Good Things Are Everywhere
After I published my last post I started wondering if I sounded harsh when I talked about what I see as the common source of guilt and shame shared by the majority of people I work with. My musings lead to this particular reflection, which was sparked by a desire to clarify my thinking in order to avoid sounding like I’m unforgiving or even bitter. If anything, I find that holding onto resentment and not forgiving people or institutions for the perceived harm they’ve done only does harm to oneself. As the old analogy goes, resenting and not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Truth be told, I’m a firm believer that blaming individuals or institutions for our emotional distress serves no purpose other than to prolong our suffering. What matters is what we’re doing about our emotional wellness NOW. The now is where we exist, and it’s where everything happens. Sure, knowing the path we’ve traveled helps us to understand where we are, but if we really want to emancipate our emotions and live the happy, passionate lives that we want to live, then it’s important to understand that the NOW is all that matters.
When I talked about the guilt and shame so many of us absorb because of religious or cultural influences, I failed to list the many good things that we have because of those same influences. I need to look no further than my immediate and extended family to see how their beliefs influenced me in many positive ways. Here are a few of the things I picked up from them:
- I learned how to be compassionate
- I learned how honesty creates trust
- I learned the importance of integrity
- I learned a solid work ethic
- I learned how to take responsibility for myself how to admit when I’m wrong
- I learned to be kind
- I learned the value of service to others
If it weren’t for the religious beliefs of my parents, my brother, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins, I wouldn’t have learned those things as well as I did. The abolition of slavery, institutions like the Red Cross and Goodwill, and countless homeless shelters exist because of religious influences. When we learn to focus on the good around us, we start to see that good things are everywhere. Sadly, the obsession with sin and evil clouds the message of compassion and love preached by most religions, especially in today’s 24-hour news culture that focuses mostly on the hatred being spewed by a handful of zealots. “If it bleeds, it leads,” in the words of most news organizations.
I’m reminded of one of the Seven Habits, as described by the late Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The habit is, “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” One of the principles I teach in my classes and in my empathic healing sessions is how important it is to understand others as a means of understanding oneself. When we understand that much of the perceived emotional pain we feel is the result of someone’s fear-based desire to “save” us, we put ourselves on the path to not only forgiving those who inflicted the pain, but also to forgiving ourselves. As shocking as it may sound to some, the motivation of most well-meaning, religious individuals is one of love. Sure, from my perspective that love is condition-based, incomplete, motivated by fear, and perhaps even misguided, but it’s a form of love nonetheless.
A key to letting go of guilt and shame is to open ourselves up to understanding. Understanding may take a while – especially if the pain we feel is deeply-rooted and strongly felt. However, as we let our emotions flow and we release the guilt and shame in incremental steps, we’ll discover that understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and yes, even love, take the place of guilt, shame, and fear.
My mom used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Responding to hostility and hatred with hostility, hatred, name-calling, and acerbic commentary only keeps the cycle of emotional pain going. We end up participating in and continuing the very drama we wish to end – and even the most passionate drama queen eventually needs an intermission.
So remember, everything and everyone has two sides (myself included). If we take a clue from positive psychology and focus on successes and good things rather than on what’s wrong, we start to see the world and even religion through the very lens we want others to see us. Good things are everywhere if we allow ourselves to see them.
Namaste, my friends. I have great love for you.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.