There are times when we become discouraged or disheartened. One of the best ways to retain these feelings is to ignore them and try to bury them. These moods usually play to our ego, our sense of lack, or the feeling of being inadequate. But if we acknowledge these moods and allow ourselves to feel them without giving them a lot of concern — because we know they will pass — then we are more than likely to get beyond them sooner than we have in the past.
It is important to accept everyone we meet regardless of any label that has been assigned to them by us or by another. It is equally important for us to accept ourselves regardless of the labels we have placed on ourselves. We are perfectly imperfect, and by accepting our “flaws,” we can be strong and confident knowing we are as The Divine created us.
Sometimes we receive what we expect to receive, be it love, joy, and happiness, or grief, heartache, and disappointment. When we expect the worst but get something good, we run the risk of misinterpreting the gift and still feel disappointment or dread because we know it won’t last. When we expect the best and receive something dreadful or depressing, we might misinterpret the gift and still feel excited about the possibilities that might arise out of the experience. I believe the latter decision will ultimately lead to a happier life.
I believe people often underestimate the power of religion and its ability to hurt them. I meet people who tell me they weren’t abused by religion, only to discover after chatting with them that there might be more to their story than what they are aware of. I don’t coerce them to share, and I don’t judge them. I remind myself that my thoughts and opinions are just that, and I could be wrong. So, I simply listen, and I love them.
Change begins after we accept where we are, what we’ve done, and where we want to be. Acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t hope for things to be better, but we must accept our present situation and see the reality, or unreality, that it presents. Moving forward is simply a matter of accepting this moment and opening to the next.
Everyone experiences hurts in their life. The principles we talk about in Religious Recovery apply to many areas of our lives, and those principles can be used to heal wounds. We’re not just talking about religious wounds. The next time we are quick to judge someone because of their behavior, it might help to remember people hurt, but some people hide it better than others.
The idea of the Religious Recovery program came as the seed of an idea. Initially the concept was Religion Anonymous which certainly has a clear idea of what we were about, namely, helping people heal from the addictive nature of religion. But, as the seed was watered, the idea transformed from Religion Anonymous to Religious Recovery. The growth came slow in the first year, but we believed in the seed. One tiny concept. One idea planted firmly in the soil of our hearts.
Some of the ideas presented in the program may be difficult for some to accept. That’s okay. We knew from the start we were treading on “holy” ground. We don’t expect everyone to accept without question the ideas presented by Religious Recovery. We do, however, want to plant some seeds and see if they grow.
We also encourage people to plant their own seeds. We’re convinced we’re not the only ones in the world who question religious beliefs and motives. We’ve met enough people who agree with our concepts to know we are not alone.
We also encourage people to look for seeds that come from within. That’s how we started, and how many great endeavors come into existence. Listen to the inner voice and fall in step with its cadence. Seeds will grow, and you’ll be amazed at the beautiful life that blossom.
The quality of our lives is not dependent upon what happens to us. Rather, the quality of our lives is dependent upon how we respond to what happens to us. We can let circumstances defeat us or empower us. The difference is our mindset and our freewill choice. If we determine that life will bless us and not curse us, then that is what we will receive — and that is also what we will give.
We tend to see miracles as supernatural events that boggle the mind. But, because we take life for granted, we often fail to see the everyday miracles that surround us. Perhaps nothing is more miraculous that birth, thinking, breathing, the sights and sounds of nature, and living a meaningful life. Miracles abound if we choose to see them.
By letting go of old beliefs and accepting new ones that align with our common sense and our heart, we enter a new phase of spirituality in which we are coming into our own. As we look around, we see those who remain firm in old beliefs we are shedding, and the temptation is to wonder who is right. As long as their path works for them, it’s right for them. Our spiritual journey is not a contest. We can both be right and still be on different paths.
Our religious beliefs are often some of our most intimate thoughts, and we guard them from people we think might criticize, ridicule, or laugh at us. Part of our timidity is a desire to fit in and get along. Oftentimes, we don’t question things that don’t seem to make sense or fit into what our hearts are telling us is wrong or right. But, if we would be true to ourselves and hope to make the world better, we must question.
The leaders of Religious Recovery need the strength of gentleness, because we have been exposed long enough to the harm that pressuring and bullying creates. Love whispers its gentle message, and forgiveness cannot be delivered with a jackhammer. Gentleness and genuineness work together to open the way for healing to occur naturally in the heart and mind.
Follow your path. Don’t allow yourself to follow a path simply because it is familiar. We should question the path we’re on to see if it works for us. Does it bring us joy, laughter, and peace, or does it bring us despair, depression, and discord? There are countless paths and a multitude of ways to live life, so why settle for one that doesn’t meet the needs of our hearts?
We are free to choose whether our life will be hard or soft. Everyone has challenges, troubles, and turmoil. A difficult or gentle life is not dependent upon the circumstances of life but on how we respond to those circumstances. We can live like rocks and feel every blow that comes our way, or we can live like the air or the water and flow with life and all that it brings.
The concept of unconditional forgiveness is new to some, yet it is so important that it deserves a deeper examination. In a world of crime and punishment, winners and losers, takers and givers, the concept that forgiveness is nearly as important as love is not acceptable to some. Here are some things to consider about forgiveness.
