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Day 63: I used to be religious

December 16, 2023

One of the biggest problems we have as humans is our need for a ‘coherent story’ – the black and white story that fits together perfectly so the whole thing makes sense.

“This happened because of that…”

“He’s just a horrible person.”

“I’m no good at…”

“This is true. That is false. I am right. You are wrong.”

At the start of my career as a Leadership trainer and coach, I bought into the notion of the coherent story and I trained with a sort-of “do this and it will work” vibe. As they say, I knew just enough to be dangerous. Over the years, as my knowledge and experience grew – and I became a parent and had to learn how to communicate effectively when I was exhausted and felt as though NOTHING I did would work – I realised how nuanced and complex the world of human thoughts, emotions and behaviour really is.

There are no straight lines, no coherent stories, and often nothing makes sense.

What does this have to do with Joy?

When I was a teenager, I became a “happy clappy Christian” as people called us back then. I had attended a Christian camp with a friend and one night with everyone watching, I went to the front and publicly “accepted Jesus into my life”.

Even as I write that, I’m cringing. But why?

This morning, I spent some time writing in my journal. I woke up feeling out of sorts and was having trouble understanding why. I uncovered that I only really have two ‘modes’ – “push towards my goals” mode and “relax and eat and drink” mode. But I know that’s not really true. That’s a ‘coherent story’ I’m telling myself.

So then I wrote, “What am I missing? What is the simplest way for me to live?” That’s when I started writing about how much peace and calm I find when I feel connected to something bigger than myself – though these days, that ‘something’ feels like it exists both within me AND around me.

And that’s when I remembered that I used to be religious but at that time, I didn’t possess the skills or strength to withstand the ‘coherent story’ clash that comes with all religions. Who is right? Who is wrong? What is true? What’s a load of BS?

Thinking this way makes us blind to the point – our need to connect with something bigger. Most people I speak to feel that need – certainly the ones who feel there’s any purpose or point or meaning available in life.

So, here I am, more than thirty years later, finding my way back to the same spot where my teenage self stood. Feeling that joy exists inside something that, to many, is cringe-worthy but to me feels instinctively right.

At this point, I’m resisting the coherent story part of it – the need to name it and decide a specific path. I only know that, for me, joyful living has to extend beyond the realms of the physical world and the things we can buy, achieve or acquire.

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