Sunday, March 9, 2014

Moving on from religion

   Moving on is something that we all have to do in various areas throughout our lives and spirituality is certainly no exception. My observation, however, is that many people struggle to truly put their past behind them. They unintentionally reopen wounds of their previous religious life again and again not realizing how it's impeding their own healing. I know this all too well because it took me several years to figure out the ways in which I did exactly that. So, what follows are just a few simple suggestions on how to assist yourself in moving on, if that is the situation you find yourself in:

Avoid what aggravates your wounds

   This is easier said than done. However, we can often control to a certain extent how much we expose ourselves to that which aggravates past spiritual hurts. There is also a lot of trial and error here but I think it becomes fairly obvious rather quickly what we should consider avoiding. For example, one of my hang ups has always been debate --but I've slowly learned to avoid getting into it with most individuals. In particular I avoid getting into debates with fundamentalist christians because I know there is likely going to be no true discussion.

    It's just one of those things where I pretty much know what is going to be said before it is and I don't see the point in subjecting myself to it --it's all the same stuff I used to say. I've spent the better part of my life in fundamentalist churches so, I really don't need to hear for the ten-thousandth time about how I'm headed to "Hell" ultimately due to my failure to have faith in the correct things before I die. Even if by some chance I can impart something for someone else to think about, I don't feel like those discussions really serve me.

     For you, it may be something different but just ask yourself: Do you really need to respond to that status update from that person you used to go to church with? Do you really need to read that article about the  mega-church pastor? Do you really have to go with your family/friends to that religious function? Etc.

Limit how much you talk about the past

    This more or less goes with the above. On the one hand, I think talking about what you've been through is not only highly beneficial but necessary for you to heal. It's a special thing when you can relate to someone on that level. On the other hand, there is a certain point where the constant talking about it can become detrimental. It's like when you break up with someone and you continually allow yourself to talk or think about them and rehash everything that happened --it doesn't really get you anywhere. You can easily keep yourself locked in the pain and the negative energy of a certain situation by keeping it alive in your mind.

Accept that it (whatever 'it' is) happened

    I tread lightly here because I know there is a wide spectrum of religious trauma that people have experienced and I don't wish to undermine anyone's experience. Personally I have experienced rejection, ridicule and deep depression among other things but I know that it's nothing compared to what many others have experienced. A lot of my pain actually derives from reflecting on the way that I treated or viewed certain people because of my past beliefs. Whatever you have experienced though, the fact of the matter is that it happened --it can't be changed.  We live in a world of all sorts of "darkness" but I try to ask myself how the darkness I have experienced can somehow help someone else overcome the same?

     It's also important to keep in mind that you wouldn't be the person you are today without your experiences both "good" and "bad"(which are just labels we apply anyway). Does that excuse what happened to you or make it justifiable? No. But perhaps our task is not to judge the fairness of any one thing but to accept it as reality and decide how we can proceed from there?

Find something else to focus on

    I've known a lot of people that were once fundamentalist Christians like me and I've seen them go in a multitude of different directions. They become more liberal Christians, agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, New Age, Occultists...or they are kind of like me and just say fuck all the labels, "I am that I am". If there is anything of worth I can say it is that absolutely no one can tell you what the best path for you is. The most important thing is that you learn to make sense of your life beyond whatever religion or background you are wanting to leave behind.

    One thing I have come to have greater respect for are just all the different ways that we go about that philosophically --we all use different tools and there is no "right" or "wrong" in that per say. There are all sorts of books and resources out there if you're willing to look for it. It's up to you to discover what tools best work for you and seem to best edify your life as well as those around you.