It’s become a bad word in my book.
Religion brings barriers between cultures, countries, individuals.
Religion. Such a small word, with so much power. Power over the masses.
After moving to a sleepy little West GA town from Michigan, a friend of mine pointed out that she was constantly being asked “what church do you go to?” That was new to her. She said it felt like a requirement. Ha! It is true that in the South people are often greeted or met with the question of where they attend Sunday service. Welcome to the Bible Belt….
Heaven help you if you don’t have an answer to that question. Your poor children are going to hell. Don’t you care? Oh, the looks you will get…Bless Your Heart…
The Bible Belt. The Deep South. Such oppression here. Such division. Is that what religion brings? Oppression? Division?
Religion makes us quick to judge. Why do we feel that is our right? I am speaking to myself here…I have been quick to evaluate people based on STUPID STUFF!
Why do we feel like if people have differing beliefs than we do that they are bad? Why do we feel the need for EVERYONE to believe the exact same way? Why are we more concerned about people’s belief systems than their actual LIVES??
Believing the Lie.
Super closed-minded. I spent more than half of my life thinking this way. Well, being taught to think this way. While under the guise of humility and concern, the lesson was still, “If they don’t live the way we do, they are WRONG.”
I believe now that regardless of what religion people “profess”. The truth about a person’s character comes through their life, their actions, their thought processes, their response to the earth and all the other people in it! Back then though, character was just an afterthought….religion is more important than anything else…duh Kristal…remember??
I honestly can’t believe I bought into the lie for so long. Being raised in a family where church is the most important thing in one’s life will do that to you.
Am I “Bad”?
As a child I was always drawn to nature, to animals, to astrology, to the supernatural, to the moon, to any and all kinds of weirdness. My love for these things never went away, but I was forced to suppress them. Those things were BAD. I was taught that it was BAD to question. It was BAD to read too much (this will confuse your mind don’t you know?). It was BAD to have interest in anything secular* (including but not limited to: music, movies, tv, cartoons, friends, books, etc.). I couldn’t love God and these things at the same time…nope, just not possible.
(*Definition of secular for those non-religious folks out there: denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.)
Not only was I taught to believe those things were BAD. I was also taught that I was BAD. Yep, that’s right, BAD. Little ol me…who only wanted to love on animals, look at the stars, be friends with everyone. I was BAD.
Don’t get me wrong. My parents never set out to make me think I was bad. They just wanted to be sure I was pointed in the “right direction”.
Instead the direction I was pointed in was guilt.
I felt bad for being me. I must be bad.
Later on, I would be told this was a feeling of conviction over my sins. Ha! I now know, I was just feeling bad because I thought something was wrong with me for being different. For thinking for myself. For not wanting to be a sheep.
I loved what I loved, yet I was being told those things were BAD. So I must be BAD right?
The people I defined as “good” were the people my parents told me were “good”. This list of people was reserved for Jesus, preachers, deacons, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, elders and deacons in the church… (you get the picture)…
My little child eyes watched carefully the choices and paths these “good” people took. There was good and bad represented by the people on my list, I know this now. Back then though, I had to reevaluate what I thought was “good”, if these people were the definition.
I knew I didn’t want to be like these people. Though, as I stated before, there were good and bad represented on my list. I knew this was not me. Soooo….
I grew to become quite the rebellious kid. I already knew deep down that I was BAD. The things I loved were BAD so I must be BAD. I didn’t totally buy into what the church was selling, so I must be BAD. My beliefs never lined up with the Pentecostal beliefs of my parents, so I must be BAD. I had friends who were different than me, so that stuck me in the BAD category as well.
Since I knew I was BAD already, I ran with it. I was always in trouble at home. I was depressed and broody. I ran away more than once. Religiosity was always close on my heels.
Religion taught me to feel guilty about living. You can’t watch that, you can’t listen to that, you can’t read that, you can’t talk to them, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t…. Of course, I did all those things anyway…. then felt even more BAD. Maybe I should just throw in the towel?
Living the Lie.
As time pressed forward, I began to lose some of that guilt. Sounds good right? Not so much. Along with that guilt, I also lost myself. I began looking at people through the lens of religion. I began thinking that I had it all figured out. Those poor sinners out there, geez, they should stop being so BAD! They should be more like the people on my list.
The small town I lived in did nothing but reinforce this mentality. Most folks there dress the same, talk the same, pull for the same two teams. Different = BAD.
Sure I wanted EVERYONE to come to our church. I wanted everyone to be GOOD. I wanted everyone to be HAPPY. I also wanted EVERYONE to CONFORM! In order to be good, or happy for that matter, you had to conform. That was the rule. You had to mindlessly follow everything that your fearless leaders told you. From the words you spoke right down to the clothes you wore.
I wasted so much of my life judging others. Imitating people I thought were “good”. Complaining about differences. Labeling. Being closed-minded.
My guilt, though lessened, still remained.
Wake Up Wild Woman!
Underneath the religious facade, lay the real Kristal. The wild woman, the girl that loved nature, the astrologer, the dreamer, the lover of weirdos, she was still in there. Knowing this, led to more guilt.
It didn’t happen all at once. I can’t even tell you when I really began to break free, but I did. The wild woman was tired of being suppressed. She was trying to break out of her prison.
What?!? Leaving religion behind?! Let me just tell you that in my family, in the Bible belt, in a world of conformists, this is FROWNED UPON. I will also tell you that change is HARD!
Overcoming thought processes that I have had my entire life takes effort. The prison walls were high and thick…but thankfully they are coming down. Piece by piece.
As the conforms of this religious mind-set slowly fade, I am awakened more and more.
I now find comfort in my beliefs. I no longer feel the need to judge or label someone based on their religious affiliation. I am freeing myself daily from the negative prison of religious, unjustified guilt that had been a fixture for so long in this brain of mine.
This continues to be a process, but I am so thankful that now:
2 thoughts on “Breaking Free: Escaping Religious Guilt”
This just gave me life!
🙂 So glad!!