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the irony of religion

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Dear Jesus,

Since infancy, You have taught me to be a good person and loved me and provided strength and refuge to me all these years. But why have the teachings I’ve grown up with also made me so judgmental? Why do you always tell me to put others first so that it has taken me 29 years to finally learn how to love myself after hurting myself for 3 decades?

You gave me the blessing of being born to very loving parents, and gave me a very cool name which means to walk with God. I went to Sunday school even before I could talk, and danced and played and scribbled with crayons every Sunday whilst listening to Bible stories. I learnt how to be a good child and a good person. I have to love one another as You have loved me. I need to obey my parents. I do for others what I would have done to me. I put others first – always. We toil and work faithfully, and You will reward us. You expect us to reach our full potential and not bury the taels You give to our care.

You also taught me “right” and “wrong”. That if I was your child, I need to obey your commandments and not sin against you intentionally. There should be no adultery, no stealing, no killing. You say that homosexuality and sex before marriage and some other acts are condemned before You, and we should turn away from it.

I thought living by these “morals” would make me a “good” person. I was without malice, or ill-intentions. I was kind and caring and understanding to my friends and family. I worked hard in school and beyond. But I never understood, or agree, why You think its wrong to be gay or lesbian or have sex before marriage – I still don’t. But I didn’t question. I always thought of how others would feel as a result of my actions and words. I brought others to You throughout my life (and ironically they all now seem to be much more grounded in the faith than I am).

But in doing so, I might have gone to the extreme. I forgot about myself, to take care of myself. I was more concerned about how my teachers would feel, how my debate teammates would feel, how my boyfriend would feel, how my parents would feel, how my co-workers would feel, how my bosses would feel… and by then, I had no more time or energy to think about how I feel. I was too engrossed in what others want, and how to fulfill their desires for them. I wanted to meet their expectations, because it would make them happy. Their happiness is far more important than mine.

Slowly my energy depleted. And so did my health and soul, because I had no time to tend to myself after looking after everyone else. I was very drained.

On top of that, it was also very taxing to keep up with doing “the right thing”. I wanted to live my life that would please You and according to your teachings. I didn’t want to commit any sin. So my world has always been quite absolute as I was growing up. It was either black or white. Certain behaviours were either good or bad, right or wrong. I had to be obedient and honour my parents and do whatever they told me to – they know best, of course. There is no in between with you. No “but”s, no “if”s.

I started to think in “either or” — he’s a murderer so he’s bad; she slept with so many boyfriends so she’s a bad person too; it’s either listening to all of what my parents say or not. I identified everything and everyone as either good or bad. It was in the schema of my brain and the stereotypes became more and more reinforced as I explored the world.

As I ventured out into the world from school to university to the office, I dismissed “bad people” as a lesser kind who I shouldn’t associate with. I should not drink and do drugs like them, even just for fun. My body is a temple for You, I should not ruin it irresponsibly. Those people who party till morning and wolf down tequila shots are “bad” people hence. I had to keep up my faith for you. I cannot be “bad” like them. And those people who couldn’t pull through university, they were “wrong” too because they didn’t try hard enough or use the potential You gave to them.

I became more and more self-righteous. And this has made me a very judgmental person for the last 29 years. Yet, who am I to judge? Who, in fact, is anyone else to judge – not even the Pastors or Elders of my church. They think they know more and better? I am not too sure. All that hypocrisy.

Jesus I believe in You and You have taken care of me so well. Even in my deepest darkness times You have not forsaken me. But finally now, through the depression behind that armour of strength I portray and so many see, I understand everyone has a story behind – even that murderer sentenced to death, even that guy who played the field and broke so many hearts. I cannot judge them. Nor can anyone else. It is only compassion I should have. I am not more righteous than they are. In fact, they might even be a “better” person than I am.

And I really should stop spending all my time and energy on other people. What about me? What about my life, my health, my feelings? What about what I want me to do – let alone what I would like others do for me? I’m done with doing what everyone else wants me to do, and being who they want me to be – or who I think they want me to be. You have also taught me that I need to take care of myself. And I had forgotten.

There must be a balance somewhere. I cannot take what You teach me into extremes.

It is not Your fault I became judgmental or forgot about myself. It’s my pea brain.

nochnoc

24 Responses

  1. Sentynel says:

    My prayer for you according to EPh.3:14-21.( en Français)
    Notre Père, je te demande que selon la richesse de ta gloire, tu puisses fortifier Enoch dans son être intérieur et que le Christ habite dans son coeur par la foi. Je te demande qu’elle soit enracinée et solidement établis dans l’amour et comprenne combien l’amour du Christ large et long, profond et long.Diriges sa vie et bénies la abondamment.Fais lui connaître pleinement ta volonté grâce à la sagesse que donne ton Esprit. Tu connais ses souffrances intérieures, donnes lui les réponses à ses interrogations par ton Esprit. Aides la à se rétablir. Entoures la de ton amour car tu n’abandonnes pas ton enfant et qu’elle t’aime.Dans le nom de Jésus, je te prie Amen.

