I’m wrong a lot, so this isn’t really a hard admission for me to make. Regardless, it’s often not fun to face my mistakes. But in this particular instance I’m very happy that I was mistaken.
I lost my faith as a teenager. I didn’t have words to describe it then, but across years I’ve gained more clarity. I simply stopped believing in the version of Christianity I was raised with. And to be clear, that version was partially filtered through the flawed teachers and adults in my life and through my flawed perception. I had a very similar crisis that Carlton Pearson had. He talks about it in this episode of the radio show/podcast This American Life. Listen for background if desired, because this post isn’t about that.
In the version of Christianity that I absorbed as a kid all the verses that are about dying to yourself and our own sinful nature I used as fuel for my own self-loathing. I slashed and burned every square inch of myself each and every day. It left me a burnt-out husk incapable of showing others love or compassion because I couldn’t give myself even a drop.
And this is how my own personal toxicity and the other damaged teachers around me built a church around my own dysfunction. It was sanctified and encouraged destruction. Cloaked in these robes I couldn’t not see this for what it was.
When I lost my faith, I was released from this destructive pattern. It opened the door to healing. And it’s only in retrospect that I see this dynamic clearly.
Recently, those verses and my mistaken interpretation of them have been coming back to me. But they strike me differently. Now, I read them as being about the ego. I think of how every day is a struggle to choose the activities that nurture me rather than the ones that deplete me. I think of the gentle struggle to stop doom scrolling Facebook and go for a walk. I think of resisting the temporary boost of righteous anger from firing off a sharp retort, and instead finding humility and choosing kindness.
I’m happy that some of these teachings are being redeemed to me now. I’m definitely still a heretic. But there’s so much of my morality that is still rooted in the four Gospels. And being able to take some of these teachings back from my own toxic past seems like a welcome signpost on the road to personal healing.