• If we refuse to forgive, we injure ourselves.
• Forgiveness and consequences are not the same.
• Forgiveness sets people free — others, yes, but also, and foremost, it sets us free.
• The Divine freely forgives and some believe The Divine has the ability to forget.
• There is no error, mistake, or even sin (if you prefer that term) which cannot be forgiven.
• Forgiveness is all or not at all. It is unconditional or it is incomplete.
• Forgiveness doesn’t depend on another person’s actions.
• Only we can decide to forgive, and we don’t have to withhold it until someone feels sorry or repentant.
• Forgiveness is a loving act — loving to others, but also to ourselves.
• Forgiving ourselves is just as important as forgiving others.
• When we judge another, we are also in need of forgiveness.
• Forgiveness and love go together. One leads to the other.
• Sometimes our feelings don’t match our choice to forgive. We forgive anyway and the feelings catch up in time.
A Course in Miracles says that “No one can become an advanced teacher of God until he fully understands that defenses are but foolish guardians of mad illusions.” By letting go of defenses we find more peace, joy, safety, and even more of a connection with The Divine. Those who believe in a cruel divine presence will struggle to comprehend the concept of defenselessness, but those who believe they are eternal beings understand there is nothing to defend. Death loses its power.
 Schucman, Dr. Helen (Scribe) (2008-08-01). A Course in Miracles (Kindle Locations 18397-18398). Foundation for Inner Peace. Kindle Edition.
April 8: “Really?” I’ve discovered that one way to respond to opposition is to ask questions, and one of the best questions to ask is simply, “Really?” Opposing another person rarely works in either one’s favor, so taking a path of defenselessness might be difficult and can require more courage, but it can often prove to be more effective. We can follow “Really?” with “That’s interesting,” and leave it at that.
I recall a meeting I had with a friend a number of years ago,. When I arrived at the restaurant I texted the words, “I’m here,” to let her know I had arrived. Then I thought: what a silly message. Where else could I be but here. We might not be where we hoped we would be on our spiritual journey, but we can accept where we are and recognize the journey was probably meant to take us to this exact location. Celebrate where you are even as you take steps to where you want to be.
As we remember to be thankful for all of life, we attract thankfulness into our lives. I have had many wonderful friends and teachers who have given me hope and encouragement. As I express my gratitude for them, I also find that others are grateful for things I have done for them as well. Often it is the simple things — an understanding nod, a hand on the shoulder, a smile, a hug — these simple acts of kindness bind together to form a life of gratitude and love.
We should not let anything hold us back from being the people we want to become. If we want to help others, help others. If we want to heal the planet, then heal the planet. If we want to bring peace and harmony to the people of the world, then bring peace and harmony. One person, one decision, one change — and the entire planet is better.
Much of our lives are lived by conditioned responses. We wake at the same time, travel to the same jobs, and drive the same roads. Much of our religious beliefs are also conditioned responses based on what we learned as children and young adults. If we want to change our lives, we often have to change some of those conditioned responses. Wake at a different time, try a new line of employment, travel a new road, and accept a new spiritual belief.
Since we can’t change the past, we might as well make peace with it. Denying it is pointless, and rewriting it in flowery images that aren’t true doesn’t change its reality. We can change the way we react to the past by forgiving situations and making allowances, but we don’t deny what happened or the pain we might have experienced. We accept what happened, and we build a better present and future.
One of the most important concepts in the Religious Recovery program is unconditional love. Here are some statements I believe to be true about love.
• Love always believes the best, never the worst.
• Love and judgment are opposites.
• Where there is fear, love is absent.
• Love corrects the errors of the past, present, and future.
• Love sees no enemies, only fellow spirits made in the image of The Divine.
• Our purpose is to love others, but also to love ourselves — in fact we cannot do one without the other.
• Love gives meaning to existence.
• Without love, life falls into chaos.
• We can never give away all of our love. We have an endless supply — there is no shortage of love.
• Every solution to every problem is love.
• Wars will end when love rules.
• Every true religion believes in love, but no religion has a monopoly on love or a full grasp on its power.
• One individual committed to unconditional love can change the world.
• Everyone can be committed to love if they choose.
• Love is the greatest lesson we learn in life.
• Love comes in various forms, colors, trials, and even in victory and defeat.
• Love does not compete. There is nothing in the world that can challenge it.
• Hate is the absence of love and only a temporary condition.
• Love wins in the end.
• Love sees no one as hopeless.
• Love does not play favorites and has no favorites.
• Love sees the specialness of every individual, but no one is more exalted than another.
I have learned to pick my battles wisely. I cannot champion every cause, but I can champion some causes or even one cause. It is also important to decide what weapons we will use to fight our battles. Hatred, anger, and loathing are used by some radical religious groups, but as we consider the weapons that have made the greatest progress towards love and peace, we find the wisest choice of weapons to be non-violent resistance, love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
We can be a peacemaker or we can contribute to the strife and discord. Perhaps “peace-seeker would be a more fitting term, because we can’t force peace, but we can seek it for ourselves and allow it to spread to others. When we can accept what life gives us, we are on our way to finding peace. When we rail against situations and circumstances and scream “unfair,” then peace eludes us. Release everything into the Universe. In time, things have a way of working out.
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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.