We can be a peacemaker or we can contribute to the strife and discord. Perhaps “peace-seeker: would be a more fitting term, because we can't force peace, but we can seek it for ourselves and then allow it to spread to others. When we can accept what life gives us, we are on our way to finding peace. When we rail against situations and circumstances and scream "unfair," then peace eludes us. Release everything into the Universe. Things have a way of working out on their own.
One of the values we guard and hold in high esteem in Religious Recovery is that of trust. People share stories of their spiritual journeys that they've never shared with anyone before, including spouses and other family members. Along with trust, and dependent upon it, is our goal to create a safe environment. These two values make our program successful, and without them we would have to close our doors and go home.
I learned early in life to pick my battles wisely. I cannot champion every cause, but I can champion some causes or even one cause. And, it is also important to decide what weapons we will use to fight our battles. Hatred, anger, and loathing are used by some radical religious groups, but as we consider the weapons that have made the greatest progress towards love and peace, we find the wisest choice of weapons to be non-violent resistance, love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
There is nothing wrong with making plans for the future unless it prevents us from fully living in the present. Plans are great. At times, however, we can project a specific dream of the future that is so detailed that we are reluctant to accept anything less than that dream. And, what if our dreams conflict with someone else’s dream? Or, even worse, what if our dreams conflict with those that The Divine would have us experience?
We can plan and dream, but at some point we might be better served by turning those plans and dreams over to that which is greater than self, and say, “This is what I think I want. But I don’t always know what is best for me. As I make these plans, I ask for Divine guidance. I do not know what will come of my dreams, but I want to launch out into the great unknown and see what You will bring to me.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of our plans and allow them to play out without our micromanaging them. It is like prying away our fingers, one at a time, ever so slowly. But when we release them and choose instead to live one moment at a time, worry and fear lose their grip on us.
We find certain things difficult to do. Love our enemies, treat everyone equally the same, forgive those who have hurt us, and show respect when we don't deem an individual worthy. But, when we can rise above our pain and see a spark of divinity in everyone we meet, then everyone we meet will be able to see the spark of divinity in us.
When we meet someone, perhaps we should be open to what it is that we can give to them: a smile, laughter, hope, kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, and love. When we meet someone, perhaps we should be open to what it is that they can give to us, too. We give and receive in relationships, so let's be ready to give the best and receive the best in return.
When we are able to see the beauty in other people, no matter how positive or negative their disposition, then we will comprehend that the Earth is one, and we are all family. Then we will also be able to see more clearly the beauty within our own lives as well. Why not make everyone we meet our dearest friend?
Religious Recovery is different from some 12-step programs in that it doesn't see religion as an addiction that one must overcome. The goal of our program is to help people heal who have been hurt by religion or the religious, but whether that person returns for more hurts or abuse is their decision. We do, however, strive to provide the tools needed to prevent further harm and to have the ability to remove ourselves from abusive situations when the individual determines the time is right.
One concept that has great potential for destruction when it comes to religion is that of being chosen or special. Why would The Divine label some people as special and worthy of paradise and condemn others? Why would The Divine label one nation as chosen and not reach out to all the other nations? Does this really make sense? How do we reconcile a Divine Creator who singles out people and claims them to be better than others? We must weigh these concepts against Love. When we do, we will find they fall short.
If we can stop dwelling in the past and worrying about the future we can learn to live in the moment. Stone Six encourages us to simply "be." Sadness dwells mainly in the past. Fear and worry are mainly future concerns. But, when we determine to live in the moment we are opening to the experience of the "now." Unless it is happening now, we can let it go.
Being in the present moment means to accept what is happening as if it were meant to happen, because it is. That is simple to understand but difficult to accept. We are challenged by what we consider to be negative situations. How can sad, depressing, or hurtful situations be what we are supposed to experience? No one can answer that for each specific incident, but, if we will allow it, hindsight will show us the greater picture.
Here is a different take on confession. One problem with confession is the negative connotation associated with it. We confess what we did wrong. What about the things we did right? Why not confess the positive things in our life? For instance, “I confess I did a kind deed for someone in need,” or “I confess I took time to listen to a friend’s problems and allowed them to cry on my shoulder.” Sometimes we get so focused on the negative that we generate more of the same into our lives. Why not concentrate on the positive instead of the negative?
And, why not confess the things we wish we had done differently in a positive way? Instead of saying something was a mistake, why not explain that what I’m giving, to myself or to another, is simply nonjudgmental feedback? After all, we could be right, or we could be wrong. At times the reality lies between the extremes of right and wrong. The openness we extend to one another and to ourselves allows for growth.
When I was a teenager, a girl about my same age visited our church. I was excited because we didn’t get a lot of visitors, and since the church mission was “to spread the gospel,” I hoped we could help her “come to Jesus.” So, I wasn’t surprised when our minister approached me.
“Wayne, I want to talk to you about our guest,” he said. I knew he felt the same excitement I did, but then he continued by saying, “Do you think you could talk with her about the length of her skirt? It’s really short.”
I didn’t expect my Pastor to only mention the length of her skirt and nothing else. I certainly wasn’t interested in discussing her appearance from a negative point of view. My Pastor didn’t ask me to say how nice it was to have her visit. Nothing about hoping she would return and maybe bring her family or friends—just a concern over the length of her skirt.
I stood in disbelief, and I don’t recall if I agreed to speak with her, but chances are I nodded even though my heart wasn’t in it. But if I actually agreed to have the discussion the minister requested, I lied. I didn’t approach her about the subject. My heart knew he was wrong, so I simply befriended her and let it go.
Recovery is sometimes as simple as rewriting the script of the past. I believe the minister’s motives were misplaced. It may have been the first time I realized the minister was not the great and powerful Oz— but only a man. In his defense, he was a kind man and I learned a lot from his ministry. However; that was also the first time I understood the saying, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
Why do we treat religion like marriage—only one husband or wife at a time? If we are unhappy with our religion, why not carry on a religious affair? When our present religious experience leaves us dissatisfied, why not look for a new spiritual love? I don't recommend this for personal relationships, but when we realize that there is one Supreme Being known by many names, we are not divorcing The Divine but only a religious belief system that no longer meets our needs.
If our jobs weren’t meeting our needs and if our jobs were in fact creating problems in our lives, wouldn’t we at least consider the possibility of changing careers? Yet in our spiritual lives so many people believe what they have been told was unequivocal religious truth, and so they refuse to question whether it is the only truth, and nothing but the truth. If there were only one right religion, wouldn’t we have discovered it by now, and wouldn’t everyone be able to discern the truth?
Yet many people stay with what they “know” to be religious truth even when common sense and intuition direct them to other paths. The Divine wouldn’t have provided us with brains if we weren’t supposed to use them.
As often happens in negative addictive behavior, the decision to stay is often weighed against the greater pain, and as is so often the case, individuals don’t leave a bad situation until the pain to stay is judged to be greater than the pain involved with leaving. However, when the decision to leave is made, often the initial pain is far worse than what was anticipated, and individuals sometimes return and stick it out—sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.