When it comes to our spiritual practice, we can often be inundated with conflicting opinions and advice from all directions. What do you do when someone - a friend, fellow community member, or some random person on the Internet - gives you unsolicited feedback about some aspect of your spirituality? How do you handle it in a way that is respectful to both them and yourself? Here are a few tips for dealing with conflicting opinions and advice in your practice.
Not Everything That Glitters is Gold
The first rule is never to take anyone's word as gospel. Just because someone says something doesn't make it accurate. This is especially important to remember when it comes to advice about your spiritual practice. One of the cool things about witchcraft is that there is no "one right way" to do things. So take everything you hear with a grain of salt and use your intuition and discernment to figure out what works for you.
For instance, one of the hot-button topics in the witchy community is materialism in the craft. You'll find people across the spectrum on this issue. I haven't seen many people who are hardcore materialistic, stating that you need to have a collection of rare and expensive items to be a "real" witch. However, I have seen people who are more critical of those who choose to work with such things. These individuals tend to respond to the curated content on social media, where people often show off their "witchy hauls" of new crystals, herbs, and other tools.
My take on it? I think it's OK to work with whatever you feel called to, whether using everyday household items or seeking out rare and expensive tools. It's all about what works for you and your practice. If you can't afford to buy a bunch of stuff, that's perfectly OK - there are plenty of ways to work magic without spending a lot of money. And if you choose to buy things, that's also perfectly fine - be mindful of how you're spending your money and make sure you're not buying into the consumerist culture that is so prevalent in our society.
No matter what side of the fence someone falls on, it's important to remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just because someone doesn't see eye-to-eye with you on something doesn't mean they're wrong or that you're wrong. It just means that you have different perspectives. And that's OK!
Understanding the Root of the Opinion
It's not always easy to tell whether someone's advice is coming from a place of genuinely wanting to help or trying to push their agenda. Going back to the earlier example, someone who sees another person post about their latest witchy haul may be quick to judge them and say they're "doing it wrong." But what's going on here? More often than not, people who are quick to pass judgment do so because they are insecure about something. In the case of the example above, the person may feel insecure about their spiritual practice and be looking for validation from others. Or, they may worry that they can't measure up to the "perfect" witch they see on social media.
Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that people's opinions are often more about them than you. So don't take it personally if someone criticizes your practice - chances are, they're just projecting their insecurities, and you don't need to give them any power over you.
Unpacking Nuanced Topics
There are specific topics that require a nuanced approach. Social justice is one of those areas, particularly regarding accessibility or the impact of spiritual practices (or trends) on marginalized communities. To go back to the example I shared earlier; someone may see another witch using white sage in their practice and criticize them for it, saying that it's appropriative or harmful to Indigenous communities.
Such issues require more than a blog post to unpack. Also, as an upper-middle-class woman in the suburbs, my voice should not be the one leading the conversation on these topics. But I think it's essential to acknowledge that these concerns exist and point people toward resources where they can learn more. On the use of white sage, I recommend checking out Preserving Palo Santo and White Sage for Posterity by Anti-Racism Daily.
Being thoughtful and considerate about how your spiritual practice may impact others is essential, particularly if you're from a privileged place. If you're unsure about something, do your research and ask questions. As you educate yourself, remember to approach things with an open mind - you may not always agree with someone, but that doesn't mean you can't learn from them. You can then decide what feels suitable for you and your practice. That being said, resist both the knee-jerk urges to defend your position or to completely throw away your beliefs in the face of criticism. Bending your thoughts and deeds to receive praise - or prevent criticism - isn't being true to yourself.
You Have The Right to Be Silent
I will share wisdom from the Witch's Pyramid, also called the Four Powers of the Sphynx:
"To Know. To Dare. To Will. To Be Silent."
The last part is often misinterpreted as "to keep your mouth shut." That's not what it means. Instead, it's about being mindful of when and how you share information about yourself and your practice. When others actively question or criticize your beliefs, and you become more focused on the opinions of others than on your inner work, you are giving others your power. At its core, this statement is about setting boundaries and not letting others control you.
You decide how much - or how little - you want to share about your practice. In addition, you choose who you want to confide in. You don't need to prove yourself to random people on the Internet, and you don't need to justify your beliefs to anyone. If someone shares their opinion or challenges your spoken beliefs, you can choose to respond, but you are under no obligation to do so. If they react poorly to your decision not to engage them, that says more about them than it does about you.
Starve the Trolls
Since we examined two reasons why someone may insert their opinion into your spiritual life uninvited, let's look at two more. First, some people find joy in being hateful and causing drama - the internet trolls we all know and love. The fascinating thing about these haters is they often aren't targeting your specific post or even you as a person. They're responding to an exaggerated (or watered down) version of what you said that they read on the Internet, and they're just looking to start a fight.
The second reason is that some people see themselves as experts who need to share their "wisdom" with the world, even when no one has asked. This group is prevalent on social media, where they can hijack the conversation and make it all about them.
The best way to deal with these people is to starve the trolls. Don't engage with them, don't feed into their drama - ignore them. It's not worth your time or energy to try and argue with someone who's just looking to cause trouble. As for the self-proclaimed experts, you can try engaging with them and see if they're open to a respectful discussion. But if they're not, it's best to move on.
The Bottom Line
It's up to you to decide what advice is worth taking and what you can safely ignore. Trust your gut instinct - if something feels off, it probably is. And don't be afraid to ask questions or do your research. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to make decisions that are right for you.
If you've been struggling with how to deal with other people's opinions on your spiritual life, I hope this guidance has been helpful. Remember that you don't need to take everyone's advice - you can figure out what works for you. And if you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out. I'm always happy to chat!
•It's important to remember that not everything someone says is accurate, and to use your intuition and discernment to figure out what works for you.
• People's opinions are often more about them than you, so don't take it personally if someone criticizes your practice.
• Social justice topics require a nuanced approach, and it's essential to be thoughtful and considerate about how your spiritual practice may impact others.
• You have the right to be silent - you decide how much or how little you want to share about your practice, and with whom.
• The best way to deal with internet trolls is to ignore them.