  2. nochnoch says:

    Karl, yup i liked that video clip 🙂 Thanks

  3. nochnoch says:

    Ma chere Sentynel, merci bien pour ton message. Ca me fait tres touched (desolee mon francais very bad now) que quelqu’un prie pour moi. Je suis en train de reconnaitre l’amour du Christ et sa grace. Il m’aime, je suis sure. Et il t’aime beaucoup aussi comme son enfant. Que Dieu te gardes aussi dans ta nouvelle vie! Bises, nochnoch

  4. kk says:

    my dear, it aches my heart to learn how some sunday school teachings have become shackles to your life 🙁 Eph 3:14-21 is indeed the perfect prayer for you!

    Put the rules aside for now, and just focus on discovering Jesus’ amazing love for you again – you know, He really cares wayyyyy more about you and your relationship with Him, then any rules!

    Keeping you in my prayers always xx

  5. kk says:

    p.s. loving your blog
    p.p.s. love you too!

  6. nochnoch says:

    dearest kk, yes indeed, it’s a long journey back to Jesus, but I’m making it slowly. helps to have a cute new Bible from Precious moments 🙂 love u too. for not forsaking me and being my friend all along, despite all the bad i’ve done. love u more 🙂

  7. Victoria says:

    Hey there Enoch, I followed your Twitter link to your blog and just wanted to drop you a line to say I wish we hadn’t lost touch through the years but am glad we’ve found each other again. I am in deep admiration of your bravery in sharing your story and hope you are doing well.

  8. nochnoch says:

    VICTORIA!!!! it has been a while. glad u found me and now we can be in touch again 🙂

  9. ultrasound technician says:

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  10. Erik Jansen says:

    That was beautiful. You don’t know me. I found this by chance through a Google search for “Irony of Religion.” I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about religion and how there is such a divide between those who believe in the same God. To me the irony of religion is that religion is supposed to bring us together, yet it seems to be tearing the world apart. This judgmentalness that you describe I think is the essence of this divide.

    I really relate to what you wrote too, because I grew up Catholic. I was very involved in the church at an early age, and I was very judgmental. However, I found that the more I questioned these beliefs, the more I was frowned upon. Also the more gray areas I found, the more I was labeled as weak. When I was a kid, I learned from my father that when a salesman is unwilling to answer your question or side steps it, it usually means they’re being dishonest and you should walk away. That’s exactly what I did. I walked away from the Catholic Church and Christianity.

    After walking away from religion, I was still judgmental. Old habits are hard to break, but I thank my wife for making me more aware of when I a being judgmental. She had a tough childhood, so she can relate to people in bad times. She is so compassionate. Funny thing about life and going through hard times, it does make you a better person. I lost my father a couple of years ago, and this combined with my wife’s health troubles and losing a job threw me into a deep depression. I used to think depression was for the weak, but now I know it can happen to anyone.

    I’ve slowly worked my way out of it, but it wasn’t easy. I find it to be a bit of a day to day thing. I can relate to people in hard times a lot better now. Sadly, religion had nothing to do with my growing compassion for people. I was my willingness to accept that bad things happen to everyone. My philosophy now is “Do what makes you happy, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

    Thank you for what you wrote. Again, it was beautiful.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Erik, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. It’s heartwarming to know that I’m not alone in this all. I agree that we need to just go with our heart as long as we are not hurting anyone. Religion or not, the way we live our lives need not be bound by rules if it doesn’t go with our heart. I think religion for me now is more of a spiritual support, and I’m much more opened to other religions these days than I was before. I used to think people who believed in Buddhism or Islam or Hindu or anything else was “silly” and “didn’t know better”. Now especially as I’m learning some Buddhism teachings just simply by reading books, it’s not so “bad”… and after all, who am I to judge what’s bad or not. If there is judgment day as the Bible says, then so be it. I can be judged then. But until then, I am striving to be me, and to go with heart, and be natural…

      I hope you and your family are doing well and recovering from the challenges. like they say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger 🙂 we’ll all come through the tunnel to the other end.

      and thanks so much for leaving a comment, when I started writing this blog it was more for me as an outlet and also for my friends to know what happened to me. i had half hoped that someone i dont know will one day read the blog and reasonate with it. you’ve answered my wishes!!! 🙂

      please take care
      nochnoch

    • Julie Mack says:

      I’m a Christian, and I went through a depression. I learned that many Christians experience depression.
      I went to my old pastor and he prayed with me and told me to vision Jesus talking to me. He said “Come to me and rest”, just like the bible verse said, “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and burdened and I will give you rest” I had to take 6 months off work because of burnout.

