Back when I was a kid, I thought I had to ask for forgiveness of every little sin in order to be forgiven and get into heaven. I’m not really sure where I got this idea. I know when I was a teenager, Harry did introduce me to the idea and explained the theology behind it. He taught it to his junior high Sunday school class (which I took over for him when he left our church to join New Covenant).
But I know that my belief in this idea predated Harry’s teaching. I remember being a little kid (I’d say eight or nine) lying in bed, worried that I’d forgotten to tell Jesus I was sorry about something. I’d be trying to fall asleep and a pattern would emerge. I’d ask Jesus to forgive me for something sin I thought I had committed. Then I’d suddenly have a thought and realize that the thought I just had was probably sinful too (and it was usually some silly little thought, though I can’t think of any examples). So I’d quickly whisper a quick “please forgive me, Jesus” to cover the new thought. And the cycle would continue.
I think that carried with me right through to the day that I finally decided to make a break from Christianity. I think it’s one of the reasons I made that break. It was just too much pressure for me, a pressure that convinced me that I was constantly in a state of sin, constantly rotten, and even constantly worthless. This idea that you have constantly monitor everything and ask for forgiveness is hell on one’s self esteem and sense of worth.
In some ways, I think it contributed to the codependency I’m currently seeking help for. My codependency was a way to show myself that I wasn’t that bad and there was good in me. I was redeemable. Of course, I told myself when I left Christianity that those days were over. I no longer had to prove myself or be “good enough.”
But I think some part of my unconscious didn’t get that memo back then. Because I still set out to be the best person I can be. Don’t get me wrong, being the best person you can be is a good thing. But putting yourself under all the pressure because you have to be the best person you can be in order to be “good enough” or “worth something” is self-destructive.
So as I think about this, I feel like I’m coming back and relearning that lesson now. I have value. It’s good to do good and care about and for others, but it’s not something I have to do to be worthy of love, respect, or human dignity. It’s as if that lesson is taking deeper root, that I’m learning it on a whole different level, and that feels great.