One positive sign of recovery from religious abuse is the ability to find humor in the situation. Laughter brings healing for the past, assurance for the present, and hope for the future. Stone Eleven reminds us to look for the comedy in situations and to develop the ability to laugh at our own comedy of errors.
Crucifixion and resurrection have always carried specific meanings for me. I was taught they referred to the death of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection from the dead. Some people believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus, others do not. Religious Recovery tries not to tell a person what to believe, but we do look for truth in whatever form it takes, and many wonderful truths can be found in religion.
Most people I meet are looking for inner peace, because our internal state will determine the experiences of our lives. In that sense, there is a popular notion promoting the crucifixion of the self in order to allow The Divine to dwell and bring peace. But, some people believe The Divine already dwells within us, and the call to peace is simply recognition of The Divine within, and what we need now is a call to love. These people may also see crucifixion as an energy pattern of fear. In a sense, I can relate to this because it seems like such a difficult and impermanent thing to try to crucify the self.
Religious Recovery doesn’t promote or denounce either position, but the call to resurrection is a more universal call. Whatever has died, can be revived. That is a major lesson from Jesus’ resurrection. Think of it this way: where confusion rules, peace can be resurrected, where fear threatens to crucify the Light, Love resurrects it, and where life is crucified in death, eternal life is resurrected in the life to come. We are responsible for our own spiritual path. We can choose resurrected life now and in whatever waits for us beyond the grave.
To judge a religion based upon one church, synagogue, temple, or mosque would be a mistake. Unfortunately, one bad experience can limit our ability to see the good that might be present in other churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, or other places of worship. Pure religion can draw us closer to The Divine. Because nothing — except The Divine — is pure, we try to find places and people of like-mindedness who can help us on our journeys. Sometimes it is within a religious institution, and sometimes it is not. Let the path take you where you are supposed to go.
Religions are manmade, and as such, they are susceptible to great good or great harm. It isn’t always easy to tell if a particular religion is helping us or hurting us. Also, within each religion there are good versions and bad ones — good paths and roads that lead us in circles or to dead ends. When we feel we’re in a bad religious place, it’s okay to take a break from religion and turn our search to the Spirit of The Divine that lives within.
The religious path we travel is often passed down from a previous generation. We may have accepted it as true and right because of our faith in our ancestors, but until we examine the beliefs for ourselves we never make the road our own. Many people find no need to abandon the path of their birth, but they do choose how they will travel the path — with love and acceptance or with judgment and fear.
Spiritual diseases can manifest in the physical body. Some people live in fear because of religious teachings that are used to keep their flock under control. These teachings are often the source of judgment, insecurity, and mistrust. Instead of love being the foundation of their religion, fear becomes the motivating force. Search for a religious belief system that teaches love and forgiveness as their primary belief system.
Embrace change. It’s going to happen anyway, so why not embrace it? Struggles, pain, and disappointments are part of life, but if we embrace the changes that come our way, we can work through the seemingly dark areas more quickly. Allow life to unfold and accept whatever comes your way as a gift. You might not see it that way at first, but given enough time, all things fit into place in the tapestry of life.
Strongly held ideas can work against our ability to hear the voice of The Divine. What if those ideas and ideals are wrong? How will The Divine show us Truth when we cling to what is false — or at least, not entirely true? By letting go, or by at least being open to question all things, we can release the old and open to hear other sides, other viewpoints, and even the voice of The Divine. In her book, Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, Anita Moorjani wrote: “Being comfortable with uncertainty, on the other hand, opens me up to all possibilities. Ambiguity is wide open to infinite potential.”
We want peace in our lives, and our religious beliefs should aid in that goal, not hinder it. Whenever religion obstructs the good in our lives, we take a step back, remember we are spiritual beings, and we follow the path of the Spirit and not the dictates of religion when it blocks us from our peace.
The lighthouse has only one job — to shine. As spiritual beings, created in the image of The Divine, our function on this planet is also to shine. We are called to spread Light to all we encounter. The lighthouse is stationary, warning of peril to some, but also beckoning safe harbor to others. We were created to shine our lights into the world. The days of warning have served their purpose, and the days of beckoning are now calling out to the world to enter safe harbor and be at peace.
The more we connect with The Light, the greater will be our abilities to shine. Light is not lessoned by sharing it with others. Together we shine brighter than if trying to shine alone. If we stand alone, we must keep the light-fire burning. Connecting with our Source, we fuel the flames each day through mediation, contemplation, and prayer.
The light we speak of has no need to force its way onto the path of another. Our only job is to shine, let the light penetrate the darkness, and wait for those who are afraid to come out from behind the shadows and into the light.
Change the past, and we change our future, but the change we speak of is internal, personal, and all about us. We do not advocate trying to change someone else. If we are discontent with a religious path, the key is not to try to change them to fit us — or to change us to fit them — but to change us to be the best person we can be and follow the path that is best for us even if it takes us away from the familiar and into uncharted territory.
