We usually belong to a religion or congregation for some great reasons. We’re looking for something to believe in, perhaps an experience of the transcendent, or moral compass to guide us. We also enjoy the social interaction and mission to help others.
Yet no religion or spiritual organization is immune from hurting people. Even the most progressive and open religious organizations can lose their way. Formal religions often overemphasize conformity, traditions, dogma, scriptural interpretations, law, authority, and moral dualism.
What happens when we don’t live up to these ideal external standards? Non-conformity often is punished. Sometimes churches use a toxic kind of shame to make their point. That shame tells us and others that we are not enough or that we’re too much, and we’ve got to change not just what we do, but who we are.
Toxic shame may feel like guilt but that’s the only similarity. It is a soul-killing feeling that we are defective. Our self-perception is wounded to the core. We feel unloved and unacceptable by God, by the clergy, or by the community.
Many “took the cure” for this shame by changing church communities. You may have hoped for quick results. Now you realize that taking the cure by changing churches is just a first step. True healing is more complicated.
I’d like to suggest three steps toward healing and leaving behind our spiritual pasts:
First, maintain a meaningful connection with your inner spirit. Listen to the deepest desires of your hearts. Allow your conscience to be educated by genuinely good sources, and then follow it.
Second, get out human time and into God’s time. Human time or Kronos, deals with calendars, clocks, and schedules. God’s time, or Kairos, is the eternal Now. In God’s time we are complete, whole, and infinitely loved. In this moment we are perfectly healed; we just have to accept it.
Third, make your community a safe container for all types of spirituality. Do not change for the sake of conformity. And bring along the baggage of the past, gradually letting it go.
© Copyright Michael Parise 2018
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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