Our job is to help people. Religious Recovery specifically wants to help people heal from religious abuse, to help them forgive and move forward, and to help them understand the difference between being spiritual versus being religious. We’d like to help people strengthen their connection with The Divine with or without the aid of religion.
The things we fail to forgive keep us tethered to the past reminding us of our mistakes and missteps. There is no reason to allow the past to affect the present or the future. We can forgive, set boundaries when needed, and enjoy life to the fullest.
Stone Thirteen, the last Stone of Religious Recovery, talks about deepening our ability to love. If we could love perfectly we would have no need for religions, governments, or borders. All fear would cease. All hatred would end. All guilt and shame would be abolished. As we deepen our ability to love, we become peaceful warriors who can bring salvation to the world.
Laughter is often an indication that healing has occurred, or is taking place. When we can recall painful experiences from our past and laugh about them, then we’ve forgiven and moved on. If the past still brings pain, then we need to lighten up, forgive where needed, and look for the comedy in situations that once devastated us.
The way in which we view the world is our choice. We can see it as a scary, cruel world filled with evil people, or we can view the world as kind, compassionate, loving, and good. Our view might not change the way the world really is, but our view can have a tremendous impact on our peace, joy, love, and contentment. We can make the world our enemy, or we can make it our friend.
Many people were born into a specific religion, and often that religion plays a significant role in shaping their lives — even to the point of thinking their religious views are the only ones that are valid. It is as if they lived in a cage and cannot accept anything outside their shortsighted view of the world. Or as Alejandro Jodorowsky said, “Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.”
Step Twelve of Alcoholics Anonymous encourages its followers to carry their message to other alcoholics. Steps Twelve and Thirteen of Religious Recovery encourages its followers to be a Light to point the way but to not be aggressive in our approach. Rather, we recognize our subject matter is often volatile, and we wait until the students are ready. Religious Recovery also recognizes our lives bear witness to our recovery — whether it is a good witness or whether our lives are still in need of healing determines a positive or negative encounter.
Often people who overcome an addiction become the most vocal against the “demons” that held them under its spell. By being so boisterous about their newfound sobriety or weight loss, they often have an adverse effect on the people they want to help. But, there is a strong need within us to help — to teach what we have learned — and whether we recognize it or not, that need is not as much for others as it is in grounding the healing more firmly within ourselves.
As the saying goes, old habits die hard. Helping others is a good way to strengthen our resolve not to slip back into those old habits. We applaud the efforts of Alcoholics Anonymous and their realization of how important it is to give back. Religious Recovery agrees, but our only concern is to be sensitive to when we are pushing our personal beliefs on another who is not interested and who might be driven further away from anything religious or spiritual. We do not want to be the problem, but merely a guide to help them discover their solutions.
Go easy on yourself. You are a divine creation of Divine Spirit with all the qualities and attributes needed to be successful, happy, healthy, and at peace with the world and with yourself. Mistakes happen, but they don’t change your spiritual character. Believe in yourself — and others will believe in you, too.
Living in the present requires patience, but it also develops patience. Living in the present means trusting that the Universe will bring about all things at the appointed time. Living in the now can be summed up by saying, “The grass grows.” In the winter we may lose faith that the grass will grow, but when the time is right, it will grow. Nothing is needed on our part — technically not even patience, because it will grow no matter if we worry or have faith.
Stone Six encourages us to let go of the past and the future so we can live in the present moment. The best way to let go of the past is to forgive all harm, and if we need to, separate ourselves from those who harmed us. By letting go of the past we also let go of our worries over the future and place our trust in The Divine. The only thing we need to concern ourselves with is the present moment.
If I burn my hand on the stove, I can forgive the stove for hurting me, but the stove only did what it was designed to do. It’s not the stove’s fault if I continue to place my hand where it doesn’t belong. So it is with people at times. There are those who can’t help but hurt those around them, and we must be careful not to let them burn us. We forgive, but at the same time we protect ourselves from the fire.
Unconditional forgiveness is a powerful force, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking that unconditional forgiveness means we can’t set boundaries. We can choose to forgive and love while keeping our distance. We must love ourselves, too, but when we allow another to pull us into their drama and take advantage of us, we do a disservice to them and to ourselves.
Healing is an ongoing process. Our perceptions aren’t perfect, and we often misjudge situations and comments thus creating more hurt and pain. As past and present memories come to mind we take a moment to ask for clarity, understanding, compassion, and the ability to forgive unconditionally. The more we forgive, the easier it becomes. The key is to forgive the little hurts and ask for strength to forgive the deeper betrayals.
When we hear truth, it resonates within our soul as if sounding a bell or lighting a candle. He know — and we know that we know — not based on head knowledge or heart knowledge alone, but based on both working together to remind us of the truths we know, but may have forgotten.
