Forgive me Father, so I can forgive myself…

(Do we NEED to believe in God in order to forgive ourselves?  I hope not…  but, maybe we do? Or at least, maybe MANY of us do???)

Christ and the AdultressSo, I mentioned that I had been going back and forth with a friend about religion, etc… 

One of the many links/articles she sent me was a link to this article called “The Adulteress: A Stone’s Throw from Grace” (found here:              http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2007/julaug/4.58.html?start=2)

Now, she sent this, because she was trying to explain how she is NOT judging gay people, or ANYONE… and, how GOD doesn’t want to condemn people to hell… how Jesus Saves, etc.   As in the story, Jesus didn’t condemn the adulteress but says the old “let he who has not sin cast the first stone”.  Now… of course I’ve heard this story, and this message a million times.  Well, I finally read the article she sent me anyway…  and, one part, towards the end, struck me.  I felt a light bulb “ah-HA moment”. 

It was this part:

“We hear you, Lord. What a relief to know that because of your grace, we can leave behind the past, as this woman did, and walk in a whole new direction.”

Now, like I said, this message is nothing new.  What clicked was how it pertained to judging, and guilt… and “forgiveness”. 

What suddenly became really clear to me, is that many people feel awful guilty about some past mistakes.  People beat themselves  up over things  – for years.  People want to change…   desperately sometimes.  They might not want to “be” that person that made those mistakes.   They try to say, “that wasn’t even really me”….  “I wasn’t myself then”.   They don’t want to accept it WAS themselves that did whatever it was they feel guilty about.  But,  no matter they try, they can’t shake it.  They can’t accept that the “good person” they want to be,  would make the “bad” mistakes they’ve made. 

I think, finding “God”, and believing that he could love them… in spite of their sins… allows people to love themselves again.  Forgiveness, gives back respect…. allows us to start over for real… and believe we can to do it… that we are worthy of it.  Just like the adulteress in that story.  After all, if GOD could forgive her and love her… of course we can forgive her, or ourselves too, right? 

I don’t know why this is all so interesting to me all of  a sudden.  I’ve heard countless stories from folks with very checkered pasts, who become born again… starting their lives over… the new and improved versions of themselves.  They can go from the biggest axe-murderer low-life – to being a preacher – just like that – because they found God, and he forgave them.  It actually was a pet peeve of mine when I was a teen.  Heck, my teen leader was one of them (and he was pretty creepy).  I didn’t think I should listen to him when a month ago he was a big drug addict and loser, just because now he’d “found God”. 

I’ve also realized for years that religion helped people cope… period.  With whatever.  And, maybe they needed it, for whatever reasons. In my mom’s case, because of her illness and to deal with how she grew up.  Or to deal with loss… grief.  I’ve even envied others at times because I couldn’t seem to get any comfort myself from religion with all my skeptical views.   So, the “needing” religion isn’t a new idea to me either.

But, I am getting a different side of this now…  I’m having trouble explaining what I mean, though.  I‘m not even sure it’s the forgiving ourselves aspect that I’m finding so interesting here.  Surely, this is not a new concept either?  But,  I’m seeing it with a new twist.  Maybe people need religion in order to live with themselves?   Maybe, it really does  “save”  us, but not from hell… but, from our own guilt?

Maybe sometimes, we just can’t accept mistakes we’ve made.   Maybe we can’t except the fact that we are HUMAN and WILL make mistakes?  We create our own prison…  Trapped in our own personal hell…  And, then, maybe we need God, or the idea of God, to be able to forgive ourselves and find the strength to free ourselves of guilt so we can move on.  ?

Is it so bad to admit that we are just human?  Can we not admit when we make a mistake… and say, “yeah, I fucked up. Bad!”, and just try to learn from it?  I don’t mean shrug it off, and not care.  I’m all for owning up and accepting responsibility.  But, can’t we do that and try to understand how it happened?  Try not to let it happen again? and, try to move on?  Of course we all make mistakes.  Do we need to have a God to forgive us and love us, in order to love ourselves??  Maybe some of us doMaybe all of us do

Which leads me to my bigger light-bulb feeling. 

Do I need this???
Is that part of my problem? 
That I can’t forgive myself for whatever terrible things I’ve done?  Including things that were not even my fault??  And, I don’t have enough faith to believe in a God that can forgive me either?  

 Would *I*, or any of us,  even have felt THAT kind of guilt if we didn’t have religion and God shoved down our throats in the first place???  

I don’t know… 

Talk about vicious circles…

This is not really coming out right and I’m having trouble explaining my “ah-HA moment”.  Sorry if I’m rambling incoherently.  😉  

I am going to have to mull this one over a bit…

~smj

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19 Responses to “Forgive me Father, so I can forgive myself…”

  1. bianca bean Says:

    You are making me understand more about the attraction to being born-again.

