3 Simple Ways To Clear Out Religious Shame & Make Room For Healthy Spirituality

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pensive woman looking out the window

Our great scientists tell us that the cosmos is not only huge beyond our imagination, but it is also expanding at great speed. Just in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, reside nearly 4,000 solar systems like our own. And while it is huge, the known universe consists of at least some 200 billion such galaxies. 200,000,000,000 is a big number! All of this huge existence is teaming with energies beyond our comprehension. All of this is in some way alive, not static nor dead.

While some do not even believe those scientists, there is something to think about. Do you believe that this tiny little smartphone you hold in your hands and all of the information it can pull out of the ethers in seconds would be possible without generations of work by those very scientists we might yet doubt? Why do I start with these cosmic considerations? Because religion, similarly, is subjected to the same type of skepticism.

“It’s harder to crack a prejudice than an atom.” — Albert Einstein

Religious shame isn't just a “hot topic,” it's a “hot potato.”

In early childhood we are exposed to the ideas of religion and spirituality in our families and in our upbringing. Therefore, they have taken such deep roots in our consciousness that anything challenging these early beliefs will cause strong emotional reactions. It is because of this emotional attachment that we need to open our minds, our eyes, and ears to expand our horizon. Then our old emotions may permit us to take a new look.

Shame is one of the most disabling, discouraging emotions. I understand and get this because I have experienced it at times as well. It is not pretty. So, why do we believe things that cause us those unfortunate feelings? Is it the Creator? Or is it the religious institution we belong to, or one of their representatives? I know we’re getting into emotionally charged territory! And yet, these institutions did not create us.

Faiths and institutions were created by other human beings just like us. Perhaps those originators had a deeper understanding of the Creator. For you and me feeling shame at times, the important path forward is to find that deeper connection to the Creator.

There is a saying that says, “Don’t talk about politics and religion.” This is wise because our values in those areas are deeply ingrained into our consciousness from the earliest years. Therefore, they are very powerful and reconsidering them is much like questioning our survival. That is why emotions are so strongly involved.

Please take a deep breath and think of the enormous cosmos we live in, that we just explored, as we look at this emotionally super-charged topic of religious shame.

The creator of this enormous and complex universe obviously must have unlimited powers.

We, each one of us, have been created by this omnipotent creator. Ask yourself, will this immensely powerful being want us to live in shame?

“I’m not young enough to know everything.” — Sir James Matthew Barrie

I am certainly not omniscient, but I have enough experience to provide you with some helpful suggestions. The creation story in the Bible among many other spiritual sources, tells us that we are made in “the Creator’s image.” Where could there be shame? Now, after looking at the big picture and raising some natural questions that follow, let’s take a look at what might help us deal with any remaining shame.

Self-reflection and awareness are the keys to a fulfilling life.

The most basic step at this point is to reflect and acknowledge any shame we have around our religious beliefs and our own being. Becoming fully aware of this helps us go to the next step of finding a way to have a more beautiful in fulfilling relationship with ourselves and our creator. It may take some courage and may raise questions about the motivation of those who told us otherwise. Quiet reflection can help us realize the difference between the power that created us and the institutions of our religious beliefs.

Deep meditation and prayer will directly connect us to that creative power that is our origin. Stepping out into the beauty of nature or in another beautiful quiet place can immeasurably strengthen that experience. Then you can take those deep and quiet experiences with you into daily life by practicing a new kind of "mindfulness," by filling your mind with that inner experience.

A practical way of making this happen is to create a short expression in words of what this inner experience feels like to you. It could be something like “Divine Love” or “Divine Light”, or anything that encapsulates your feeling. We could use this phrase during daily activities just like a little reminder or mantra.

Three things to write down in order to get past religious shame and build forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude:

The following are three powerful tools for us to create inner strength and replace guilt with fulfillment and joy. That’s a big promise and yet, if we can build just a few minutes of this into our daily life and practice, we will find wonderful results!

A truly challenging task is this practice to forgive ourselves, to develop compassion for ourselves, and feel deep gratitude for our own beings. To make this practice real and truly effective you must write it down. Why is that necessary, you ask? Because old feelings and misunderstandings are hard to change.

Therefore, get a notebook and set aside one or two periods of just 10 or 15 minutes each day, sit in quiet and write.

1. Write down any bad feelings or grievances you have about yourself.

Don’t make it laborious. Just two or three are fine. Now forgive yourself, ask for the Creator’s forgiveness to help.

2. Write down any grievances you have with others.

Again, make it quick and easy. Now forgive them, as they are just as human as we all are. Let that burden go. But for it all keep making little notes for you to remember your effort.

Having practiced this forgiveness for you and others, go on and meditate briefly on compassion for yourself and compassion for others around you. Aim for a warm feeling as compassion in you becomes stronger and can glow in you for some time.

3. Write down three or more things you are grateful for.

They don’t have to be big. It could just be the warm air or a comfortable chair or the fact that you feel healthier today than you did yesterday. Now write words that express gratitude for your own being— for just being you. Spend a minute or two to feel that gratitude for yourself, and then for your Creator who made your life possible.

You can also include a gratitude for the human creators of your being here on earth, your mother, and your father. They are the earthly givers of life, and it is important to have a benefic connection with them.

"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." — Abraham Lincoln

You can guarantee that this threefold daily practice will begin to make a difference in your life and mute negative feelings including shame. That will be past and forgiven and confidence and fulfillment will take its place.

Get support in your community from those with a positive spiritual perspective.

In all spiritual communities and religious institutions are members who have a warmer and more helpful outlook. Seek to be in community with them and find support for your changing views and practices. Stay away from negative people. They just find a problem for every solution.

Connect with those people who make it their purpose to strengthen the direct inner link and connection to our Creator. Remember that all of us are on a unique spiritual journey, and making mistakes is a part of learning and growing. Let us release any self-judgment or blame, allowing room for compassion and acceptance.

Consider this quote I found a few years ago:

"If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L means 'First Attempt In Learning.' End is not the end. In fact, E.N.D. means 'Effort Never Dies. If you get no as an answer, remember N.O. means the 'Next Opportunity.' Let us be positive instead."

You are now moving onto solid ground and if you feel you might slide back a little, do not worry. Just rest for a moment and then reinvigorate the practices discussed above. More joy and freedom will be yours.

Fritz George Sauer, MS, is an expert and coach in science-based stress relief, helping clients find the guilt-free path to balance in their personal and professional lives. He is an author, experienced business manager and consultant and is also deeply spiritual.