Many sicknesses and much of our unhappiness can be traced to a lack of forgiveness. We struggle to forgive those who hurt us, and we struggle to forgive ourselves. Peace, love, and compassion flourish under the watering influence of forgiveness, and those same qualities tend to shrivel and die when we refuse to forgive.
Love is not always easy. Forgiveness is not always easy. The decision is often difficult, and sometimes the best we can do is want to want to forgive. We might not be ready to forgive, but at least we want to want it. But even this inkling of a desire is all that is needed for the process to begin.
Sometimes what we thought were mistakes turn out to be blessings. We can’t be right all the time, and when we are “wrong” we often learn more from those choices than from the times when we were “right.” At some point we come to see that right and wrong are not as black and white as we once thought they were.
“One day at a time” is excellent advice when it comes to recovery. The good news is that every day can bring us closer to healing, and, for those who are so inclined, spiritual growth. After experiencing religious abuse, some fall away from all things religious and spiritual. If that departure is what the individual feels he or she needs, we honor and encourage them to follow that choice.
At times it seems difficult to release emotions that do not help us on our path. One visual image is to simply allow them to fall away. Uh, there is resentment again. Go away and don’t bother me. I don’t have time for you. Does it need to be more difficult than that? Not really. We brush them aside and allow them to fall away like unwanted dust without so much as a moment’s thought.
The key, if there is one, is to recognize the emotion and discern if it helps or hinders, and then simply discard it like a television show you’ve already watched. In slang language, the phrase that comes to mind is: “Been there, done that, seen that, not going there again.” Let go and let it fall away.
Analyzing, criticizing, and scrutinizing can work against us and keep us considering, replaying, rethinking, and worst of all, judging our actions and our motives. Let it fall away. If you need more help, turn to your Higher Power for assistance. Ask for the ability to forgive, let go, and live in the present moment. Assert your power over the past and don’t let it influence your present state of mind.
Religion can limit our thinking into a small space and only those who agree with the rules or structure of that space are welcomed. Why should we limit our thinking to one religion, our friends to one race, and our home to one space, one city, or even one country? We can become a member of all religions, all races, all cities, and all countries. Let’s expand our thinking and become world citizens.
Sometimes our intentions are good but the results of our actions are not good. This should be easier to forgive than if our intentions were bad. However, sometimes it seems we are hard on ourselves even when our hearts meant well. We are doing the best we can, and when we make mistakes, we simply forgive ourselves and try to do better.
To believe everything without question can be spiritual suicide. Everyone has their own path to walk. That path might look similar to someone else’s path, but it will never be exactly the same. Yes, we can learn from one another and share our wisdom and knowledge, but the ultimate decisions must be made by each individual. Question everything, including the ideas presented by the Religious Recovery program.
I used to think my path to The Divine was the only right one. Now I see there are many paths, and mine looks strange to some people. I no longer resonate with many of the things I once believed, but I am friends with many people who still find that path an important and viable way to reach The Divine. Who am I to judge them — or they to judge me — simply because we disagree? We are both headed Home; we are simply going along different trails.
Always hold on to those things which support you and let go of all that no longer serves your needs or moves you closer to love, kindness, compassion, and peace. Change is unavoidable, but we can determine how we will process the changes, what we want to retain, and what we want to discard.
Our beliefs should be held lightly, because we never know when new information, new revelations, and better comprehension can alter and improve our beliefs. This is true in all areas of life including religious beliefs. When we make firm and final judgments we close our minds to new truths or even to a better comprehension of old “established” truths.
Religious healing is often a matter of undoing. Do our beliefs bring separation, division, confusion, and a love-less existence? If so, we can discard the vines of legalism, judgment, guilt, and shame. As we cut away the vines, we give ourselves the ability to move into the Light of Love and grow in new ways and in new directions.
One place of worship I attended began every service with a song titled, “The Face of God” The lyrics include these lines, “You are the face of God. I hold you in my heart. You are a part of me. You are my family.” Religious Recovery’s main goal is healing, but true healing comes only when we recognize The Divine in everyone we meet. We are the same, we are all one, and we are all part of one family.
Each person we meet represents an opportunity to see the face of The Divine. Sure, we understand that at times it seems as if the face of God is hidden deep within a shell of a person who seems determined to make our lives miserable. No matter how hidden, how far below the surface that spark of divinity lies, it still remains. Our goal is to look for it, to search the eyes and the heart, and to hear the cry for love that is masked by their words and actions.
