STEP SIX: Take inventory of ourselves to discover any way in which we have hurt, disappointed, or abused anyone by our religious beliefs.
Instruction: Take inventory.
Everyone makes mistakes, mishaps, or bad decisions. Since religion is an organization of people, why would we expect perfection from its leaders and members? Before we make accusations and point fingers, we might find it wise to step back and take a look at our own mistakes, mishaps, and inappropriate decisions. After all, we are all in this together, and each of us is simply trying to make our way from this world of existence to the next with as little suffering as possible and with as much joy, happiness, peace, and love as we can acquire. Our inventory doesn’t have to be extensive. Even a mental note of things in our lives that we wish we hadn’t said or done will suffice. At a later time, we might want to revisit this Step to work through other issues. For now, we begin with the short list of ways in which we have hurt, disappointed, or abused someone by our religious beliefs.
Religious abuse can be subtle. I used to believe that human perfection, or at least perfection of the heart, was possible. Whenever I encountered someone who was doing something less than what I believed love dictated, I judged them. Sometimes I couldn’t keep silent about what I saw or heard, and I would share my opinions with someone else, thus, not only judging them, but gossiping and speaking ill of them. Although I strove for perfection, I fell short over and over. This came through with my children and wife more than with anyone else. I set the bar high for their behavior, but I didn’t recognize how much I fell short of that bar. We take this inventory not to berate ourselves, but to remind ourselves of our own failings and misgivings. We are human, too, and we need to see that when we judge another, we are also judging our own failures.
Take a moment to make a short list of some of the times when you fell short of perfection. Writing this down or making a voice recording helps you to remember the list, but a mental list will also suffice. Don’t justify your actions. Recognize that you fell short of perfection, and simply forgive yourself. The next time you encounter someone who you believe is not acting out of love, extend the same understanding and forgiveness that you just granted yourself.
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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.