(I wrote this for a competition for radio 2’s thought for the day – I didn’t win!)
The other day I went into my eldest daughter’s school to tell stories of the Amazon for their topic. I had learned a few stories of spirits who live in the jungle who punish people if they cause harm to the trees, the animals or other people. I used a storyteller trick of leaving the punishment to the imagination so they actively used their own minds to come up with “The worst punishment you can possibly imagine”.
At the end the children were all gazing at me wide eyed, the energy and power I felt from so many children hanging off my every word made me feel tremendously responsible. They all wanted more detail about the spirits, especially what the punishment was, I reiterated that it was the worst punishment you can possibly imagine and one little girl mouthed “you die”. My next words needed to give them power over their fears. I made it clear that the spirits only punish those who do the wrong thing so we can be glad as that means they are looking out for us to make sure nobody harms us.(I could have scared them into being good by saying they’ll be fine so long as they never do the wrong thing, but I’m not a catholic)
From this I realised 2 very important things, firstly it is what we don’t say that has the most power and secondly, the way we feel about being judged depends if we believe ourselves to be good or bad.
We all try to be good as we are taught that being good will earn approval, but if those from whom we seek approval are silent, the power of the silence makes us try even harder to please to the detriment of our true self.
That is where faith and religion come in. We need to have faith that we are good and worthy of approval from the start, if we believe it, then it is so. Religions give us the rules to live by, if we break the rules we will be told so we can be forgiven and learn. It is our behaviour that we are judged on and it is our behaviour that we can always change to ensure we are always judged to be good.