I remember going to Sunday School as a little girl. I loved the stories and the singing. All of them were about how much God loved us. To me, it reinforced that each of us was special in our own way and this all seeing, all knowing entity was right there looking out for each of us. We were safe. We’d never be alone and nothing bad would happen to us.
Yet, upstairs the adults got an entirely different message. Up there, they were told that they were sinners. They needed to repent to be worthy of God’s love. They were even told that if they were ungodly that they’ be punished. Terrible things would happen to them, in life and after death.
I think that contradiction confused me a whole lot. After all, when bad things happened to me as a child, I had always felt that God had protected me from something far worse. He had wrapped me in a blanket of love to protect me from the worst of it all.
Then, as I grew older, I began to think that perhaps those “bad things” were a sign that God didn’t love me at all. In fact, I might be the one person not deserving of God’s unconditional love.
I think for a lot of us, that’s where the self-judgments and self-loathing start. No matter what our particular spiritual or religious upbringing, we are all taught that good things happen to good people (clean your room and you’ll get a treat) and bad things happen to bad people (if you’re bad you’ll get coal in your stocking). Of course, since we mostly want to be good and have good things happen, we try our best to follow the rules and do the right thing.
Then, reality sets in. Life isn’t always fair. Sometimes, we experience unexpected and often painful situations. More than we’ like, we falter, make mistakes, hurt other people, or act selfishly.
But does that really make us “bad people”? Are we being punished for our lackings? Should we just wallow in our self-judgements?
I don’t know. I’ve never met a person who didn’t have something “bad” happen to them. Does that mean we are all bad?
What about infants or children who live in neglectful or outright abusive situations. What about those who are victimized by adults. What about those who are born into a depth of poverty that most of us can’t even fathom? What did these young individuals do to deserve these horrible?
I don’t know the answer. I do wonder though, that whether we are, all sinners or just people who’ve experienced some bad (surprisingly, disappointing, unfair) situations, wouldn’t we do better to get past all these judgments? Wouldn’t we do better to practice compassion (for ourselves and others) and to use what we’ve learned from these difficult experiences to make the world a better place?