The last couple of weeks I’ve been reminded once again about the true meaning of the words Religion and Religious. Quite often these words conjure up a lot of thoughts and images for us, but I’d like to share how I’ve come to view the meaning of these words in a different light.
I have never considered myself a religious person, at least not in the most common meaning of that word, as in being a follower of one of the main religions. In fact when my sister and I were little and she said that she was religious, I reacted quite strongly. I questioned her and I also ridiculed her for it. I even felt a bit appalled by her saying such a thing. Being religious! How pathetic was that! Hard words, but that is how I felt at the time. Looking back, I feel this strong reaction came from me observing people who claimed to be religious, but for me I could neither see nor feel that there was anything truly religious in what they were doing, which to me meant that there was no true love present.
As a matter of fact, my overall feeling with any of the church activities I was involved in back then was that they felt very cold and loveless and did not contain the love and warmth I felt inside of me. Now this might sound as if I’m accusing the outside of being loveless and, back then, I think I actually did. Of course I could have held on to the love I felt inside of me and I did to some degree, but I also know that slowly I allowed the outside to sneak in and over the years I came to feel an aversion to heavenly and true words such as religion, love, god, and being religious. The reason for this was that what I saw on the outside, as in people talking about God, Religion and Love, didn’t match what I knew to be the truth of those words. So you could easily say that I felt hurt by people misusing these words.
Unfortunately this happens way too often. We create a distaste for words and practices that we feel are not honoured for what they truly mean, and in reaction we abandon them, which can also mean we abandon a part of ourselves as we are intertwined with the true meaning of many of these words, such as God, Love, Truth, and Religion.
This in itself is very sad because then we let the words be free prey, so to speak. Anyone can make their own interpretation of these words and if one definition is accepted by many, then it becomes the accepted norm, even though it might not be the true version. Could that be why so many people have issues with the word God and the word Religion? Because when we see and hear people use these words, we feel they are not truly representing what they are talking about.
If we look at the origins of the word Religion for example – its actual and original meaning – it shows us that it means to Re-turn, Re-unite, Re-bond and Re-kindle a connection with a flame that is burning equally inside every person on this planet. But this is not what I was told as I grew up. Then God was something ‘out there’ and something to worship. I never heard that the connection with God was inside of me and that I didn’t have to go to a building to have a connection with him daily. I wasn’t told that it happens just by the way I am with myself and others. What I also didn’t know, nor was told, was that when I have this connection it’s not for me to hold on to and keep to myself, but the whole idea is to share it with other people and to interact from this place.
I realised this when I started to let people in – when I stopped being so stubbornly protective and allowed people to see a little more of me. I allowed for people to see that I’m not perfect, something I have put a lot of effort into, wanting people to think that I’m perfect and have everything worked out. But as we all know, we cannot actually hide what is going on inside of us. People see through you and they can feel it. Also I started to invite people over for dinner. These may seem like little things, but for me they have been very powerful in getting to know the true meaning of life – that we are here to connect with people, to learn how to live side by side, and to help each other to evolve when we might be stuck in old patterns. For what is the best thing to assist you grow and evolve if not having people around you that can remind you if you’ve slipped away from being your natural loving self, the very quality that is godly within us all? By contrast, living isolated gives us free rein to do the same old, over and over. Quite boring, if you ask me.
So my way forward from here, with my re-kindled understanding of what religion and being religious means, will be to keep letting people in. That seems to be the one factor that makes true sense, and the one that really works for me. I’ve been living isolated for quite some time and when you do that, you will eventually feel that something is missing. And that something is other people because we are meant to be together, all of the time. I’m far from perfect in this regard but at least I’ve felt what I know is true and that is to let people in again and let them see who I truly am. With that it also feels like I’m opening the tap of joy flowing in my life again. And perhaps the reason my joy is flowing is because I have re-connected with our true purpose on earth – to return to where we are from originally, re-united and re-bound together.
By Matts Josefsson, Student of Behavioural Science, Stockholm, Sweden