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Dear Carolyn: I have a very dear Christian friend. We have attended church and study groups together for years. I am no longer a believer and would like to stop going to church, but I know she would perceive that as a sin and end our friendship. I can understand that because her allegiance is to God. Do you see a solution?
– Anonymous

A: From the Godless side, I see this: Either you admit your change of heart and be brave about any consequences, or you maintain your church facade to trick a woman of faith that a central tenet of your friendship remains intact, simply because you don’t want to risk losing the pleasure of her companionship (and/or her approval).
In other words, there’s hardly a decision to be made.
Since this friend apparently regards her church as a guiding authority in her life, you can also approach your question from the God side, and talk to a pastor you’ve found to be particularly accessible. Yes, I know, it’ll be a bucket of giggles to share your nonbelief with a church leader, but part of any faith involves living in a world where not everyone agrees. Since you seem distraught over how your friend will respond, why not brush up on the template she’ll most likely use?

Beyond offended

Dear Carolyn: What do you do when you are beyond offended? But at someone you can’t and don’t want to eliminate from your life? After accepting the apology, what do you do if you’re still angry about the offense?
– Anger

A: You figure out why the apology wasn’t enough. Then you figure out what would qualify as enough. Then you ask for it – of the offender, if that’s where it needs to originate, or of yourself, if it’s a change that must come from within.
Then, fun part, you learn whether “enough” is possible.
If it turns out not to be, then you make a choice: Keep the anger, or keep the person in your life. It’s not fair to keep clinging to both.

Mending wedding snub

Dear Carolyn: So, my brother’s fiancee asked me to be a bridesmaid. I declined due to budget and time constraints. (I live on the opposite coast.) I thought she’d be mature and understanding, but it turns out she was offended by my decline. I also have panic and anxiety disorders that I’m being treated for. How do I deal with this situation so it doesn’t affect my relationship with them for the rest of our lives together? Thanks!
– Bridesmaid drama

A: You admit your miscalculation. Since “I thought you’d be mature and understanding but wow was I wrong” isn’t likely to advance your cause of lifelong comity, maybe try, “I was thinking about your invitation in terms of time and money, but I was obtuse about feelings – you gave me the gift of inclusion and I took it too lightly. I’m sorry.”