    I have always been kinda envious of people who can devote themselves to an organized religion. What a relief it must be to feel like you have all of the answers to things; what a comfort it must be to have faith in those answers being correct. It could make life a lot easier. But so could being in any controlling relationship where I would be told what I can and cannot do. I wouldn’t be free and I wouldn’t be me.

    This post has got me thinking. Why is our own understanding of morality and spirituality not good enough? Why do we need the official stamp of approval from Father God, which is completely human construct anyway? We don’t. Be kind to yourself and others. That’s all anybody needs to follow, imho.

    Holy Long-Winded, Batman. 🙂

  2. samanthamj Says:

    Bean –

    Thanks for the feedback… and good advice. “Be kind to yourself and others”. Amen Sista! 😉

    And, I wrote a poem that sort touched on this same topic… called “Days of Grey”… in case your interested at: https://savemenot.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/shades-of-gray/

    Take care,
    ~smj

  3. C. L. Says:

    Hi Samantha,

    Your post makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts. I work in a Christian bookstore (I’m an atheist, although I was a Christian for about twenty years) and I often hear co-workers and customers tell me stories of how Jesus changed their lives and how their lives were in shambles before they accepted Christ. It’s quite moving, actually. But, like you, I wish they could just come to the place where they could free themselves with out the placebo of Christianity, as there are some unpleasant side effects to taking that pill.

  4. samanthamj Says:

    CL,

    Thanks for stopping by. I am glad I was making sense to anyone at all… =)

    Your job must give you some pretty good food for thought. I’m curious if your co-workers know you are an atheist? Just wondering… as I don’t go around telling most people, especially at work, that I’m “agnostic”. Most of my co-workers are Christians…. which is fine with me. They will pray before eating… have religious things in their work areas. I don’t mind. But, I am pretty sure they would not be as fine with me if they knew my feelings. You know?

    Anyway – yes – I also heard all these testimonies of people being saved for years. To the point where I was sort of sick of it… not that I’m not happy for them. I mean, if you are at your wit’s end, and you find something to help you and it works… great! It just wasn’t working for me. And, I was sort of like, “sheesh. do you have to hit rock bottom before you can become such a devout believer?”. I sort of felt that it was more of a coping mechanism… but, I didn’t really take the element of SELF-forgiveness into it so much.

    So many of us have these feelings of guilt that we can’t seem to shake. We try… but, can’t. Guilt abounds. Deserved or not. Helpful or not. Consciously or subconsciously. So many of us get stuck in cycles of self-sabotage. Do we have some sort of innate need to feel forgiven before we can forgive ourselves?

    It’s such a simple concept. I don’t know why it didn’t really click with me before. It does, however, raise even more questions to me as well…

    Anyway – thanks again.

    =)

    ~smj

  5. angel & devil Says:

    Hey Samantha,

    Fantastic post. Great insight. Yup – you nailed it on the head. In general most human feel that we’re too inadequate, not good enough, made lots of mistake, lack self-esteem, unable to forgive then feels guilty for that, worry about the future, worry about death and sickness… and so forth…..Since we’re so imperfect, it’s only natural that we seek perfection in the Divine. What Jesus offers is the notion that in Him, everything is made perfect even all our tiny weeny imperfections.

    So, of course many people will embrace this offer… It’s like what CL says – Christianity offers the ‘pill’ to free people from all their imperfections. It takes things even further by offering a ‘heaven’ that’s perfect and this ‘imperfect world’ is just a temporary journey for the believers.

    What this does to Christians in general is that they tend to give off an air of ‘superiority’ as they walk around with the need to ‘save’ everyone from their ‘imperfections’. I’m not questioning their motives which I believe is sincere and good, which makes them unable to realize that it’s actually arrogance to think that the non-believers need ‘saving’ when we are perfectly confident with our lives.

    Christians tend to overlook the fact that there are people who can love and forgive and live a great life without needing ‘official stamp from God’ as bianca bean said. IMHO- this is the simplest concept which Christians are unable to understand nor do they wish to accept.

    Just my two pence 🙂

  6. samanthamj Says:

    Thanks angel (maybe next time I’ll address you as devil LoL )

    Right… and, I also liked CL’s “pill” comment.

    “I wish they could just come to the place where they could free themselves with out the placebo of Christianity, as there are some unpleasant side effects to taking that pill”.

    As with many “medications” we use to deal with our problems, there are those nasty “side-effects”.

