I was raised a Roman Catholic. My church attendance plummeted once I moved away from home. But once my kids arrived in my life I started going back because I thought it was important for them to have a religious background.
And while in church, now that I was no longer a teen-ager, I started to really listen. I found that the message was both extremely relevant to me in my current life, and extremely important. There were messages such as “enjoy the moment you are in”, “love is selfless”, and “forgive”. There were also tactical lessons such as what forgiveness really means, and how to discipline yourself. (I still need improvement here and almost everywhere else really)
I applied some of these teachings and found they worked. I also noted that the messages of our culture, “Love means never having to say you are sorry”, “Romance is the same thing as Love”, “If it feels good, do it” and “Looking out for number one”, were pretty much 180 degrees out from what they were teaching in church. I now believe following the messages of our culture are a sure recipe for an unhappy life.
So here I am going to perhaps the most unbending of the Christian religions hearing things that are totally out of step with what our popular culture is pushing. I’m seeing that actually applying these principles works.* I then reexamined places where I had staked out a position different from the church, and I came to realize that whenever you behaved differently than the church said you should, you were the one who was going to suffer. And I don’t mean suffer in the afterlife, I mean suffer in the current one. Think of any commandment, and think of consequences if you get caught breaking it, and think of the consequences if you break it, but don’t get caught. Lots eh? Think of the times when you have violated Church teachings. How has this worked out for you?
What does all this long winded ranting mean? It means the Church isn’t there to oppress us or control us. The Church is there TO PROTECT US FROM OURSELVES AND OUR BAD, SELF-DESTRUCTIVE IMPULSES. The church tries to give us the tools to help us as well. The Church teaches us self discipline. The Church further teaches us to love selflessly and how to treat others (as we would be treated). In short the church teaches us to live in a way that will make us happy and gives us the tools to do it.
I credit my religious upbringing with helping me avoid doing really bad things, which are pretty much unthinkable to me. I’ve seen that where I’ve strayed from the more subtle of Church teachings also results in more subtle forms of unhappiness. And, I’ve seen where following Church teachings has led to personal satisfaction and happiness. I personally am no saint. I wouldn’t consider myself holy. I wouldn’t even say that I’m a good Catholic. I am in no way someone who should be giving anyone spiritual advice. All I can say is, Christianity, if you let it, will make you happier. I only suggest seeking it out for yourself to see if it helps you live more happily.
*True story. The message in church one week was “Don’t live for the weekend” Roughly, if you find yourself just living for the weekend, you are wishing away a lot of your life. Figure out how to enjoy the week as well. Some time after that, my wife informed me that we were taking the kids to the beach. I had another list of things I had wanted to do that Saturday, and taking the kids to the beach WAS NOT ON IT. But once I was there sitting on the sand, baking in the sun, brushing away the flies, I decided to have as good a time as I could while I was at the beach. It’s like I flicked a little switch from baditude to positive attitude. I don’t remember what I did at the beach, something on the order of played with the kids, but I did have a good time. So, just by adjusting my attitude I was able to turn a negative event into a positive event.