When You Feel Like a Loser
By Merle Hertzler
Losing one's religion can be a traumatic experience. Many have spent their entire lives in a restrictive religion. When they see the problem, they are often faced with an overwhelming sense of failure. They see that others have lived a normal life--with or without religion--but that they have missed out. Several people have asked me what to do when they feel like this. Since I have come through the experience myself, let me offer some help.
1. Don't live with regret
Yes, I understand, you have made many mistakes. As you look back on your past, you wonder how you could have acted so stupidly. So you ask why you could not have seen that your decisions would lead you to failure. And you wish that you had lived your life differently.
But was it really your fault? Think about it. Throughout your life you made decisions based on your knowledge and mindset at the time. Our minds are finite. They can hold only a limited number of facts at the tip of consciousness at any one time. As you look at that piece of cake, the thought of what will happen if you choose to eat it may be far from you mind. As you disdain others for their religion, the thought of what you are doing and how it looks from the outside may be nowhere near your consciousness. As you decide to give great sums of money to support a propaganda machine, the thought that the money will be squandered may have been far off. As you face every decision, you decide based on the thoughts that are forefront in your mind at the time. Perhaps a split-second later you regret the angry words or the inhaled donut, but the facts that later make you regret the decision were not readily available when you made the decision. Others ideas were at the forefront at the moment you made the decision. And so you made the decision that you later regret.
Of course, with today's knowledge, you would have done it all differently. You would see how obnoxious it is to disdain others. You would see that you really didn't know it all when you thought you were hearing from the Spirit. If you could go back and start your life from scratch with today's knowledge, oh how different your life would now be! But you cannot do that.
Let's do a little thought experiment. Suppose you were to somehow reset the clock, and find yourself again at 5 years old. Suppose you have the exact same mindset as you did at 5, the exact same knowledge, and the exact same circumstances. As you now go through your life the second time, how will you live? Will you not live the same life you lived the first time around? For at each decision point you will have exactly the same thoughts and mindset you had the first time around. The same conclusions will come to your mind. And you will surely choose the same things. How could it be otherwise?
Now if you would make the same decisions in the same circumstances if you had it to do again, can you really blame yourself? Are you not the product of all that made you to be yourself? So why blame yourself?
Some will object loudly to the above, telling me that I have taken away personal responsibility. If we are not to blame, then is the criminal also not to blame? Were they just following through on the mindset they were given? Should we set them free from jail, for it is not their fault? We can easily see that such a solution would not work. Surely there needs to be consequences for actions. One who chooses crime must face the consequences. Even if that crime is rooted in the criminal's background, he should still expect to face the consequences for his actions. Otherwise, society could not exist.
And so you will generally need to live with the consequences for what you have chosen. You have made bad decisions in the past. You now live with the consequences. Okay, let's accept that. Let's move on from here. It does us no good to live with regret, blame, and shame for the past. I think you will find that, even with the consequences of the past, life is still worth living. So if life is worth living, let us move on, and start living.
2. You are okay
You may tell me that regardless of who is to blame, you have made bad decisions in the past, and you are sure you will continue to make bad decisions. You will tell me that this is the kind of person you seem to be, that you just make bad decisions.
First, let me express my opinion that this pessimism is not realistic. I think you have made not only bad decisions, but also good decisions. And perhaps you will learn to make even better decisions as life goes on. So I think it is wrong to give up hope. I think you should see that you are capable of doing better.
Now, of course, I cannot know how good your decisions will be in the future, so I will not tell you what it will be like. But I can tell you this: Regardless of what happens, you are okay by me. You see, I have a great love for humanity. Human knowledge, emotions, and cognitions are the most amazing thing in the whole universe. And you have those things. That makes you one of the most amazing things in the whole universe! Since you have the spark of what it means to be human, than you are amazing! And you are okay.
A baby can be happy being a baby. A dog can be happy being a dog. A child might not be able to rule the universe, or even maintain his existence on his own, but he can be happy being himself. It is not necessary to keep up with the Joneses to be happy. It is not necessary to be the leader of the pack. It is not even necessary to be in the middle of the pack. People have learned to be happy in all different states of life. So my suggestion is that you learn to be satisfied where you are.
Yes, you will want to improve. Yes, you would like to do better. That is good. Without such desires, you probably won't be happy. As long as you cultivate those desires to improve and do what you can with life as it has been presented to you, you will most likely be happy.
3. Learn critical thinking skills
If you feel like a loser, it is probably because you have made bad decisions. Those bad decisions are often the result of poor thinking skills. If you do not know how to critically examine an idea to determine if it is valid, you will often be mistaken. And those mistaken views will lead to mistakes.
