Ask Margot-Overcoming Religious Prejudice

He broke our date when he found out I was of a different faith. How can I avoid this in the future?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I met a great guy at a party and we hit it off. He asked me for dinner the following weekend and I happily accepted. But then he called mid-week to say he had to cancel. He made up a lame excuse and when I called him on it, he let slip that he wouldn’t have asked me out if he’d known I was of a different faith. How can I overcome religious prejudice like this?
-Hurting in Honolulu

Dear Hurting,
It’s normal to feel hurt over things like this. Rejection of any kind smarts. But the sting can be
It’s normal to feel hurt over things like this. Rejection of any kind smarts.
more severe when you’re rejected over something as sensitive and personal as religion.

I’m no Jane Austen, but I think that what you’ve got here is a case of pride and prejudice.

Never mind the reason: Your pride is wounded because he rejected you after declaring his interest at the party. Who wouldn’t feel bad about that? For one thing, it seems like he was leading you on—something nobody enjoys. For another, what were you doing feeling interested in a person who can just lead someone on? In situations like this, we often blame ourselves for not “seeing something” sooner.

To make matters worse, your emotions are inflamed by the burn of presumed prejudice. He said he judged you unfit to date because you possess a certain set of beliefs and values—things you’re probably very proud of. It’s the classic case of adding insult to injury. I don’t blame you for wanting to take him out behind the shed and give him a good… talking to.

But I wouldn’t advise you to do that. So how can you get over this and keep this from happening again?

Since it’s not always easy to discern faith based on appearance and casual introductory conversation, and it’s impractical to engage everyone you meet in extended theological discussions prior to getting a coffee date, you might consider adopting two practical positions on the matter: (1) If you date enough outside your own faith, it’s bound to happen again sooner or later; and (2) It really doesn’t matter because it’s not about you.

First, most romantic entanglements come undone faster than a hand-me-down sweater. While I’m not suggesting you rack up a long list of dating duds, it’s healthy to embrace the reality that most of the people we date don’t end up being long-term love interests. Adopting that viewpoint can help us deal with the possibility of rejection — and its pain — more gracefully.

Second, the feedback we get about ourselves says more about the person giving it than it does about us. His confession, however poorly offered, told you everything you needed to know about whether he’d be
In my experience, it’s best to get the bad news up front.
someone you’d like to go out with. Honestly, if you’d known he had a bias, would you have even considered dating him? Probably not. And, painful though it was, would it have been less of a let-down if it had come out on your third date? What about a few months later? In my experience, it’s best to get the bad news up front. So in my book, he did you a favor by tipping his hand. And even though he was about as smooth as a gravel driveway in the way he went about it, I still think you got the better end of the deal.

As for overcoming religious prejudice, my gut tells me you’re probably not going to get what you want if you use relationships as a battlefield for this particular crusade. If religious tolerance is an issue you care about deeply, and if that caring transcends dating and romance, there are better ways to channel your energy.

Volunteer at a local organization promoting religious tolerance. Write an op-ed piece for your local paper. Attend or create a support group for people dealing with intolerance and prejudice, religious and otherwise. These activities will encourage more open-minded thinking in your community. And — here’s a bonus — you might even meet someone worth dating in the process, someone who clearly shares your values about this particularly important topic.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t compromise your own strong set of beliefs about what is just and right. And don’t settle for anything less than what you truly want and deserve. There are plenty of gents out there of many different faiths who would love to date a woman of strong convictions and spirituality.

Good luck!

Ask Yourself This: Am I biased?
Have you ever rejected someone based solely on their religious beliefs? Socio-economic status? Political affiliation? There’s a thin, fuzzy line between preference and prejudice and only you can know when you’re crossing it. Think carefully about why you make the choices you do, and if you find you’re being judgmental instead of choosy, think about loosening that vice grip on your mind.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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