By Gwen Randall-Young
In my practice, I work with clients from a broad range of spiritual backgrounds, as well as many who have no interest in things spiritual. I have the deepest respect for each one of them and endeavor to provide a therapeutic approach which honors and incorporates each’s belief system. It is not that difficult to find common threads of wisdom in the many spiritual traditions, and in basic common sense approaches to life. There is, however, one aspect of some religious orientations that is not always conducive to good mental health, or healthy spiritual growth, for that matter. It is the concept of a punishing God. If we are growing morally and spiritually, we evolve to a level where we choose our actions based on what we know to be right and fair, as opposed to fear of punishment. Unfortunately, just as it is the good students in the class who quiver when the teacher reprimands the errant ones, so it seems are the kind people who suffer pain and anxiety when they fear disappointing God. Further, divisions are created when the population is divided into those whom God will love and care for, and those who he ‘rejects’ and will ultimately abandon. It can be easier to behave in unloving ways towards ‘rejects,’ just as it is easier to bully the children whom the teacher apparently dislikes.
Encouragement and forgiveness work better with the kids in general, so the same must be true for children of God. Ultimately, growing up in a family requires that we take personal responsibility for our actions, and make good choices, whether or not anyone will catch us. Maturing as citizens means that we will not run the red light, even if it is 4 o’clock in the morning and no one is in sight. Growing spiritually—means that we come to recognize our true spiritual nature as something inherent. We are all part of the human family, one totality, regardless of how our minds may segment geographically or spiritually. Each of us belongs here: the mosaic of life would not be the same without us. What might an all-loving, encouraging God have to say to us? My guess is that the message would be one of compassion and support. We would be told that we have wisdom and goodness programmed into us, and we only need pay attention and act according to our highest wisdom. When we falter, when we do something about which we do not feel good, I think we would be advised to carry on, learning from our experience. We might also be assured of continuing love and support along with acceptance of the fact that we are not perfect: we are all still growing. We might also be encouraged to trust ourselves, even if we are not always in full agreement, or comfortable with what may be happening in our religious community, if we are part of one.
Many things are done in the name of God which are patently ‘un-Godly.’ If we know this to be true, we must have the courage to speak our truth. As a civilization, we are ‘growing up.’ Surely, we are not as primitive as we once were. We do not have to live in fear of punishing gods or bad karma. We can probably create enough of our negative consequences without outside help. Fear of consequences results in constrictive, contracted ways of thinking, and seems to stunt growth. Choosing actions based on our wish to live in alignment with the highest principles of Earthly or Heavenly existence appears to open us up to endless creative possibilities. To have the courage to establish a personal relationship with the greatest power we perceive, and to interpret that energy in our daily living, is to take full responsibility for who we are, and all we might be. It is an awesome responsibility, far harder and challenging than simply following ‘the rules’. We are, I believe, active participants in an unconditionally loving universe. All that is required is what any good parents expect of their children—that we do our best, remain conscious of the effects of our actions upon others, and learn from our mistakes. With a sense of safety, encouragement, and trusting that we are loved, we can then love ourselves enough to evolve into the highest manifestation of our being. We grow best in love, not in fear.Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or cds, visit www.gwen.ca and follow Gwen on FaceBook for daily inspiration.