The Pain of Letting Go of Beliefs


One of the most difficult things to do as we deconstruct our beliefs is letting go of ones we’ve held for our whole lives.

Take Hell for instance.

In our online community, The Lasting Supper, many of the members struggle with this very issue. For some people, it’s easy. They just suddenly decide they don’t believe in something anymore and walk away from it, and it never affects them negatively. For others, however, waves of fear, guilt, and anxiety overwhelm them.

Many people don’t understand and have no sympathy for people giving up old beliefs. It’s one of the most painful things some have to do.

I remember the night when I quit the ministry. I was lying on my bed in the dark. Lisa, being a nurse, was at work. I was lying there thinking about what I’d done… the decision I’d made and the announcement I’d given. I was finished. It was over. Suddenly, waves of fear swept over me… fear not just over what I was going to do with my life, but fear in having angered God, or at least disappointed him, and the terror of the very punishments I had stopped believing in. Even though I didn’t really think that way anymore, the residue of the power of belief stuck to me like glue.

My rational mind told me that this whole mythology was a clever tactic to terrify me into compliance. But my religious mind didn’t want to let it go. Or, rather, it was afraid to let it go in case it was true. The battle that took place in my mind was not imagined but very, very real. I broke out in cold sweats as absolute existential terror gripped me in the dark night.

I was wrestling with an addiction… an addiction to certain beliefs… and that I was actually experiencing withdrawal in my mind, in my heart, and in my body. Belief was so systemic in its reach in me that the withdrawal was extremely grueling. But I persisted and eventually the symptoms subsided and I was finally free from their effects.

There have been many times when coaching people through this process that they are overcome with this same fear. They cry. They get angry. They are filled with anxiety. They sometimes revert back. They sometimes plunge forward. But almost always they get to the same place I have… they get over their addiction, see it for what it is, and eventually evolve to a place where they experience peace of mind and even joy.

So, as the cartoon suggests… with his smile but also his concerned eyes… deconstructing our beliefs can be a momentarily worrisome time, but also an eternally happy one.

I highly recommend it.


2 Replies to “The Pain of Letting Go of Beliefs”

  1. This is wonderful. I had to learn to be sympathetic to others as they worked through their “stuff”, only to realize how hard it is to work through my own “stuff”. Beliefs becomes a huge part of our identity, that when we let go it’s like chopping off a body part. It’s painful, even if that body part is gangrene and would kill is if we didn’t get rid of it.

    And it’s not just religious. It could be a prejudice we have towards a group of people. As hard as it is to sympathize with someone’s prejudice, we can at least understand how painful it is to leave behjnd an old belief that helped one make sense of the world. It is a lot of work.

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