I recently came across the acronym H.U.G.S. which stands for, Helping Us Grow Spiritually. Because I haven’t always been comfortable with hugs, I’ve developed a simple trick to avoid awkwardness. When I feel it’s appropriate, and I want to offer a hug, I simply ask, “Are you a hugger?” Most people say “yes,” “okay,” or “sure.” At times I can sense tension on their part, but they open their arms and let me in.
I don’t give bear hugs. Usually a 2-3 second hug with the corresponding 3 taps on the back suffices. One of my favorite authors was a hugger. He had the practice down to an art. His secret? He simply expected the other person would hug them back if he made the initial gesture. After church he would station himself at the church’s exit and open his arms to everyone — friend or stranger — and give, big, warm, I’m-glad-you’re-in-my-life hugs that made people feel good and want to come back for more.
Can hugs help us grow spiritually? Absolutely. They open our hearts and remind us we are part of one big family. Everyone is welcome — no strangers here. Step right up and get your first-class hug. You deserve it. I want to wrap a hug for you within the pages of this book. If you’ve followed me all year, then you deserve it. If we ever meet in person, then I want you to remember that I struggle with this Divine practice, so step up to me, throw open your arms, and invite me in. It will brighten both our days, and we will grow spiritually together.
Healing occurs when we recognize we are no better, but no worse, than those around us. Everyone is on his or her own journey Home, and when we realize that and aid each other along the way, we heal by helping. Kindness, compassion, loving forgiveness, and respect are the tools that heal us and our world.
Stone Four encourages us to be discerning. When someone speaks with passion it is often easy to accept that person’s words and conclusions without discerning if he or she is coming from a solid foundation. A house that is built on sand is susceptible to destruction no matter how pretty or how strong it appears to be. A weak foundation can lead to destruction.
The Religious Recovery program wasn’t created to get people to change their minds. It was, instead, created to connect with those who have already changed their minds or are in the process of thinking outside of the religious box. We may not hold the same views, but we are here to acknowledge that you are not alone, and that we honor your views even if they differ from ours.
If we judge a person based on their religious affiliation and fail to judge them solely on the person alone, we do them and ourselves a disservice. All religions contain elements that are wrong, harmful, and dangerous. Nearly all religions — if not all — also hold great promise, love, and kindness as their guiding Light. If we don’t want to be judged because of what an extremist does in the name of our religion, then we must extend the same courtesy to others.
Stone Ten speaks of finding the harmony in all spiritual beliefs and adding our (spiritual) voice to the music of the Earth. We enjoy music from a wide variety of sources, and it spans races and nations. If we can understand how right it is to encourage a mixture of world music into our lives, perhaps then we can understand how right it is to encourage a mixture of different religious beliefs from all over the world.
Let our words be kind. I’m all for fun and laughter, but not at the expense of another’s feelings. Sometimes I violate this principle, but when I’m aware, I try to make amends and do better the next time. Compassionate words are an indication of a kind and gentle soul.
Little acts of forgiveness build strength within us to forgive what seems to be the unforgiveable moments of our lives. By practicing little acts of forgiveness each day we work towards peace, harmony, and love.
I have wanted for a long time to be a hugger, and I think I’m getting better at it. My family hugs, but not regularly, and rarely do we hug strangers. Our hugs were saved for special events and the occasional farewells. I understand the importance of the hug, and I wish I felt more comfortable with them. As I said, though, I’m getting better.
Stone Thirteen declares that we learn to deepen our ability to love when we learn to tolerate, accept, embrace, and forgive. The part about embracing causes some of us to stumble. Of course the intention was more than just the physical embrace. To embrace means to go one step further than acceptance and tolerance.
Not only do we tolerate and accept that another’s religious beliefs are different than ours, but we also look for ways in which we can embrace at least a small measure of them. Even if we can’t accept any of the religious beliefs another person holds, we can still choose to embrace them, and, figuratively speaking, hold them in our hearts as fellow travelers on the planet. When possible, we can also let go of our inhibitions and feelings of shyness, and offer them a hug. I rarely find anyone who says “no” to a hug.
I want to see things differently. I want to see beyond the surface to the deep meaning of life and find Divinity within myself and within every individual. I want to see this physical world for the illusion that it is and discover what drives religions and the religious for Divine connections. Does it really matter what religion, denomination, or religious institution I attend? Aren’t we all seeking the same thing?
I was wrong. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time. The beauty is, we are free to admit our mistakes, change our minds, and choose differently. If some religious or spiritual belief I’ve held proves to be false it will not destroy me. It might surprise me, baffle me, and slow me down, but I will go on — hopefully wiser and kinder.
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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.