I’ve been hanging out with the folks over at the local Unitarian Universalist…erm…”church” (I dislike using that word because it’s tied too closely to Christianity when UU is more than that). When all that shit went down two weeks ago, my first reaction (once I got past the intense, soul-numbing sobbing and was able to think somewhat again) was to go back to my roots and find solace in something bigger than myself. For the first time in ten years, I wanted to pray to God. I considered church. I dug out the Bible that my parents had ceremoniously gifted to me on my 12th birthday, and I read, read, read. I needed that comfort that comes from believing in a divinity: that sense that something greater than all of us could grant me forgiveness, that I could find a friend who would soothe my heart-breaking loneliness, that my chaos must have a purpose or, at the least, someone was overlooking it.
Religion is very comforting. And when everything else is going to shit, it looks appealing. But I prefer to be honest to myself, and no matter how comforting this idea of allowing myself to believe in a god is, I cannot rationally allow myself to walk back down this path. I had hashed this out years ago – recent tragedies would not produce a different answer.
But anyway, here I am at a UU church, seeking positivity, support, encouragement, and community from like-minded souls. I spoke with one of the ministers today – a comforting, helpful talk. And I was reminded in talking with him that I have to be careful, with all these intentions to be a better person and to develop a better moral code, not to return to the old mindset that came from being raised in the Pentecostal church. Anyone who has grown up or spent any long length of time in a strict and overbearing religion knows what I’m talking about: the constant sense that you are damned because of your sins, that you have to constantly strive to be good and righteous and to act in a way that will please this frowning god who surveys all you do, the incessant certainty that you are a horrible, horrible person whom no god could ever love. Let me tell you: leaving that church and losing my faith is the best damned thing I ever did for my self-respect and self-worth. It felt like I could breathe freely.
So yes, returning to this mindset of being constantly in the wrong and of worrying that I am never living up to my expectations…this would be bad. I am after all, as the minister reminded me, human. I am not perfect, I am flawed, and I am bound to make mistakes. That last makes me wince. I do not ever, ever again want to find myself hurting someone like I did my friend. But the possibility exists. We live a long time, and we are ruled by a lot of illogical things, like the needs of our bodies, the chemistry in our minds, the emotional baggage of previous years. Rebuilding my moral code and making an effort to live up to it (an effort that I honestly have not made in the last couple of years) will hopefully prevent too much hurt to others. But I must expect that I will hurt those around me, no matter how much I guard against it. And I must be okay with myself when I fail to live up to my code on occasion. Because otherwise, as I have seen in these last couple of weeks, I will not have the joy and the strength that I need in order to continue struggling.