Guilt and Shame
Not long ago I shared a very personal story about my journey to living authentically. While I have overcome a lot of fear, guilt, and shame on my journey, I’m also aware that I still have a long way to go to overcome the fear that continues to play a small part of my life. I’m no longer afraid of being fully authentic, expressing my thoughts, or giving feedback, but I find that fear still keeps me from playing big.
Since leaving the corporate world I’ve followed my passions and I have managed to make a living as a freelance presentation designer, copywriter, and website designer. I hold personal development classes focused on living a happy, passionate life and I’ve also spoken to groups around the United States about the same subject. However, deep inside I feel like I’m still hiding, afraid to tackle the source of emotional pain that so many people feel.
One of my biggest desires is to more fully embrace my work as an empathic healer. I’ve been doing that work in different forms for years, but I’ve done so quietly, working privately with individuals who come to me for advice and counsel. I’ve used my gift to help the people I’ve worked with see themselves through the eyes of Source and to feel the unconditional love that flows to them every moment of every day. I help them open up to feelings of hope and joy. I focus on letting them feel better about themselves.
Through my work, I have seen a pattern that, time and again, has proven to be the single most powerful and consistent source of fear, guilt, and shame; and that is the religious traditions with which people have been raised. That was certainly the source of my own emotional pain, and the messages I kept hearing repeatedly as I grew up only exacerbated the depression I already faced. The irony is that had it not been for the religiously-instilled fear of being cut off from my family for eternity for committing suicide, I would have taken my life long ago.
And yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. While I heard and focused on the messages of fear and condemnation from the religious culture around me, my family – most of whom remain deeply religious – embraced the more noble aspects of their faith; service, kindness, compassion, love, and empathy. Their love for me sustained me through the darkest times of my life and helped me to be where I am now. Although I no longer follow the religious traditions of my youth, I continue to have great love and appreciation for the lessons that my immediate and extended family taught me.
Sadly, there are too many people out there who don’t have the support network that I have. I have seen many cases where people are kicked out of their homes and communities for refusing to live a lie. I’m not just talking about those who come out as gay, but anyone who does something to ensure their personal happiness. I have spoken to Christian ministers who have lost their jobs and been kicked out of their churches because they got divorced. I have spoken to people who were ostracized from their friends because they expressed opinions that contradicted the messages of hate and condemnation they heard from the pulpit. I know people who had to find new churches and homes because they dared to show love and compassion for their fellow human beings.
The world is filled with people who have chosen to listen to their higher selves and to live authentic lives, only to be condemned by the very religions they once embraced and loved. Although they have forged new lives, they continue to carry the pain of religious guilt and shame. They get emotionally stuck, and their inability to release the guilt and shame they feel often finds an outlet through self-destructive behaviors. I see this pattern especially in LGBTQ persons who live in deeply conservative, religious communities. I have witnessed so many people – after being rejected by their families because of religious beliefs – engage in risky sexual practices or turn to addictions and abusive relationships for fear of being rejected yet again.
My experience with conversion (or reparative) therapy prolonged my journey to authenticity, because the fear and self-loathing instilled by my religious beliefs kept me from loving myself. Those same beliefs also kept me from openly using my gifts as an empathic healer. I had to hide and not let people know what I was doing for fear that they would interpret my work as “doing the work of the devil.” I instead had to pretend that I was using “the gift of the Holy Ghost” even though I was born with my abilities fully switched on and I was already helping others feel love for themselves long before I allegedly received the Holy Ghost when I was eight.
Now I’m more deliberate and open about what I do because this is how I now make my living. It took me a long time to embrace the idea that it was okay to be paid for being an empathic healer – or energy worker to use a more common term – but once I accepted it I started loving myself a little bit more. I don’t fix people, but I DO open a space of love into which they can step and allow themselves to feel loved and to release whatever emotions they want to release. I silently encourage, I accept without judgment or condemnation, and I allow people to feel their true connection to the Divine.
There is a lot more to the work I do, but at least you have an idea of its beautiful simplicity and incredible power. My desire and my focus is to continue working with people from all walks of life who are united in their common experience of wishing to live a life free of religious guilt and shame. I can tell you from personal experience that when we let go of the guilt and the shame and we see ourselves through the eyes of Source rather than through the eyes of religion, we discover what it’s like to truly love and be loved. When you love you, the world does too.
For those caught up in the cycle of judgment, guilt, and shame, know that it is possible to break the cycle and love yourself wholly and completely. I am one of many who are helping to form the legions of joy that are bringing humanity back to its deeply personal, loving relationship with each other and all that is. I would be honored, humbled even, to be one of your guides on that journey. All you need to do is ask, and I will be at your side.
Namaste, my friends. I see 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.