When I was young, there was a TV show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” There was an episode that left an impression on me to this day. I cannot remember the specifics, but it must have been about what people believe and how everyone believes something different. The son must have been asking his dad about the differing beliefs to which his father replied, “What a person believes…is.”
Beliefs are only beliefs and they are based upon a person’s upbringing, religion, culture, experiences, and where they live in the world. Even within those same parameters, people have varying beliefs.
There was a time when I believed that my beliefs were the only right way and everyone else was wrong. My religion taught me that anyone who didn’t believe the way I did was going to a place called hell. I was told by one minister that if anyone I knew died before being saved, then it was my fault that they went to hell. Talk about a burden! After that, I tried desperately to force my religious beliefs on all my friends and relatives. It’s a wonder they all didn’t disown me and I know I turned some people off.
Then in the early 80’s, life happened and I got knocked off my holy high horse. I had to re-examine what I believed, as I found that my past beliefs no longer worked because their foundation was not based on unconditional love. Instead, they were steeped in judgment, fear, and separation.
About that time, I was led from within to read Shirley MacLaine’s books. Before then I wouldn’t even touch them because I was taught from some churches that if I read them, something really horrible would happen to me. After working up my courage, I read all of her books. Not only did nothing bad happen to me, but my spiritual journey began to take off at hyper-speed. Ms. MacLaine taught me one of the biggest lessons in my life. She taught me to keep an open mind in ALL things. Since then, the wisdom and knowledge I started gaining was extraordinary.
I began to learn to love and accept people as they are and to love them unconditionally. I learned not to judge as there is always a bigger picture and we don’t always know someone’s story or what they’re going through. I learned that people who harm others (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) are in some kind of pain and are living in fear. I learned that no matter what our color, race, religion, culture, or sexual preference, we’re all made of the exact same energy. I learned to respect others’ beliefs even though they may not resonate with my own. I also learned that in the realm of everything there is to know, I don’t know anything. By keeping an open mind, I’m amazed at all that I have been learning. Since then, I’ve felt so much more love, compassion, and understanding for all people.
To be clear, I am so not perfect at all of this and it’s always going to be a life-long lesson. I slip up more times than I want to admit. I sometimes find myself hating the haters and judging the judgers. But when I do, and if I’m listening to that still small voice within, she’ll set me straight every time and it’s always with love.
My beliefs have changed drastically over the years and my beliefs continue to change as I grow and become more enlightened. I can definitely learn from others, but I can also think for myself and develop my own beliefs which are always based in unconditional love. I no longer have to believe something just because someone else told me I should. It’s perfectly okay to question our beliefs or what others are telling us to believe. Once I started thinking for myself, it was unbelievable how much I learned that wasn’t true (especially when it comes to what is or isn’t in the Bible and about other religions). I learned that I can have my own beliefs while respecting and learning from other beliefs. Talk about the truth setting me free!
Dodinsky said, “Always remember we all have our own opinions and beliefs. We have different ways in dealing with life's troubles and joys. To survive our differences without hurting each other is what GOODNESS is all about.” And as Rumi stated, “I belong to no religion. My religion is love. Every heart is my temple.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 18, 2015.