As the intensive part of the program neared its end for me, the topic of forgiveness was discussed. My understanding of forgiveness is that it is something you ask for from your Deity. How then “to forgive yourself.” for mistakes made? I don’t believe I can simply walk into a confession booth, spill my guts, and ask for forgiveness. I wouldn’t feel any relief from my misdeed. Asking a higher power for forgiveness simply would not assuage my guilt. Guilt is like gravity holding me down in the stuckness, all the while, being fueled by my great shame in myself.
So I begin revisiting and exploring the concept of a higher power. A God who is All-Good, yet accepts pain and suffering as necessary, gives Us the gift of “why?”, yet provides little evidence for His existence other than ancient scribblings full of inconsistencies and inhumane, hateful, dogma.
“Oh, you just have to believe!”
“You just have to have faith!”
I think of it as: “Press the, ‘I BELIEVE’ button to disable the gift of “why, wonder, and awe.” Sure, I long for a good relationship with a father-figure that I could believe in. Perhaps, that is why religion works for so many? If ignore elements that are not true and cannot have actually happened for the sake of the story, I am accepting it as truth. I press my “I Believe” button in order to suspend my disbelief. It’s tempting to believe in a higher power, when we experience injustice.
People gain strength from their beliefs.
It is tempting to accept beliefs based on my feelings, get swept away in the moment and lose my objectivity. To enter a closed-loop that is not capable of accepting new input. There are times when it would be useful to believe in a good, holy, god-like presence that can provide comfort. Since I have a brain that is capable of higher intelligence and a heart capable of great love that is what I will use to guide my life. If I was created by a Higher Power then I have to believe that it would have provided me with the abilities I need to live my life and the fact that I can think for myself is reason enough that I should.
Following someone else’s meaning of life is giving my life away because I don’t believe I’m worthy of having my own.
I wish that someone or something would have been able to shake me hard enough to get me to realize I was stuck. Struggling in unhappiness. Our path is our own. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, if we live long enough, we will have experienced “the hole.” Sadly, many don’t make it out. Without someone who is willing to stay by my side and do their best to help me get out. Without which there would have been little incentive to try. Some can turn to God, the Higher Power, for support. I find that most religions are insulting to my intellect. My ability to analyze and rationalize is limited by the constraints imposed by the very nature of the religions themselves. Religion closes the door of possibilities by conceding that life’s color palette holds only black and white. I reject a closed-minded, blind faith religion that cannot explain why other religions are wrong, and misguided. What if there is no tooth fairy, Santa Claus, or fatherly god on a cloud?
What if life, just sucks!
Life is not fair and that is made obvious by the insufficient distribution of wealth and opportunities. Our great ancestors and their descendants use their great wealth to keep the status quo while they bask in their fortunes gained through raping and pillaging our planet. Through irresponsible management of resources, the rich get richer, amassing their fortunes by exploiting the weaknesses of the poor. The system is but a game of loopholes. Slavery may be recognized as inhumane, though it continues in a different form.
Advertising experts manipulate people into believing their technology, “latest innovation,” is a necessity for living a happy, more fulfilling life. Competitive, one-upping the other, if not on the bandwagon, you’re going to be left alone in the dust and out of touch. Corporations seek highly motivated, loyal and most importantly, replaceable employees to stay on the “cutting edge.” Every decision is based on a cost-benefit-analysis. A company could easily exchange out its human components so ultimately, self-preservation, staying in power, and making the most money with minimal work are strong motivators to accept it. Our animalistic instincts to survive drives those with opportunity to the top. The attitude: No one felt sorry for me. So why should I feel sorry for them? I felt sorry for me. But I wasn’t self-compassionate. I felt that I deserved to struggle because I wasn’t worthy of respect.
Throughout history, religion has provided excuses for hate in the guise of something good and holy. Religion kills the spirit of curiosity, replacing it with the belief that a warm, comforting, almighty father, who has been watching over you your entire life, is waiting to greet you into his kingdom in heaven. I can certainly see why a person might choose the more appealing story than the cold truth of science. However, that nagging suspicion will keep you looking for answers that aren’t there because they exist outside of the world of religion. Why is the Bible considered the word of God? Where did it come from and who edited it? Why is one God the true God, yet other religions are false? Does God punish for questioning Him? Why? The answers to these questions ultimately end in circular logic because that is the only answer that can be had by someone who is unable to acknowledge that they’ve been living life according to false information. Yet it’s lazy to waste a lifetime living in someone else’s fairytale when we are given our own to create. I can understand believing in God because you can’t/don’t/won’t believe in a World without Him. I can understand gaining strength through believing in a Deity. I can see the benefits of being a part of the church community. More importantly, I can see how it closes the mind to it’s world of stagnation. An illness that prevents us from exploring the variety of ideologies along our own path. We don’t need fear of damnation to have morals and values. Too much of anything can be harmful. Religious obsession is no exception and should be treated with the same therapy provided to anyone who suffers from addiction. Religious zealots are mentally ill. I have no doubt that they believe what they preach serves to do good but it is actually divisive and extremely harmful to communities. Any religious organization that promotes division using “Us against Them” ideology is spreading hate and is mentally ill. Acceptance of others as they are is what makes us civilized as opposed to the ignorance of our ancestors. How amazing is it that we get to observe and participate in this wondrous existence? We allow religion to divide us, and guide us, being the only way to agree on a set of rules about right and wrong. I have chosen to press my “I believe” button here as a spiritual existence is personal and can only be felt inside – for it is not something that can be expressed in words, such as the beauty as felt through observation of the Arts. Reason is a wonderful gift that can be used to balance out our emotions. Both our rational mind and our reactive(emotional) mind are part of being Human. Good and bad. Happy or sad. It is our ability to recognize that we are feeling emotion that makes us alive.
I spent several hours researching the topic of forgiveness over the next few days until I discovered the essence of what it means to forgive and be forgiven. Forgiveness is to recognize that everyone makes mistakes and can learn from those mistakes by understanding how they got there in the first place and then they are willing to grow from it.
Stop beating myself up. I don’t have to be perfect.
Forgiving ourselves for mistakes we’ve made can be hard. Much harder for some of us, than for others.
What’s done is done, I cannot change the past. I can accept responsibility for my actions and acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes. I will move forward having learned as much as I can from the experience
Take Responsibility: What am I responsible for?
What am I NOT responsible for?
Acknowledgement: What have I already done to learn from the experience, repair things, and make amends?
Planning Ahead: What, if anything, remains to be done?
Accepting Forgiveness: I have taken responsibility for my actions, acknowledged my mistakes, gained insight from the experience, and have or am working to make things better (amends).