One of the values we guard and hold in high esteem in Religious Recovery is 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.
Certain things are 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 might be able to see the spark of divinity in us.
When we meet someone, perhaps we should be open to what it is 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 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, we will comprehend that the Earth is one, and we are family. Then we will also be able to see clearly the beauty within our own lives as well. Why not make everyone we meet our dearest friend?
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 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.
When we decide to extend love, we can never go wrong. What it means to extend love can, at times, be tricky. Sometimes we extend love by withholding our advice and allowing another to make mistakes and learn from them. How do we know when to help and when it is more loving to decline? Our intuition is our best resource. But, even if we misread our intuition, or fail to consult it, if our hearts are attempting to extend love, then we are making the world and another person’s life better.
We are never wrong to extend love even if we judge our attempts to be flawed. Our vision doesn’t allow us to see the broader landscape, nor does it allow us to see the future. What we judge as flawed or even mistaken may be the incident that changed another’s life. Whatever mistakes we make, real or imagined, can be covered by love. In the Christian Bible, the author of 1 Peter has this to say: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Love doesn’t fail, but when we fail to love, we fail ourselves and others. It’s a mistake to withhold love. The purpose and meaning of life is to extend love.
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 “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. 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.
Forgiveness is one of God’s miracles because it is undeserved and unexpected. It is a means of self-correction when we get detoured from our spiritual path. When we freely offer the miracle of forgiveness, we find it is freely offered to us. Let us create miracles all around us.
When we have problems forgiving and loving another individual, it often has to do with an inability to love and forgive ourselves. The opposite also holds true; when we have problems forgiving and loving ourselves, we may find it difficult to love and forgive others. Forgiveness is nothing more than a mental decision, yet we often find it painfully difficult. But, when we forgive, the world changes and miracles happen.
Forgiveness knows when it is time to let go of a bad situation. Just because someone is family or a close friend, it doesn’t give them permission to take advantage of your loving forgiveness. Forgiveness can, and at times, must, be given from a distance. This distancing is for ourselves and also for the sake of those we love.
At times we may feel our peace has been shattered by noise, confusion, strife, bickering, or a host of other irritants. Peace is easy in the silence, but challenging in the din that often accompanies daily life. Recognize it is this din that allows us to develop real peace. Anyone can be at peace while asleep. True peace is strong and can take on the greatest challenges.
Prayer, meditation, and contemplation have the ability to help us live in the present moment as we let go of the past and release the future into the hands of the Universe. By simply living in the moment, we find calm assurance that everything will work out in its own time and in its own way.
Common sense seems to be underrated these days. Perhaps it can’t always be trusted, but common sense works for us the majority of the time. The times when it seems as if it has failed, are often times when we have believed something to be true without weighing it against our common sense. In those circumstances we can correct the original belief and then follow from there.
One such common mistake many people make is to believe without question or doubt the instruction given to them by a religious leader or a religious organization. Some might disagree, but one particular belief that now goes against my common sense is the belief that any one particular religion has a monopoly on The Divine — that their path is the only path, and all other roads lead to destruction.
Stone Three of Religious Recovery encourages everyone who partakes in the program to question everything. Religious Recovery especially suggests the need to question the ideas presented in their own literature. We are fallible and are prone to mistakes. But, if we believe nothing until we’ve tested it through our common sense, we will find our path clearer and easier to walk. Don’t be afraid to use the common sense test, but be very afraid if you choose to believe everything without question.
When we judge another person in a religious way, we are often saying they are unworthy. When we let go of judging and rely on our ability to discern what is right about someone versus what needs to be healed in them, then we can be the means to bring about the healing. As we let go of judging, we open to Love.
Some people worry so much about getting to heaven that they fail to remember they can create heaven on Earth. If we can’t find heaven here, how will we recognize it in the afterlife? If heaven is simply an extension of this life, shouldn’t we make this existence as good as we can?
Sometimes we need to examine our hearts to determine if they are open or closed. We might be surprised to know we have closed our hearts to love, intimacy, or healing. One source that has encouraged a closed mind, which often leads to a closed heart, is religion. Do not allow your heart to be closed by religion, politics, or social pressure. At all times, keep an open mind and an open heart.
The sign of a beautiful person is how they see beauty in others and in themselves. The sign of a beautiful religion is they also see beauty in others, the world around them, and in all religious paths that are searching for The Divine and Love.
We often look for something more from our lives than mere existence. If there is a Higher Power, then what are we supposed to do? How should we live, and how can we find meaning? If we accept the fact that there is a plan, then perhaps the simplest, and yet most difficult thing to do, is decide we will align our will with Divine will.
Irritating people have the potential to make us better or bitter. The choice is always ours. We may find it difficult to look beyond their hurtful words in order to see that spark of divinity that seems buried beyond retrieval, but nevertheless, it is there. To be able to forgive and love, challenges us to be the best we can be, and when we succeed, it makes it easier to love and accept everyone else.
Those who are destined to meet will meet. Recovery comes one heart at a time, and Religious Recovery emphasizes that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. That’s not to say we won’t have “casual” meetings and “minor” teachers along the way, but when the time is right, we will meet individuals, in person or through their teachings, who will move us deeply and irrevocably along our spiritual paths.
As a youth, I recall spending time sitting on a bank with a fishing line waiting for the fish to bite. Fishing is a patient man’s sport. We can make the bait more enticing, and we can find ways to place the bait within the vicinity of the fish, but we can’t make them bite. That choice is out of our hands. Part of the fishing experience is the waiting game — spending time alone with nature and our thoughts. Relaxing. Waiting. Listening.
I’ve heard it said that good things come to those who wait. It reminds me of a t-shirt my friends gave me that says, “Meditation: Don’t just do something, sit there.” Many people have lost the art of waiting — of quietly sitting on a porch, perhaps rocking in a swing, and allowing the universe to unfold. Rest assured, the universe will unfold with or without our help. If we think the world will stop without our attempts to control destiny, think again. Making plans and doing things are not wrong. But when we forget to let things unfold in their own time, we do ourselves and those around us a disservice. Make plans, dream, let your desires be known, and then simply follow the example of the fisherman on the bank. Wait for it.
Patience is the ability to allow the Universe to unfold instead of trying to force it open. Patience also has the ability to see that what we want to happen might not be what is best for all parties involved. So, it is not bound to a certain outcome. Patience accepts what is, and what is to come, with calm assurance that there is a plan.
Unveiling who we are is not always easy, and letting other people see into our souls can be an intimidating proposition. Why would we risk such raw exposure when the damage that might be done would be devastating? But, the success of the 12-step recovery programs gives us hope that not only are there save places to unburden, but also safe people who will not judge us.
The past cannot be changed. Why worry about it or feel ashamed over a past that was less than stellar? If nothing else, we can look at our past and be grateful for the things we have overcome or are overcoming. We don’t have to let the disappointments, failures, or even past successes color our present joy. We choose to live in the moment.
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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.