Much of the spiritual journey is about giving yourself permission to unlearn what you were taught in the past. Sometimes the hardest things to unlearn are what you were taught in the religious world. I’ll give you an example. I was taught that I should put others before myself. I believed to put myself first is selfish. To be generous to those who taught me, this is what I perceived I was being told. A child’s brain is not fully developed. It understands what is concrete, tangible, or non-abstract. Many adults talk to children and expect them to be able to think the way adults think. This is not physically possible when a child’s brain does not have all the neuro-electric circuitry in place yet.
I perceived that my nature was as a “poor, miserable sinner.” I was taught to say that every week in church. What goes into your brain and is called truth is accepted as truth. We can only act on what we think is true. If I believe I am a poor miserable sinner, how do you think I will act? Today I won’t say those words anymore. I am not a poor, miserable sinner. I’m a child of Divine Goodness. I’m a child of Love.
I am first in my life. That feels a little sacrilegious to write. But now that my brain is physically developed, I am able to reason and apply logic. I’ve given myself permission to think for myself instead of swallow what groups of patriarchal men decided centuries ago. I am first. I’ll explain my logic.
Jesus endorsed the teaching that we should love God with all our hearts, and equally, love our neighbors as ourselves. I agree. This is good advice to follow.
I’ve had to unlearn some things about God to make this possible. How can you love a God you fear will hurt you if you are bad? That’s what I perceived because of hearing the stories about God hurting people in the Old Testament of the Bible. Today I hear those stories and try to determine what they can teach me that will help me become a better person. But I don’t accept that Divine Goodness will ever hurt me. God is love, even if I act like a scumbag.
Yet I don’t give myself permission to act like a scumbag. Why? That would be stupid. Why? Because you reap what you sow. Treat people the way you want them to treat you. What you give out is what will come back to you. That’s the way it works. You create your own future with what you plant in your actions.
I’ve also had to unlearn the perception that God lives in a far away place that is not connected to our universe. How can you love someone you’ve never met and you won’t get to see until you are dead? Divine Goodness is not far away. Love is not far away. In fact, most religions including Christianity, profess that God is somehow within you. When you think about it, that’s not far away. I even wrote a book that explains how the kingdom of heaven is right here on the earth.
If Divine Goodness is within me, and the creation story in the book of Genesis says humans were made in God’s image, then how can I call myself a miserable sinner? That would be blaspheming God.
Therefore, if I agree to love God with all my heart, and agree to place God first in my life, knowing that God is within me, then I am first.
And if I am first, then you might need to give some thought to being able to say the same thing about yourself. Go on, say it. “I am first.”
This post is long enough, so in my next post, I will explain why the teaching to love God is equal to the teaching to love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. Until then, start repeating this to yourself: I am first. But don’t get a big head about it. There’s more to come.