Why do we find it difficult to see the beauty in our brothers and sisters? Perhaps it is because we fail to see the beauty within ourselves. We look upon our exteriors and forget the essence of who we are is not in our physical bodies, but in our spirits — our souls. When we look into a mirror we see only a reflection of the physical body. When we look into our spiritual nature, if we fail to see the face of The Divine, we are once again only seeing a reflection of what is truly there. When we can see the face of God in ourselves, then we can see it in the face of everyone we meet.
 Music by Karen Drucker, words by Reverend Karyl Huntley and Karen Drucker
Never underestimate the power of freewill choice when it comes to religious beliefs. Our perceptions are often faulty, but we can always correct them. We can choose again when we have been deceived, and we can change our minds when we have made mistakes.
Sometimes it helps to relax, take a break, and look at where we are, how far we’ve come, and simply enjoy the journey thus far. Healing from religious abuse takes time, and as we unravel the beliefs, abusiveness, and harm, it is important to reward ourselves for our progress. The steps we’ve taken, even if the only decision we’ve made so far is that we want things to be different, are important steps.
I’m certain there are times when I have hurt someone unintentionally and wasn’t even aware of it. If that is so, then I’m also certain there have been times when other people have hurt me unintentionally, and they weren’t aware of it. If I wait for an apology, it will never come. I can stay in bitterness, or choose to forgive anyway.
Steps number Seven, Eight, and Nine of the Religious Recovery program speak of the importance of forgiveness. I have found that spiritual progress is impeded when I refuse to forgive, to be forgiven, or to forgive myself. Learning to practice forgiveness in small infractions helps us to forgive what may seem to us to be the unforgiveable events of our lives.
August 16: Before we are labeled by nationality, religion, or gender, we are simply a spirit or a soul. Once the labels are placed upon us, it can take years, perhaps even a lifetime to remove. When we refuse to label people, we find it easier to accept and love them. Peace is possible when we refuse to judge people, and labeling them can be another form of judging.
Knowing what is right from a legalistic standpoint can be different from what is right from a spiritual standpoint. When love conflicts with the law, we must listen to our hearts and follow its leading. Great harm — even wars — can come about when we refuse to listen to our hearts.
Peace will not come by decree, treaty, or force. Peace is achieved by individual effort and spreads through love, acceptance, tolerance, and kindness. Religion is not the source of peace, but it can aid in bringing it about, or it can spread division, hatred, and strife.
Disappointment is understandable when we discover the wizard is simply a man behind a curtain pulling strings, levers, and shouting fiercely at us through a magnified sound system. What we do after discovering this revelation speaks more about us than it does about the pseudo wizard. There is no right or wrong way to react except to be honest with our feelings. Disappointment, anger, frustration, and betrayal are common. The feelings that rarely surface are understanding, sympathy, forgiveness, and even love. You might ask, how can these feelings arise when we were betrayed? Keep in mind, we don’t encourage denying the negative feelings. Feel the pain, but then deal with the root of the problem. Yes, we were deceived, but why were we vulnerable to deception?
When we discover the answer to that question, we discover we are less likely to be deceived again. Avoid the question and the lesson may need to be repeated. Always remember the religious leader who you assigned the role of wizard is human, but also — just like us — a divine creation. We can decide to overlook his grandiose gestures and overbearing manner if we believe his wisdom and caring are genuine. As Stone Four states, we discern what works and what does not. Yes, religious leaders are wrong to mislead us and let us believe they are more than human, but that doesn’t mean everything they said or did was wrong. We can pick through the rubble and salvage the good. We might discover there is more good than bad.
Try to remember to thank someone today. This simple act of gratitude improves our ability to be kind and compassionate. Even a simple wave of acknowledgement when someone allows you to pull out in traffic can improve your life and make you more humble. We are in this together, and this acknowledgment that we need one another humbles us in a good way.
The past can be changed. At least, our interpretation of past events can change. I recall times when I experienced things that made me angry, only to look back at the event later with a different perspective. Often I can laugh at the silliness of my angry moments and even hold those moments with a measure of fondness. When we make peace with our past, we open the door to present and future peace.
Sometimes it simply doesn’t dawn on us that there could be another “right” path that is different from the one we are on. If our path leads us Home, then isn’t it the path that everyone should travel? But people come from different starting points, and our responsibility is to our own journey. We can offer insights, hope, love, and light, but we must let them find the path that is best for them.
The ability to change should also be utilized when it comes to religion. If we don’t like a particular spiritual leader, we can choose another one. If we don’t like a particular religious belief system, we can explore others. If our heart tells us something we are told is not quite right, we can ignore it or follow it. Religion is not a scientific endeavor, and the rules are less strict. In fact, they are mostly guidelines.
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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.