When Kat and I were brainstorming ideas for this week’s column, she suggested “Spirituality and Fear.” At first, I was kind of put off by the idea. Having grown up in a religion that uses fear as its number one motivator, I try to stay positive with my spirituality.
After discussing the idea with her, though, I realized there’s quite a bit to be said about fear and how we use our spirituality to help us navigate the Scary Places.
The reality of life is that sometimes we are all going to be afraid. The world, as Willow Rosenberg so aptly described it, “has teeth.” Bad things happen, often to very good people who really don’t deserve it.
Too many of us (myself included) were socialized to believe that “being good” or “being religious” would buffer us from the harms of the world. The not-so-subtle implication was, of course, that if bad things happened to you, it might be because you were a not-so-good person (and therefore deserved said bad things.)
This method of manipulation and behavior control (“Do what God says, or bad things will happen to you….ooogabooga!”) doesn’t sit well with most of us on the spiritual path, which is why many of us reject traditional, authoritarian religions. We prefer a more egalitarian relationship with our deities, thank you very much.
And this works out pretty darned well in normal times. But when the shit hits the fan, a lot of us refer back to our old patterns of looking to a Daddy god (or Mommy goddess) to fight the dragons while we cower in the corner sucking our thumbs.
Now, your mileage may vary based on the path you follow. But the goddess I pray to is not going to Mommy me out of my problems, especially if they are of my own creation.
Now, before you get all indignant, that doesn’t mean She won’t help me. When I need help (and I often do), my goddess is there. But not as a heroine on a white steed, brandishing her sword while I suck my thumb.
My goddess shows up as the bright inspiration, the courage when I thought I had none, the solution out of nowhere, the friends who show up at three in the morning–you get the picture. She speaks through the song on the radio that tells me to hold on, even when I want to give up.
When I am afraid, She lets me be afraid. But if I want them, and if I am brave enough to look up from my own terror, She will provide me with the tools I need to save myself.
That is the path both Kat and I are on. The path where spirituality stops being about what the gods can do for me, but how they can help me do for myself. The evolution of spirituality goes hand in hand with the evolution of the individual and of humanity itself.
The time is long past where humans can afford to act like children, waiting to be rescued from their own folly. The deity is asking us to grow up, take responsibility, and become the people we were born to be. Like any good parent, they will be there to help and guide. And yes, deity can pull strings here and there to make life run a bit smoother.
But the window for bail-outs is closing. Yes, we are afraid. Humanity is faced with some of the scariest challenges our race has ever encountered. We survived the ice age. We survived the plague. We’ve survived a hell of a lot, with a lot of help from deity.
So acknowledge your fear. Face it. Breathe it in, and know that the spirit of deity has your back. But you’re going to have to do the work.