Critical thinking involves looking at the reasons for opinions, and critically judging the merits of those reasons. It involves looking at other views, and determining if there are good reasons for seeing things differently. It involves being open to the possibility that you may be wrong. It involves changing your mind when you find good evidence for another view. It involves going beyond what an authority tells you.
If you have recently become a freethinker, and have become a fan of critical thinking, please do not underestimate the great value that this can have in your life. Not only will your critical thinking skills keep you from being oppressed by repressive religions; they will help you in all aspects of life. Critical thinking skills can be a great asset in your career and your relationships. There is hope that you can accomplish far more in your job then you did in your past. For if you now have learned critical thinking, you may avoid many of the mistakes of the past, and may come up with great plans that will enhance your career.
So take hold of life and go for it. You know how to think. Think. There is hope for a much better future.
4. Respect others
Perhaps you have learned to respect others in diversity training at work. You have learned to show respect to people of all races and religions. And you can see that your career will be enhanced by treating people respectfully.
Many people set out to do this, but deep inside they do not respect certain people. Some people believe--based on their religion--that those who choose other religions do so because of an evil inside of them. They believe that those outsiders will scream in hell for all eternity because of their evil choice to follow another religious path. And they believe that those outsiders deserve this banishment; that all were born with a sinful nature; that all of the righteousness of such sinners is little more than filthy rags in God's sight; and that God himself will spew them out of his mouth.
Pretend that you have this view of the person who has a different religion and sits in the next cubical. Imagine that you view this person as evil in God's sight, and deserving of eternal judgement. But you attend the same diversity training meeting with this co-worker. You both learn that you should treat each other with respect. So you set out to do that. Now you can try to treat the other person with an outward show of respect while having no respect for the inner person. It doesn't work very well. Believe me, it doesn't work. I have tried it. If in your heart you think another person is evil, eventually there will come a time when your words or actions will betray what you really think. Even when you show an outward respect, it won't be sincere. And people can see right through insincere respect. They can see the insincere words of flattery, and they are not impressed. No, they would rather be sincerely respected. And so if you practice a religion that encourages disdain for people of another religion--and also for the inner nature of people in your own religion--you will find it difficult to respect other people. Other people will see this lack of respect for them, and they will find it hard to respect you. You will find life difficult.
Friend, if you used to practice a restrictive religion; if you used to see people as hell-bound sinners; if you used to believe that the inner nature is evil, but you now see things differently, and now see the intrinsic value and worth of all people, you have made a great step forward. You now have a new advantage in the business world: You now feel respect for others. That makes a huge difference. You no longer need to treat others respectfully simply because you think respect works. You can now treat them respectfully because you really feel the other person is worthy of respect. Your respect can now come from within. Such respect is naturally sincere. When people see that you have sincere respect they will tend to respect you, and they will be more willing to work with you and listen to you.
So if you have embraced critical thinking and a high view of humanity, you can face an often-troubling world with your head held high and a new hope. Perhaps things will go much better today! For you now know how to think and make wise decisions, and you know how to show respect and win support from others. Think about the change this may have on your life. These decisions are not merely enhancing your inner self, but they are giving you the tools you need to succeed.
Go get 'em, tiger!
5. Live for today
Okay, you goofed yesterday. I understand. I goofed too. Perhaps we did not encourage others when we could have. Perhaps we said words we now regret. Perhaps we did not stop to smell the roses when we should have. But that was yesterday, and we can't change that.
But we can change today (or at least this moment of today). So let us seize this moment. Let us make this moment count. Let us say in this moment words that are good. Let us smell this moment's roses. Let us live today.
Restrictive religions often ask followers to view the past with shame and guilt. And they ask followers to concentrate on some future eternity. Meanwhile, the life that we have to live--the only life we ever will have--is appearing to us moment by moment. How many of those moments are spent in shame as we think of the past, or worrying about some unconfirmed eternal destiny? Life comes to us as a series of moments. Why should we waste those moments? Is it not better to enter those moments, and live them now?
6. You have friends
All around you there are compassionate people who spontaneously help others. The Internet is a great example. Many of the discussion forums are amazing when you think about it. Total strangers are struggling to solve another person's problems with his computer, work, hobby, religion, or some other aspect of life. Many of these people ask nothing in return. They have no advertisements and often do it anonymously. But they freely offer help.
Those spontaneous acts of compassion for another human are one example of what is best in human nature. The same thing happens all over this planet. You have friends. Many will help.
Now, of course, if all you do is take, and never reciprocate, you may find your sources of help limited. But when you learn to reciprocate, or better, when you learn to freely give little acts of kindness without asking for anything in return, you will find people want to have a lasting friendship with you. And a friend can be a huge help when one is feeling down. So remember, you have friends.
I hope that these few words will help you to pick up the pieces and get on with life. There is hope. You are not a loser. You can expect to see great things.
Copyright Ó Merle Hertzler 2005. All rights reserved.