In search for goodness, I found answers I wasn’t expecting…
I’ve always felt this keen urge to connect my soul to something good. My soul craves to explode with love and kindness, and I’ve never understood where it comes from. It drives me and I wanted to know who the driver is.
I didn’t have the most loving upbringing, but it wasn’t all terrible either, depends on how you look at it.
I look at it as a struggle in life that I over came and learned from. It made me into the person I am today. I also realized that because I lacked kindness and love in my youth, I searched for it in other places like religion.
I wanted to feel good, not in the sense of pleasure, but be beholding to good; to be a good person and not become what surrounded me. I wanted religion to be the salvation that I so desperately sought.
In search for “goodness”, I put goodness in quotations because it is a truth that we all struggle to define, I found that it is laced with different perspectives, from religion to philosophy. I did research in an attempt to define “goodness” but it always boils down to the possessor of the word and how one views the circumstances revolving around “goodness”.
I did find an article excerpt from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy titled, Perfect Goodness, that dives deeper into the understanding of goodness which says that:
“One might instead attempt to reflect on the character of perfect goodness in a way that entirely abstracts from theological concerns, or indeed any concerns about the particular being by whom, or by which, perfect goodness is realized (McGinn 1992; Conee 1994). But typically, such reflection focuses specifically on perfect goodness as realized in God, a being that exhibits not only perfect goodness, but every other perfection as well. One might also wonder whether there is any such thing as a general standard for perfect goodness; perhaps perfect goodness is kind-relative, such that there is nothing that privileges the question of what counts as perfect goodness for God over the question of what counts as perfect goodness for humans, or angels, or Martians, or any other particular type of rational being.”
Goodness depends on what you measure it by. Is it measured by the standards of God? Is it measured by the standards of humans? There isn’t a clear answer, but an estimation can be made based on the correlation of all beliefs about “goodness”.
I felt that I needed to understand all forms and definitions of goodness in order to find a measurement that seemed logical and attainable to me. Religion was my first glimpse at attaining that goal.
What was my religion?
Christianity is the religion I have been exposed to the most, so my understanding of religion stems from Christian beliefs. I was never explicitly told about God nor what it meant to be Christian. I simply new things based on what my family talked about or expressed regarding God.
I knew that my family attended church regularly and that they were a part of a congregation. My parents were a prominent family in this congregation before I came along.
I asked my mother, if during the time she was a member of her congregation, was religion important to her, and was it a main focus in our family’s life. She said yes. She said it was a beautiful time in which they would converse with other families and visit other churches.
They followed the word of God and lived according to it as best as they could. This task became harder as my father fell from grace, which put a strain on their marriage.
I asked my mother why she stopped attending and she said that it was mainly due to the problems she faced with my father and the unhappiness she felt in life. She missed a few services because the absences of my father would arise questions that she was not comfortable answering. She wanted privacy from prying eyes. My father was up to no good, doing things the Church would not approve of. She didn’t want the judgement. Overtime, she stopped going all together.
I wasn't exposed to religion the way my older siblings were. My mother didn’t practice it like she used to and she never explained to me what I was meant to believe. She taught me a few prayers and that was the extent of my education regarding God.
My perception on religion
I’ve always felt this keen urge to connect my soul to something good. My soul craves to explode with love and kindness, and I’ve never understood where it comes from. It drives me and I’ve always wanted to know who the driver is. Does God make me who I am? Why am I the way I am? Why do I feel this way? These were the questions I wondered about.
To my family, feelings were a weakness, so the exploding love I craved to share was made to be stuffed inside and endured as something negative. I got so used to the pain that I made it my normal. I figured that was how life was meant to be lived. To me, my normal was the absence of love and kindness. At the time I didn’t know that was the case. I was drawn to religion because it symbolized hope for a better life that could be attained through the love of God.
One thing I did like was that God was all loving, regardless of what you had done. It felt good to know that something out there would always love me, regardless of who I was. I was made to feel as if I didn’t deserve love; I wanted to be good so God would love me and accept me.
I saw those who attended church as virtuous and having knowledge that I didn’t understand. To me, church goers were holy people who only did good. I knew that if I wanted to be good, I had to pray and attend church regularly. I was taught to pray to God during difficult times and that somehow He would make it better.
I perceived religion as something you sought after to make your life better. If you followed the rules that were taught, and you proclaimed yourself a believer, you would be saved from damnation.