    I also have to wonder, just how effective that pill really is?
    – Does it require stronger doses as time goes on?
    – Does it only work for a certain time period?
    – Does it work for everyone? (I gotta think there are still plenty-O-guilty-feeling Christians still out there… ) and, last but not least..
    What is the better, all-natural alternate pill I can take ???

    🙂
    ~smj

  7. C. L. Says:

    >>Your job must give you some pretty good food for thought. I’m curious if your co-workers know you are an atheist?<<

    SMJ, It’s very odd. I’ve only recently told one coworker, who seems very thoughtful and open-minded. He was sympathetic and voiced his own doubts. I talk about how strange it feels to work there and how I handle it in this post:

    http://christylenzi.blogspot.com/search?q=bookgirl%27s+day+off

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Hey smj,

    RE
    I also have to wonder, just how effective that pill really is?
    – Does it require stronger doses as time goes on?
    – Does it only work for a certain time period?
    – Does it work for everyone? (I gotta think there are still plenty-O-guilty-feeling Christians still out there… ) and, last but not least..

    I really have no idea how effective that pill is. There are many Christians who live a great, loving, impactful life and have helped many. There are also Christians who are ‘not so Christ-like’ or those with ‘dark closet secrets’. I think each ‘pill’ works to a different degree with different people.

    The important thing is to realize which ‘pill’ works for you, and have the courage to embrace other ‘pills’ if they serve you well. What I mean is – there’s no single religion out there that has the answers to all, God cannot be limited to just one way right?

    RE : What is the better, all-natural alternate pill I can take ???

    I also believe that ‘pills’ are just placebo. We can in fact live with integrity, morality, ethics, love, peace, purpose, meaning etc without God. It’s probably harder to do it without a placebo because we don’t believe enough in ourselves.

    Note : CL’s blog has a link to the article “morality without religion.” which is a fantastic read.

  9. angel&devil Says:

    sorry, I forgot to put my name on the comment earlier. It’s the angel, and the devil. 🙂

  10. Processing Guilt (a cross-post) « Mom’s a religious nut & Dad was an atheist Says:

    […] Guilt (a cross-post) I recently made a post on this blog called “Forgive me, so I can forgive myself“.   Right after I wrote that, I was blog surfing the subject and came across a blog by […]

  11. samanthamj Says:

    CL –
    I read the post you mentioned above on your site. Very interesting (and nice blog too). It’s sad that the co-worker of yours reacted that way… even though I’m not surprised. I have good friends that are Christian that know how I really feel – and it’s even tough for them to take it in without judging me. I can only imagine what co-workers, or folks that don’t really know me would think. Actually, I have a pretty good idea, and that’s why I don’t tell them. Sad.
    … I intend to read the other link mentioned too.. but, haven’t had time yet (the “morality without religion” one). That is a lot of what the parenting beyond belief book and website get into as well.

    =========

    Devilish Angel – 😉
    Great feedback. Thanks! One thing you said,

    “We can in fact live with integrity, morality, ethics, love, peace, purpose, meaning etc without God. It’s probably harder to do it without a placebo because we don’t believe enough in ourselves.”

    Right! That is what I’m thinking too. And, what if it’s too hard without the placebo? What happens then? Is that when we get into these patterns of self-sabotage and sleepless nights? How do we break out of that if we don’t have a working “placebo” ?

    ~smj

  12. angel&devil Says:

    Hey Samantha, sorry I’ve been really busy this whole week. My students are sitting for their finals so I’m helping them with extra classes.

    Hmmm… Sometimes a ‘pill’ does more harm than good. It creates dependency. About self-sabotage and sleepless nights – I would suggest to first have the right perception towards humanity i.e. to ourselves as human. I still believe that there’s a Higher Power and He/She/It created us with great potential. True we may be imperfect in many ways but I believe we can be ‘perfect’ in many ways. The key to life is not in ‘being perfect’ all the time, but to accept that we’re all human, journeying to experience the best of ourselves. Sometimes we experience the worst, sometimes we don’t. As long as we’re aware and believe that we have the Power and Ability and Willingness to change the ‘worse’ experiences, then we’re on the right track lol.

    There are times when we’re sick and tired of it all – of being human, of the weakness of the ‘flesh’ as Christians put it, and we start to self-sabotage because we doubt in the inherent goodness in us.

  13. Linda Athis Says:

    I can’t believe I came across your blog. My Mother was a Mormon and my Father was an atheist and I was stuck in the middle. It is comforting to know that others had this extreme clash in their early years.

    It is especially hard when your Mother tries to turn you against your Father. All you can do is try to love them both without getting caught in the crossfire.

    My Dad died quite some time ago, my Mother…just a year ago. And I wrote this poem just before her death:

    http://forgivingmom.wordpress.com/2007/10/26/strange-embrace/

  14. samanthamj Says:

    Linda –
    Really? Wow. Small world! I knew there had to be others with similiar backgrounds as me out there.. but, truthfully, you are one of the first I’ve found.

