Part I: A Journey of Awareness

What Holds Us Back: The Unstable Foundation

Day 6: The Fear of Religion

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

-Yoda

Some may think I’m crazy for writing this. Why? FEAR! Fear over religions trigger personal attacks, rage, murder, war, and self-destruction. Does it mean religions are bad— NO! If you’ve been following the series you will remember reading about the power of AGAINST. You may have heard or said I’m spiritual, not religious. Even that can be based on fear. It doesn’t mean it is, but we have to really investigate the feelings behind our choices of any spiritual practices to know if they are based in fear or love. If a person is AGAINST religion, that is based in fear. It still will have the same negative effect on our systems even if we try to hide it from others and ourselves.

Side Note: Some people will struggle to get through this piece. It might trigger all kinds of emotions. If you are one of these people, write all the feelings and thoughts down on a piece of paper. Then later, write out your definitions of love and fear. Then see which category your thoughts and feelings fall under. Remember Part I is all about becoming AWARE.(PLEASE DO NOT SPREAD FEAR OR HATE if that is what comes up. This experience is a personal experience for you to investigate how you are choosing to live. It’s not about judging anyone else.)

I’m not here to push religion or spirituality down anybody’s throat. I’m just asking people to look inside and be aware of their own thoughts and feelings about their own religious/spiritual practices and those of others. This whole series is meant to open our minds to what holds us back, how to work with what we got, and tools to move through any unwanted/unhealthy patterns to lead us to being the best versions of ourselves.

I want you to take a second to think about the your family, your friend group, or an organized group you belong to and answer these questions:

  • Do you all think exactly the same?
  • Do you practice your religion and/or spirituality exactly the same way?
  • Do you express love, joy, anger, or fear in the same exact way?
  • Do you express your thoughts in the same way?

Let’s take a more specific topic, Christians?

  • Does anyone who says their Christian follow the same exact religious practices?
  • Does each church that practices Christianity have the same exact practices and beliefs?
  • Does each person who practices Christianity express love, joy, anger of fear in the same way?
  • Does each person who practices Christianity believe in EVERY single concept that his or her religious sector preaches?
  • Do Christians make mistakes?
  • Can Christians interpret the Bible differently from church to church and person to person?

You can take ANY religion and see the answers are all the same. We are all human and each one of us will interpret words differently based on our own personal/family experiences. How can ANY of us as individuals talk about any group of people and assume ALL of them are any specific way? FEAR whispers in our ears from our own pasts, family, friends, media, and sometimes our religious leaders. Think about my story of the alligator in day 4, fear drove the woman across the lake to personally attack me. Fear leads us to attack what we don’t know, because we haven’t taken the time to investigate what we fear.

When I was a child, I had a negative experience in church. Church didn’t feel safe. My fear triggers would get ignited and I would actually feel bad about myself being there. I knew that didn’t feel right. Throughout my youth, I would go to different places of religious practices with friends’ families. In some, I would feel guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t a better person.  In others, I felt alive, free, happy, and inspired to be the best I could be. The difference that I didn’t understand until much later was that I was inspired by ones that told stories of loving actions and preached love. I felt frozen and shutdown with ones that preached fear.

After a lot of formal education on religious practices (through cultural anthropology, diversity in psychology, and course in the history of religion), questions, and personal experiences I found the moment where my nervous system was triggered. Anytime, I came out feeling there was judging, shaming, and/or condemning. Fear wreaked havoc and created an internal chaos inside me. If the stories inspired loving action my body and my spirit felt full and I would want to rush out of there to take loving action.  Fear froze me, and love inspired me.

What I realized that this could be a person’s experience in any religious practice. Each place of worship will have someone in charge who has to interpret what they worship and each leader will perceive the messages differently. They are just as human as we are. If their personal practice is led by fear, they will teach more fear. If their personal experience is focused on love, they will see the love in what the stories and concepts they are spreading. Understanding this showed me how personal a person’s religious and spiritual practice is.

If we don’t understand another person’s personal religious practices to the point where it affects our nervous systems and causes us fear, that’s not healthy.  The best thing we can do for our own health is talk to people to help us understand.  This doesn’t mean to have to believe what they do. It’s about seeing the love and/or fear for what it is. A person’s individual choice in how to live.

It took me years of accepting verbal and emotional abuse before I realized how long I’ve been taught to fear and mix that concept with what love was. I was taught to fear an ALL POWERFUL BEING in the name of love. I blamed church for a long time for that which only perpetuated more fear.  When I found the definition of love that felt right to me, it was from the Bible.

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Now, my spiritual practice and how I CHOOSE to live is based around that definition and any place I go that doesn’t practice that definition of love, isn’t the place for me. I’m no longer making my choices about religion and spirituality based on fear. The God I believe in is ALL loving and that means it’s my job to love myself and others through eyes of love. That’s why I can read stories from any religion that inspire love and be moved. Love has opened me up to experience more and more love without boundaries of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and/or any other belief systems. My spirituality is about feeling and expressing love to every person who is put on my path. Sometimes, I fail out of fears that creep in.

Even then, I don’t beat myself up or shame myself over it. I just keep trying to do better next time. My mistakes teach me and are usually what I need to go even deeper into my practice of loving action. That is why I started From A Loving Place.  If I can see love in someone’s religious/spiritual practices, I will listen in AWE! I don’t have to believe what someone else believes, that is what is so powerful about love. I just have to see the love in someone’s heart and I can connect.  If I do see fear in someone’s thoughts and actions, I try my best to be as loving as I can. Sometimes that means keeping my distance because that is me showing love to myself. Other times it means I will be kind and loving to help a person understand where I’m coming from. Then there are times where I just have to pray for them to find their way out of fear and hate.

Love doesn’t attack others. Love doesn’t shame others. Love doesn’t leave nasty messages on social media. Love doesn’t seek revenge. Love doesn’t make other people feel small. Love doesn’t name-call. Love doesn’t create our internal systems to tighten up and freeze. FEAR does all of that.  When we are engaging in our fears we hurt ourselves and others sometimes unconsciously and other times very consciously.

I don’t know anyone personally that engages in a spiritual/ religious practice with the intention to hurt themselves or others. That is why it is so important to be vigilant with ourselves to make sure that we are not letting our confusion of fear and love lead us to do things that do hurt ourselves and others.

We choose to act in fear and we choose to act in love. We are here to learn to be better, not beat ourselves up over past choices. Our experiences are our lessons and we can choose to live in fear or love at any given moment. In the next few weeks we will look at the power of shame, blame, judgment, and hate. These are all to make us AWARE of how living in fear affects us.  Part I will be challenging at times and it will trigger our fears because they want to stay alive in us. You might not agree with everything I say in any of these pieces. All I’m asking you do is be open to listen to what is triggering you and write it down in a journal. Then through the process look back and see if anything has shifted even slightly.

Just for Today

Look at your own personal views on religion and spiritual practices and assess which ones come from a place of fear and which views come from a place of love. Look at how each view makes your body feel.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff © 2019

I hope you have chose to come on this journey and follow From A Loving Place. Don’t forget to check-out today’s companion piece:90-Day A Better Me Letters Series: Day 6 – My Fear of Religion

Please remember to be kind to yourself during this process of becoming aware. We only ever can do the best we can at any given moment. We don’t need to beat ourselves up for not being perfect. None of us are. That is the human experience. As long as we are learning and growing– We are on the right path. Sending out love and light to everyone who is on this journey with me.