I’m going to start the article by stating that I don’t believe in God, or Jesus or any other ‘prophet’ but it has come to my attention that we have, do and will fight wars over the opinion of it and it made me question religion and humanity on a huge scale recently.
I don’t necessarily enjoy traditional hymns but gospel and current religious music will usually put a smile on my face because I think the lyrics are less about religion and more about acceptance and love in general.
The reason for the title of the article is that it is one of my favourite scenes and songs from the movie The Bodyguard. Not just because of the incredible singing but the message I take from the lyrics. Rachel’s sister is singing ‘Jesus loves me’ because she doesn’t like who she is and what she has recently done and it got me thinking…why do we have to seek love from a higher being? Why can’t we love ourselves on an Earthly level instead of seeking it from an outside force? After all, how can we ever truly expect to be loved if we don’t love ourselves to begin with?
We should be able to love ourselves no matter our mistakes or flaws and whilst it’s incredibly hard to do, it can be done. For the most part, if you ask me if I love myself, the answer would depend on what day you had caught me. If I was feeling strong, in control of my life and having a ‘day off’ from my depression, I would tell you that I absolutely love and accept who I am despite my weaknesses and flaws. Ask me on a day that I’m struggling to even speak and I would tell you that I don’t even like who I am nevermind love her. So I’m saying that it’s hard but it’s possible.
You don’t need someone else (in a relationship or religion) to love you unconditionally because the only persons love you really need to care about is your own. If you have made a mistake, learn from it. If you’ve been an asshole to a friend, apologise and don’t do it again. If you don’t like who you are, accept it or change – don’t beat yourself up over it.
There is nothing wrong with feeling loved from a ‘higher power’ – I can see the appeal. No matter what is going on in our lives, we feel protected and loved by our God (whatever you may call them) as though they are our comfort blankets. We can talk to them when we need to and they will do nothing but listen with patience and without judgement.
I’ll tell you something that I wasn’t planning on telling anyone. A few weeks ago, when I was really struggling with life, I went to church. I never go to church. But I was desperate. I was in a tailspin with my thoughts and I couldn’t seem to stop the downward spiral and so I walked through the door not knowing what I would gain or even what I expected. The church door sign said that it was open for ‘prayer, rest and reflection’ and so I put one foot in front of the other in the hopes I would leave a little lighter.
I didn’t feel a hypocrite. I have never said I don’t believe in anything, I just struggle to believe in the concept of one God. Rather, I believe in the Universe. I don’t know if that means that we shape our own, that the Universe supports us when we need it or that our lives are already pre-determined; I just know that that is what I believe in. And yet, when I sat on a wooden pew in a tiny church on a warn, sunny Winter day in Australia, I was overcome with emotion and silent tears began to roll down my sullen cheeks.
The priest asked me if I wanted to talk but I think he sensed I was there was for myself and my thoughts. I was tempted to ask him what his definition of God was and the point in a church but I already knew the answer. I’d answered those questions myself travelling along the dusty roads of Malawi in Africa three years ago. As we passed by building after building calling itself a church, I realised that there is no need for a physical church or a place to worship your God because if you really believe, you carry them wherever you are.
If you are truly religious (not extremist) and believe in your prophet, you can pray to them whenever and wherever. Want to seek guidance in the morning? Pray to them in silence on the bus on your way to work. Want some help overcoming a painful situation? Ask them for help whilst you’re standing in the lunch queue. Your church, and more importantly your God, can be reached whenever you need them when you really believe.
I didn’t need to enter a church to reflect but I did so because it was the only quiet space I could find and I was curious why people seek religious buildings in times of trouble. Is it so that we may calm ourselves enough to see our situations objectively? So that we may feel comforted by the thought of someone being there for us even if they aren’t? (that’s just my opinion).
When sat in the church I realised that Jesus loves me because I am Jesus (or whatever you may call your special someone). We all are just as our friends and family are because we are the person we should be able to turn to in tough times when we need to find comfort and love. We need to be able to turn to our friends for support and patience. Relationships are our religion not the denomination itself.
Every religion at its very core teaches compassion, understanding and love regardless of what you call it. And so, I believe that at the basic level of religion, we are all our own prophets whatever you may call them by name. We are all able to give ourselves love and comfort in times of need whether that comes from ourselves directly or indirectly through the support and compassion of another.
I am my own religion. I choose to try and love myself and seek guidance from my inner voice. Everything else is just theatrics.
All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.