    I read your poem. Very moving. Especially since I was my father’s main caregiver before he passed away a few years ago. I hope to read more on your blog soon. Did you see I also write poems on my other blog? (http://smjpoems.wordpress.com ).

    Thanks for posting! Stop back when/if you can.
    ~smj

  15. Reuben Says:

    I think what you said makes allot of sense and was expressed very well. You seemed to have begun to hear the Gospel; that it is by accepting God’s gift that we are able to free ourselves of selfishness and become fully whole, it is not something we can do through our effort alone.

    I only just skimmed through the other replies but I just wanted to try and guard you against cynics. It is an easy thing to be cynical about if we see it as a mere idea, something we used to trick ourselves into thinking differently, a “placebo” as one response said. But I think, from what you have said, that you’ve begun to realize that it’s more that that. It’s something that actually happened 2,000 years ago and is still happening today.

    It’s true that some “Christians” are waccos (hope I’m not coming across as one by the way) but I think this is because they either never heard the Gospel to begin with or that they have aloud they’re experience to have turned into an idea rather than holding it as something Beautiful beyond ideas.

    The other thing I wanted to say was is not to think of the Gospel as something you can completely understand but to see it as an ever deepening relationship.

    I wish you all the best.

  16. Reuben Says:

    I looked at your site abit more and realised you are actually an athist/agnostic and realise what I wrote before was a little inappropriate. Sorry, I just came across what you wrote while searching for the lyrics to a song 😀 I thought you were someone on the verge of a conversion (maybe you are I don’t know) and I was trying to encourage you. Still I did like what you wrote and it resonated with me. I am myself a convert to Christianity and have moved through a process of finding God (no quotations :D), becoming dogmatic about my ideas/beliefs, loosing what I then thought was my “faith” and am now refinding what or who I had found in the first place. What I am rediscovering is that the meaning is not something we can estabish with our minds or realise in our actions because it (he/she) is innate and exists regardless of anything we think or do. As a result the dirve of my life is becoming less focused on “achieving” and “knowing” but in listening to the innate peace and expressing it.

    I also want to say something about atheism/agnosticism. I have been very anti athiest and thought they were all very small minded and arrogant people. I’m now begining to understand that many people who class themselves as atheist are infact just asking for the right to be rational and balanced and to beable to ask questions of themselves and others. Allot of atheism propaply are small minded and arrogant but then so are allot of “Christians”. I think in both cases are a result of people’s desire to KNOW someting so that they can make sense of their lives. I believe Jesus has given us the the answer to this and I don’t think he’s a “placebo” but an expression of God’s love which is at the heart of truth.

  17. samanthamj Says:

    Hey Rueben…
    Heh heh.. yeah… I had to chuckle when you made the comment in your first post about watching out for the cynics. I think I resemble that remark. 😉 I thought you might be a bit surprised by the rest of my blog if you looked around… but, I’m glad you did… and glad you left some feedback. I can tell you are only trying to help, and I appreciate that. I also thought it was great that you are having a few 2nd thoughts on your opinions of atheists/agnostics in general. You are right. There are good guys and bad on both sides of the fence.
    ~smj

  18. Reuben Says:

    Hi Samantha,

    Thanks for responding to my response 🙂

    I’m glad you appreciated that I was only trying to help. I’ll restrain my desire to try and “help” you any further 🙂 , you seem like a very intelligent and thoughtful woman. The only thing I would like to add is that, although I support your campaign against The Flat Earth Society and religious brainwashers please don’t join them in their arrogance buy dismissing religion in its entirety. The Christian message is one of great depth and beauty, and can be incredibly mind-opening. The fact that people sometimes use religion as a stick to beat people with is a reflection of the selfishness and insecurity from which Christ offers relief, not a reflection of Christianity itself. I guess I’m just saying to remember there’s a baby in there when you’re throwing out the bath water.

    Its been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to share views with you (nice to know that the “fence” is low enough in places that we’re about to shake hands across it 🙂 ).

    I wish you all the best.

    Reuben.

  19. samanthamj Says:

    Reuben –

    Hey… thanks. You seem like an alright guy yourself. For a Christian, and all. (Just kidding! 😉 I like your comment on the fence… and shaking hands over it. I am all for being good “neighbors”.

    I guess, sometimes, I have a realy hard time seperating the baby from the bathwater when it comes to religion. Usually, I don’t see the baby in there at all… and just a baby-imposter. I’ll try to keep an open mind, and one hand on the strainer as I let the bathwater drain out, though. 😉

    You take care too.
    ~smj


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