A key element in overcoming religious abuse of any kind is trust. Also, in our efforts to help others who have been injured, we must be trustworthy. Perhaps the most important element in this issue is to develop the ability to trust ourselves. This may be simple for some, but for those who have put their trust in a religious institution or a religious individual, only to have their trust abused, this can be a major hurdle.
Even though it might have been someone else who abused our trust, our confidence in our ability to trust our own judgment, our own discernment, and our own intuition can come into doubt. How can we trust our judgment when we were burned so badly in the past? Some practical advice comes to mind.
We learn from our mistakes—or at least we hope to—and we try to discern what part we may have played in allowing the hurts or abuses to happen. If we placed all our trust in one specific organization or leader, we may want to rethink that strategy and have more than one method of spiritual growth. We also consider whether or not we have come to the point in our paths where we can walk alone—at least for a time—in order to develop a more personal relationship with The Divine. It doesn’t mean the path has to be lonely or that we will always walk in solitude. People will cross our path and we may choose to walk side by side for a time. Let us recall the wisdom of Stone One that asserts that we are responsible for our own spiritual path.
I am a football fan. I love to see my team win, and I hate to see them lose. Sports are like that. Much of life is like that. In sports, for every winner there must be a loser. But, does this winner/loser mentality have to carry over into our spiritual lives?
If we carry the analogy into the spiritual realm, for every winner, there must be a loser. If winning is going to heaven, then for everyone who goes to heaven must there be someone who goes to hell? Is our religion much like pro football? If winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal—the sports equivalent to heaven—then does every team that doesn’t make it become destined to sports hell with little funding and a few fans who cover their faces with paper bags?
It would seem that religions at times have taken on this win/lose attitude. We’re the best and only true religion, and if you’re not following us you’re going to miss heaven and land in hell. What if there was nothing to lose. Perhaps the truth is that there is no spiritual contest involved. Everyone can win, and no one has to lose. The universe will not be unbalanced if everyone makes it through to the next round.
The Religious Recovery program does not encourage or discourage a sponsor program. Some of the 12-step programs do support this concept and it has proven to be effective. One definition for the word sponsor includes the idea of resuming responsibility for someone, and in the case of spiritual growth, this could assume taking responsibility for someone’s spiritual path. We are opposed in principle to the idea of giving away our power.
The concept of a mentor instead of a sponsor is more in line with the concepts of Religious Recovery. Over the years, I have had at least six writing mentors. Usually these individuals come into my life for a period of time, and then for one reason or another, they—or I—move on. Probably the main reasons are distance, change of philosophy, absorption of lessons, or the lack of understanding of what is trying to be taught. The reasons are usually not important. I have always remained friends with those who have guided me, and I have tried to repay that debt by also helping others. Religious Recovery is not opposed to sponsors as long as the individuals understand that each one, according to Stone One, is responsible for their own spiritual path.
I am grateful for every writing mentor that has helped me hone my craft. Some took me so far, but could not take me any further. One mentor was especially skilled in non-fiction writing but not quite as talented when it came to fiction writing. Each mentor has different skills. Some are better at sentence structure. Some at storyline. Others excel in word images. Each taught me something different.
I’ve also had spiritual mentors throughout my life, and I plan on having them for as long as possible. Many of those mentors I have never met, but their written words have guided my spiritual path. Others have been a part of my life in the form of holy men and women, official or unofficial. Most of those spiritual mentors have come and gone. I have become close enough friends with some of them to see their faults. Just as with the writing mentors who excelled in one area but were weak in others, these spiritual mentors have shown me they make mistakes from time to time.
Each mentor that comes into our lives has a purpose for being in our lives, both for them and for us. As we teach, so we learn. And, in order to learn, we must teach. Do not be surprised to find your mentors make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to let a mentor go. You will know when the time is right, and when we are meant to have another mentor in our lives, he or she will appear.
Note: You might need to refresh your screen to see the current day's Inspiration.
Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.