they go about doing that?

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  55:49

Probably the best way is just to go to my website, which is Ben Leysin hyphen, five.com. So my last name.com. And there you can see the five online courses that I teach. I also have two podcasts. One is conversations with Dr. Jennifer, which is free of conversations like this with various podcasters. And then room for two, which is a subscription podcast where you can listen to me working with couples around issues of sexuality and emotional intimacy and just the challenges that we encounter in everyday relationships where I’m giving feedback anonymously, well, to an anonymous couple that you get to listen in on their on their challenges. Yeah, both

Tina Gosney  56:32

podcasts are excellent, too. I have to give a plug for those too. So thank you. Yeah, so go and check out Jennifer stuff, and then you’ll probably start binging it. So beware. If you start clicking on it, you probably won’t be able to stop.


That’s awesome. Well, thank you again, Jennifer, for being here today.

Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife  56:51

My pleasure. Thanks.