Through forgiveness we let go of the past and transform it into lessons for the present and the future. Any religion that is quick to judge and condemn rather than to forgive and forget is probably not a healthy path to follow.
Religions could benefit one another and also our world if they would learn to tolerate, accept, and love people no matter what their religious affiliations. Mother Teresa said, “The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” Just because someone has a different mother doesn’t mean he isn’t my brother or she isn’t my sister. As we let go of social, racial, and religious bias, we broaden the circle of our family. Isn’t that what true religion should do?
When we say that every path leads home, are we saying we believe all religions are good ways to reach Home? Not necessarily. We understand the need to discern the direction the path is taking and whether it will aid us or delay us in our journey. What we do believe is that multiple paths exist, and by choosing one we don’t have to dishonor or exclude the others.
Just because we have been hurt, disappointed, or abused by a religious organization or a religious person, it doesn’t mean we have to hold onto that pain. We have the ability to forgive, make peace, and move into a brighter future. The choice is ours, but we will not know full happiness until we make the decision to let go.
Labeling people is another form of judgment. Our world would be better served if we were to forgo the labels and see one another as unique individuals capable of great love. Even when the labels are perceived as positive, they remind us of their opposites. No good without bad, no black without white. We are simply beings capable of great love and light. Let us refuse to let labels divide us.
When I play golf with my son these days, he teaches me about the game. I was never good at golf, and when I taught him how to play I gave him advice that he later had to unlearn. The same, I’m sure, is true of some of the religious advice I’ve given my children, although most of the advice I taught came through my actions and not my words. I know they had to unlearn my bad examples, and now I learn from my children. Many people have received bad religious advice and are now unlearning the teachings of the past and opening to new and better ways to live a spiritual life with or without the aid of religion.
I wanted to be a bestselling author for years, and I worked hard at the craft. During the writing of my first six books, I also worked fulltime and helped raise three children. Considering the limited amount of time I had to dedicate to my dream, I should have been satisfied with the success I accomplished. However, when other writers sold more books than I did, I fought the jealousy battle. In my mind I wanted to be happy for them, and I congratulated them, but the heart wants what the heart wants. I wanted the success and notoriety they had achieved. There is a fine line between envy and jealousy. I hope I walked that line and stayed on the envious side.
I have known religious people who appear to be successful. They seem to have the answers, and apparently they don’t put on their pants the same way I do. It would be easy for me to be envious and even jealous of people who appear to have it all together. I’m learning to recognize the feelings and to let them go. Other people may appear to have all the answers, but that is an impression. No one even has all the questions, much less all the answers. Our path is our path, and, appearances aside, our only focus should be on our path. Feel the emotions that come when other people’s success makes you jealous or envious, but then release them. Being grateful also helps overcome jealousy.
We had some tree work done recently, and I asked about removing a particular tree that might cause problems for our new shed. The man said he could remove it, but it wasn’t a tree. It was a weed that had never been removed from the yard. We didn’t grow up in our present home so we had no idea it was once a weed. I wonder how many religious thoughts and beliefs should have been plucked years ago before they grew into beliefs capable of causing root damage and blocking out the Light.
If we listen to other people’s advice and direction long enough, it can hinder our ability to trust our own inner guidance, wisdom, and instincts. This is especially true if that outside advice is “preached” to us, at us, shouted at us, or declared to be “God’s truth.” If we take a step back and examine their truth, we might discover we don’t agree. It’s okay to have a different opinion.
One of the most painful and difficult decisions we have to make is whether or not we will forgive a religion or a religious person for the hurts they inflicted. There is always the temptation to look back with judgment and condemnation, but we can’t always know the reasons why someone treated us the way they did. Forgiveness and grace are our best tools to overcome the past and move on, but it might take time.
Is The Divine more concerned about the quality of our worship or the way in which we love one another? As parents we want to be loved by our children, but what parent doesn’t want their children to get along and play nice together? We like it when they display affection towards us, but we also want them to treat one another with love.
When religious belief closes our minds to every path except one, we lose, and the world loses. If we cannot find The Divine in other paths, in other belief systems, in the eyes of a child — no matter what their nationality or religious orientation — then we are indeed blind to all the wonders that surround us.
When we consider our religious beliefs, do we approach them with an open mind or a closed mind? Are we able to comprehend truth even if it is cloaked in different forms of expression? Can we find the similarities in our beliefs without discarding the validity of another’s path simply because it varies from the road we’re on?
Forgiveness is a subject that bothers a lot of people. Sometimes we view sins and/or mistakes in different degrees. “I can forgive this and that, but I can’t forgive .....” The thing that we feel we can’t forgive might not destroy us, but it could weaken us. Sometimes the only thing we need to do is to be willing to try to let it go and move on. At least, it’s a start, and The Divine can work with us from there.
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.