There were so many rules and lessons from the bible, that it overwhelmed me. I never knew where to begin or how to even read the bible.
I knew of sin and what would come of it if you didn’t repent for committing them. Everything seemed to be a sin, it almost seemed impossible to live a virtuous life. I was afraid that I wasn’t believing the right way.
The one thing that encapsulated my confusion was the constant behavior that most had towards sin. So many times I witnessed people who would sin but seemed unfazed by it because all they had to do was go to church and ask for forgiveness and all would be well again.
So if you feel remorse or guilt it is OK to commit that sin because you have asked for forgiveness? I understand that God is forgiving, but is there not a limit to how many times the same transgression can be forgiven? I’m sure there is but I didn’t see the point in following rules you were going to break anyway.
There didn’t seem to be a clear validation for consequences, only the one you might feel within yourself knowing you are not living up to your own ideals. I didn’t understand the logic behind that. If you can’t live within the ideals you proclaim to believe in, then why believe in them at all? Do you not have another choice?
I began seeing the facade in people who attended church; those who proclaimed to have this powerful connection with God but only attended Church to sustain the allusion that they were good people. I didn’t understand why people had to lie about who they were and what they had to gain from it.
How was I supposed to understand who I was if everywhere I looked people were living a lie? At least, those who were not of the church didn’t proclaim to be someone they weren’t, but yet they were seen as the misguided ones. My faith began to waiver.
I wanted there to be somewhere good that I could recur to, where evil didn’t exist. I needed something pure to balance the darkness I felt inside; the unloving ache I carried with me all the time.
It was one thing to pray but another never receiving an answer. I understood that answers would never come. I understood that I had to solely depend on my faith in God to overcome my obstacles in life.
It wasn’t something that was working for me. I couldn’t sit by hoping things would magically work themselves out because I had place them in Gods hands. I wanted to understand why things were the way they are. I wanted it to connect to who I was not just be told that is how things were meant to be.
I tried my best to follow the fragments I understood about religion, but even to this day there are things I don’t fully comprehend. I wish I could clarify more but my brain goes into static mode when I try to ground my thoughts into something comprehensible regarding all that unsettles me about religion.
That’s how religion has always felt to me, incomplete. I have never been able to apply it to my everyday life, or make sense of its purpose. To those who participate in it rigorously, I noticed that they are basically one with religion. I envy that feeling of belonging to something whole heatedly, without doubt. I want to truly believe and feel it in the fiber of my existence but I don’t. I knew I believed in something bigger than me but it wasn’t the religious God that had always been presented to me, I just didn’t understand why. My faith completely wavered when…
How I lost my faith
I was raped. He was someone I valued as a friend, who I never even thought I had to protect myself from. It was a crippling moment in my life that definitely change my perspective in life and what I believed in.
I was in pain for a very long time after that incident. I felt numb and unable to exist in the world, but yet I kept participating in life because I had no other choice. I wasn’t going to let what he did to me ruin my life forever. I was not going to let myself be a victim or another statistic. I was going to fight until I was out of the darkness.
I couldn’t fathom what possible answer God wanted me to find from what happened to me. What was I suppose to gain from that experience? I didn’t seek God out. I didn’t pray. I didn’t seek comfort from Him. I was angry, more at myself for believing that some deity would come down and save me from the evil that roams this world. I began seeing things in a much more logical way.
I got busy finding ways to cope. I didn’t pray for these things, I went out looking for them myself. I got involved in activities that brought me comfort and added value to my life. I cut out people who didn’t influence me in positive ways. I worked at life and in turn began healing all that distraught me.
I started going to the gym regularly. I found that lifting weights helped me release and work through the anger I felt inside. Lifting weights was a way of showing the strength I felt inside. I developed a routine and it gave me something to look forward to. I went hiking and discovered the healing qualities of nature. I volunteered to help those in need. I traveled alone. I went to the public library and looked for things to read. That’s when I stumbled upon a tiny book called Plato in 90 minutes.
It opened up my world to philosophy and it has been evolving ever since. I found comfort in philosophy; knowing that others were trying to understand why we are here and the different ways we understand the world around us. I wanted to understand how humanity became so corrupt and why we believe what we do. I wanted to understand the beginning of everything. Maybe in understanding the beginning I would find the answer to why I am here. I was reading things that I had felt my entire life but didn’t know how to articulate. It provided me with the ability to have this open dialogue with the universe and not have to be bogged down by answers that couldn’t be questioned.
