“Life’s toughest lessons unravel truths we hold dear: beliefs we’ve glommed onto since childhood when we built our worlds upon the logic of others and claimed it as our own.” I thought of this original beginning of my book as I listened to Shelly*, a writing peer. “I grew up in a very strict religious environment,” she said, wringing a paper napkin. “I don’t want to go to hell, though. And, while I know that God isn’t vengeful and looking to trip me up, damnation’s still a powerful incentive to ignore what I know is probably true.”

It had taken an extreme event for me to be able to shed the last vestiges of a fear-based religious teaching, so I empathized with her conundrum. Only through taking small steps and remaining aware of your conditioning, can you move forward.

Some Bible translations infer you should fear the Divine. I believe this is an instance of scholars not knowing the true context of ancient words. The apostle John wrote, “Love cannot be made perfect where there is fear.” So, in my mind, if you fear God, you’re placing an obstacle in the way of truly loving the Great I Am. I believe those translations would be better served by replacing the word “fear” with “respect.”

Sun through redwoods

Tips to shedding a fearful image of God.

Here’s some advice to help you move forward.

  • Follow your heart. You can’t go wrong when you pursue the positive.
  • Keep in mind that the Great I Am loves us unconditionally. Think of those you adore. Would you readily condemn them or severely punish them for mistakes that led to personal growth? If you wouldn’t and you are imperfect (like all humans), how much more gracious would God, who’s perfect in love, react?
  • The Lord holds the utmost power. While the divine allows evil and free will, God is still in control and will always win in the end. Satan can never trump the Great I Am. I cannot imagine God ever ceding to the devil’s will.

How have you forged a more meaningful relationship with the Divine?