      I saw Jesus hugging me while I was crying. I tried to feel his presence, couldn’t feel him.
      I usually felt his presence and peace before I became burnt out, I was full of joy.

      But after gruelling changes in the workplace and my mom and brother’s health problems, I started to have panic attacks, weight loss, no appetite, no sleep (little sleep) for one year, couldn’t concentrate. My job made me sick.

      I went down to 99 lbs from 118

      Anyways, my church group, friends, pastor, prayed for me and supported me, eventually I became healed.

      Yes man -made religion kills, but Jesus is a person, not a religion. I didn’t realize this until now. It has more to do with my own relationship with him. He told me he loved me numerous times, but I didn’t believe it.

      So that’s it. Many people don’t know Jesus personally even though they were raised in Church, read the bible, etc… they think they are christians but they are not.

      A relationship is entirely different than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Christianity is not about do’s and don’ts. It’s about your relationship with God and how you understand His love for you, unconditional love, that never gives up even though you give up on yourself.

      He loves you despite your flaws and failures. Best of all he promised eternal life, and a abundant life.

      I realize now that the things of the world will not satisfy me, the income, the material goods, the accomplishments. Those don’t matter.

      I was afraid of failure and afraid of being homeless , being poor. But I now see that I don’t have to be afraid of this. God will love me despite me being a failure, being homeless and poor. He will be with me until the end. THat’s his promise, and he will provide for me no matter what. I learned this lesson. One of my customers passed away, and she was poor. god took care of her until the very end.

  11. […] I think myself as more superior, over whom I don’t know, and for what reason beats me. But I am prejudiced against those who are perhaps, less smart, less quick-witted and less exposed to the world – you need to learn to speak in front of the public? My dear you should know that by the time you were 10 years old! I am condescending to say the least, judging others relative to my experience and background, unreasonably critical of others who don’t meet my “standards”. Who am I to say anything or judge? […]

  12. veehcirra says:

    I totally agree with you …religion…morals can be so confusing.

    As a child the first book, I remember reading distorted my view and relationship with God to some extent. The author killed a young girl my age at that time, and justified it by saying the girl was very good. And that God takes away obedient girls. Noch Noch,you can imagine how that affected me, I never wanted to die. I was the contrast of you growing up. Being stubborn to stay alive literally.So sad. I have to admit am still coming to terms with how all of that affected me.

    I realize am taking things to great extremes, I very much identify with you when you say, “I cannot take what You teach me into extremes.”

    Now, I just pray a lot to God and read Proverbs a lot. I really enjoyed reading this.Thanks.

    Veeh.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Veeh

      oh dear – sorry you went through a bit of a traumatic view of religion. That wasn’t very reassuring, was it?
      I think religion is part of spirituality, and really doesn’t need to be exclusive with other things. Perhaps we need to find one that we are comfortable with
      It’s one thing I’m struggling with since, but i hope this process of self reflection and self awareness will give me some answers…

      Noch Noch

  13. […] me of who I am inside whilst I continue this journey of recovery and self-therapy. Perhaps it was God’s little voice inside me, nudging me. Perhaps it was a simple coincidence. Perhaps it was fate or destiny or whatever it is […]

  14. […] my life flashed before my eyes as I closed them. What had become of me? Was God punishing me for something I had done, or not done? Maybe I’m a bad person, that’s why this is happening to […]

  15. […] controversial post : Irony of Religion was one of the earlier posts but to this day, readers write to me to debate religion, spirituality […]

  16. […] decade has gone by since then. Life challenges, broken relationships, relocations, marriage, baby… Yet the feeling was the same as I performed my fish face: an […]

  17. […] my life flashed before my eyes as I closed them. What had become of me? Was God punishing me for something I had done, or not done? Maybe I’m a bad person, that’s why this is happening to […]

  18. […] I try to reduce my judging of others using my own experience and mentality, I am trying to be more like my no-guilt-no-pressure friend […]

  19. […] me of who I am inside whilst I continue this journey of recovery and self-therapy. Perhaps it was God’s little voice inside me, nudging me. Perhaps it was a simple coincidence. Perhaps it was fate or destiny or whatever it is […]

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.