I enjoyed the Socratic Method that Socrates uses in The Republic. I had always been a critical thinker but reading the words of Socrates helped me relate to those who enjoyed knowledge. It helped me feel okay with life and for once I felt understood and comfortable with the knowledge I was immersing myself with. I felt free to be me.
It astonished me how a slight change of perspective in life could change my understanding of the knowledge around me. I realized that everything in life is a lesson, what you learn from it depends a great deal on how you progress from it. In my demise I found a hunger for knowledge; this need to understand and know everything consumed me. It fueled the drive that I carried inside my entire life.
I realized that we are solely responsible for our actions. Our actions are dependent on what we understand about the world. I realized that in all the times I fell and stumbled it wasn’t my faith in a religious God that saved me. It was the strength I carried inside from enduring so much, and in knowing no one was going to fight the battles for me, that always helped see through the darkness.
My feelings are my sensors that alert me to the things around me and using my logic to sort through them have allowed me to find solutions to most obstacles in my life. This method is what has allowed me to survive and endure this long. I have found that the one thing I can depend on is myself. The tools I need to survive are all around me, passed down by those before me. The knowledge is there, it is up to me to sort through it and find the wisdom in the answers. I found that the hardest battle to fight is the one we carry inside; the battle that determines who we are and what we believe in.
I adopted philosophy
I realized that Philosophy gave me multitudes of lenses in which to perceive life, while religion only provided me with one, which excluded all other modes of thinking.
I realized that many were seeking religion to establish their existence in their world, to find structure that could be applied to their everyday lives, while they journey in search for their purpose. I realized that religion was about a belief in a divine power that wants us to act a certain way, with rules and guidelines that must be followed, and if you have enough faith, you will be rewarded with the blessings of a deity. Religion is the answer to why we are here that must not be questioned.
Philosophy doesn’t tell you how things are, it ask why things are. It provides different perspectives as to what God actually is or isn’t. It focuses more on logic and our understanding of the physical world we live in. It is the love of wisdom. It is a form in which we can freely ponder; what is good or bad, without someone telling us so. Philosophy contains questions that may never be answered.
I realized that the endless possibilities of answers to questions like, “why are we here,” gave me a sense of freedom to explore who I am. It gave me a peace of mind knowing that we really don’t know anything and my job is to simply live. Live for the sake of living and focus on what life means to me.
In doing so, I began loving myself for simply existing. I love all that life has to offer, even the darkness, because without it, light couldn’t exist. I love that I was given the privilege of existing and being a part of the world. The love I so eagerly sought was inside of me all along. I was never going to find love unless I found it in myself first.
I stopped having faith in a religious God. I believe in me and what I am capable of understanding and being. I believe in the magnificent complex being that created all of existence, which doesn’t fit into our reality of rules or religion.
My life is my reality and I’m the only one who solely has the capacity to understand how I feel about it. Understanding how to navigate my feelings will ultimately affect my logic and how I perceive my reality. Reflecting on who I am and how I perceive the world is what will motivate me to understand those around me and their actions; from that knowledge I can determine for myself what “good” is. There is no right way to live. All we can do is live in a way that is inclusive to all possibilities and unobstructed to others. Life to me, is too grand of a thing to be contained in rules.
I simply feel and live.
I believe in others to make the right choices in good faith of other human beings. Believing in a religious God didn’t prevent me from being raped. The bible will say that it is all a trial and a test of your faith. He only gives his toughest battles to His toughest children. I don’t need to be tested. I need to be taught.
The world has taught me that there is darkness out there, in all of us. That darkness is within our control because we solely control our actions.
Whatever created us gave us free will. We choose how we react to the world around us.
That man didn’t react towards me the way he did because God told him to test me. He reacted that way because of the circumstances of the world around him,which I will never understand. That is for him to live with not mine. I must live with the choices I made that night and grow from them. Learn to better deviate from circumstances that might endanger my well-being.
The masterful Creator of this universe is something that will probably never be understood by us. Maybe it’s science, maybe its God, who knows? I am part of that creation and I owe it to whatever that is to appreciate the captivating beauty in all of it. I will live by my philosophy that has granted me peace in life, when other things couldn’t, and that is living with the ideal that
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing” — Socrates