Hidden Toxicity: Forgiving the Institutions That Hurt Us

treeWhen you think of healing and forgiveness do you think of it primarily in the context of relationships? I do. Psycho-therapeutic approaches, holistic living philosophies and the Scriptures all tend to focus on finding wholeness through the repair work we do with others. I would agree; we heal in relationship. However, I’ve recently realised that I’ve overlooked an entire area of healing in my life. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Having grown up in a severely abusive home and community, I’ve attributed my woundedness to the gross error and negligence of my parents, teachers and church leadership. While it’s true that people were the ones doing the hurting, there was something much bigger that created the framework in which all that pain occurred. It was what I perceived as the religious institution of the Christian church. In objectifying the church, I’ve not recognized how insidiously my unconscious bitterness, resentment and blame has been festering toward it and how this is affecting my life.

In my young experience, the Bible was used to justify inhumane actions. Attending church made you good even if your behaviour spoke differently. Religion gave adults the authority to destroy the souls of children and rob them of their creativity, passion and innocence.

So while I feel like I’ve done quite well with healing myself in the context of relationship, I’ve finally been able to see how my toxic perspective on the church has been holding me back from finding true freedom in other areas of my life. The task of forgiving the errors of a ‘thing’ rather than a person seems daunting to me. It’s not as if those structures can reciprocate my desire for reconciliation. Or can they? Or do they need to?

Social structures are the products of the minds that create them, nurture them and sustain them. And behind those minds are people. I don’t know them. I don’t know their intentions. Much of Christianity, as we know it today, was formed around decisions made 1600 years ago. Yes, I’ve explored and questioned the events that led to its origins. None of that understanding does me any good anyway. Understanding is not required for forgiveness to take place.

Forgiveness is something I do for myself. Reciprocity is not a co-requisite. Forgiveness is a shift in my state of mind from perceptions that held me back to perceptions that set me free. A frequent side-effect is that the forgivee is also set free, but this isn’t a requirement.

People make errors, individually and collectively, for reasons that we cannot truly comprehend. They play their roles and we play ours. For me the question cannot be ‘why’, but rather, ‘what now?’

‘What now?’ involves the gentle guidance of Holy Spirit and the application of Jesus’ unconditional love. Can I forgive that deeply and love that big? Yes. The only question that remains is will I?

Yes.

 

 

Recognize

Should My Ego Educate Yours?

arguingThe question was asked in church the other day, “If someone doesn’t believe in sin, how can you help them see its reality?” My stomach turned. I could feel something in me push back at that this, but I wasn’t quite sure what. As I took time to unravel it, this is what I discovered…

I’m a mediator. It’s not just my job, it’s who I am. Not that I do it perfectly, but it’s my role and my personality in this fleshly existence. I do make judgements, because it’s my egoic nature to do so, but many times I sense a check in my spirit when I have. That check is an invitation back into neutrality and openness with Holy Spirit.

One of my biggest hang-ups with church and Christians in general is this idea that it’s our moral duty to educate others on what the truth is. I’ll address that duty in a moment. First, let’s talk about what usually happens when my ego decides it should tell someone else’s ego that their perspective is wrong and mine is right. Naturally, people get defensive. As soon as you put someone on the defensive, you’ve lost the argument no matter how good or valid your points are. You might’ve proven your rightness to yourself and other like-minded individuals, but you’ve most certainly pushed the other person further away from seeing your take on the truth.

Truth is not revealed to others by egos educating egos, because our flesh-nature is completely out of touch with God and doesn’t know God. Therefore, truth isn’t revealed through opinions, arguments and apologetics. Truth can only be revealed through the Holy Spirit or that part of me that’s deeply in tune with the Spirit called my human spirit.

Here’s the paradox: your human spirit will never feel the need to educate someone on truth. It will only serve to point them to the Divine for revelation. When we walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, people will naturally be guided to the Spirit when they’re around us and they’ll find their answers there. They’ll also own these revelations because they received them directly from the Source.

When I’m coaching someone or working with parties in dispute, it’s never my place to tell them why I might perceive that their ways are flawed. Trust me, I wouldn’t be very successful with that approach! My job is simply to ask questions and share positive insights that’ll help them understand themselves more deeply and that lead them to God for answers.

I Am Not the Holy Spirit (And Neither Are You)

Do you know how many times my ego has secretly thought it knew exactly what someone needed to hear from God (moral base and apologetics included) only to find out later I was completely off track?! I’m embarrassed to say. Think about how many biblical characters made what seemed like bad choices to begin with, only to have it revealed later that they were on the paths that were right for them? Jonah, David and Paul come to mind…just to name about 1% of them.

My children have probably taught me this lesson most deeply. That’s because I judge them more than anyone else, poor dears. Most people jump to the conclusion that kids can’t adequately hear from the Holy Spirit in order to make good choices for themselves. Christian parents tend to take on the fear-based role of being some sort of replacement or interpreter for the Divine in their kids’ lives, telling them how they should behave or think according to God. (Hint: anything you do out of fear is not of God.) In many cases, kids are more in tune than we are. We just don’t give them a chance to demonstrate this.

These days I try to teach my children through imparting principles and concepts, not should’s and shouldn’ts. I try not to interfere with how Spirit is leading them. This lends itself to a lot of judgement from nearly everybody because it’s not a popular child rearing method in the Western World. Fortunately, I don’t mind what people think much anymore.

The bottom line is this:  I am not the Holy Spirit. You are not the Holy Spirit. But when we are in sync with the Spirit and living out of the fruit that this life-style yields, we will always be helpful to others in the best way. You’ll know when you’re walking in righteousness because you won’t feel angry, fearful or like you have to prove a point, you’ll just feel awesome and full of unconditional love!

Replacement