If you believe in God, or some type of Higher Power, I’m just curious, what are the main personalities you have of that Being? I ask this rhetorically, only in that my therapist said that many people place the main traits of their parents in the God they serve. It was hard to believe that could actually be true, until I took a closer look.
When I was growing up, my parents held three strong characteristics. One, they were absent many of the times when I really needed them, two, conditionally loving rather than unconditionally loving, and three, perfectionists who strived that we could always do better. And ironically, after I thought about it, these were the very same characteristics I’ve been placing on God lately.
So, let’s start with the first one, absenteeism. When I used to go to my parents with something that was important to me, they were often not present. And if they were present, they didn’t really listen to what truly was going on within me. In recent years, I’ve felt the same way with God. It hasn’t felt like God has answered any of my prayers surrounding my health, which has left me feeling just like I did with my parents, alone. Yet, the truth is, where I can safely say my parents were absent a lot growing up, I don’t ultimately know that with God, as maybe all my health issues have actually always been the answer to my prayers and God has consistently been with me through all of it, keeping me safe.
As for that next trait, that being conditionally loving, versus unconditionally loving, I usually received love from my parents whenever I did something for them. The adage here that best modeled this was, “If you do THAT for me Andy, then we’ll give you THIS…” And I generally always did do THAT for them, just to get whatever THIS was. But unfortunately, that was what became the symbol of love to me, which is no different than how I’ve been imagining God. Regularly, I think I need to do more to get more of God’s love and if I’m not feeling God’s love, it’s because I’m not doing more. But, who says that I have to do anything to receive God’s love? Maybe God loves me just the way I am, even when I make mistakes or don’t do my best?
And that last trait, perfectionism, well, that was plenty driven into me and became my very existence through all my schooling and into my adulthood before they both passed away. Rarely do I ever remembering either of them looking at me and saying “Son, we are so proud of you for that B average, or that silver medal, or that achievement you just earned, or for you just being you”. One of the best examples of this is forever ingrained in my brain when I finished eighth out of about 50 kids in a sectionals swim meet long ago, when my mother placed a towel around me and told me I should have kicked harder and would have finished much higher. Regrettably, this is indeed the very picture I’ve placed upon God as well. I’ve often thought to gain God’s favor and backing, that I need to be more perfect and always try harder to get there. And the more I’ve come up short, the more I’ve felt like I let God down. Yet, maybe God is always proud of me, for every little thing I do, even if it’s just to make it through one more day of my life.
The fact is, I don’t want my image of God to be that of any of my parent’s flaws and shortcomings, which brings me back to something 12-Step recovery taught me long ago that I’ve gotten away from practicing. And that’s how one often needs to create a God of their own understanding because the one they were raised with is often tainted by far too many negative life experiences, especially other people’s views of God. That’s why the God I truly want to believe in is someone who is, and has always been there for me, even if I’m not feeling their presence, someone who loves me unconditionally, no matter what I do or how I choose to live, and someone who knows I’m not perfect, and never will be, and never expect that either.
I know I’m not there yet in making these qualities the God of my understanding, but it is indeed what I’m striving for. Because ultimately, the God I want to know and love is probably quite far from who my parents once were and quite far from what so many others say who God is as well. In the end, maybe God is nothing more than pure unconditional love and light, and it’s merely our minds who constantly try to convince us otherwise…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson