I attended Catholic schools for middle and high school and feel immensely grateful and privileged for everything that they exposed me to. It was from those environments that I learned how to recognize right from wrong (and how much more I enjoyed wrong), the importance of appreciation, and that maybe all that matters in life is learning to love your own. Perhaps most dear to the person I am now, though, was the byproduct of a regimented and often hypocritical Catholic education: independent thought. From an early age, I began to think inquisitively about religion. I was bothered most, I think, by my peers’ acceptance (or lack of apparent questioning) of God’s supreme wisdom arbitrarily dispensed by school textbook. Catholic God’s case received further demerit when I learned that even gingerly posed questioning (in middle school and from a particular junior theologian, mind you) would be met with either idiomatic rote or punishment. Though I was enamored by what I saw as the core of the Catholic faith—a selfless and loving lifestyle characterized by the actions you take for others—I was convinced that the people around me calling themselves Catholics did not show that they were Catholic by the way they lived. To me, a lot of these people were merely wearing their religion like a fly pair of shoes—they make a good impression and protect your feet from the hot concrete, but they’re nowhere to be found when there isn’t anyone around to see them.

By the time I’d seen sixteen years, punk rock had become a most defining influence in my quest for certainty and self. I immersed myself in the subculture and absorbed the raw emotion that I had discovered, attending shows regularly and proclaiming my headphones as my most trusted friend. Some of my life’s most valuable lessons were learned from hardcore punk bands that advocated brotherhood and pride, straight edge lifestyles and a clear mind, and youth crew ideals like optimism and perseverance. I had found shelter in the underground, but the insuppressible doubt that expounds my life was omnipresent. The music and the energy spoke to me, but like my experience with Catholics, I quickly realized that the integrity of a movement lies entirely on the shoulders of its subscribers. The hardcore scene, which should have exuded unity and acceptance, was dominated by macho men and hipsters, more concerned with their image than their ideals.To me, most “idealists” were one in the same—“Why?” is a question that Jesus Christ (Bible) or Henry Rollins (Black Flag) could readily answer, but when their followers are presented with the same question, they can merely reproduce the phonetics of what their leader had to say on the matter.

It is my belief that most people don’t fully understand or even contemplate why they live their lives as they do, and that many feign deep conviction by wearing their so-called beliefs on their sleeves. It seems to me that these people are more likely deluded than they are enlightened. The world that we know is rife with lessons, but what do they mean unless you make them your own? A lesson learned is not a lesson lived. Think, and never follow.  Garrett

A common issue individuals talk about in counseling is spiritual and religious beliefs, including how to develop their own independent beliefs, confusion and guilt about how they are living their lives compared with how they were taught, and what to do with regard to marriage and raising children.  If you would like to speak to one of the Orlando counselors at LIfe Skills Resource Group about this or any other issue, visit the OUR TEAM page to read the bios and set up your FREE phone consultation.  I believe Jean Austin-Danner is an excellent choice for these matter.  Jean is currently studying to become an Interfaith Minister and has completed her coursework and is writing her dissertation for her PhD. in Transformative Studies.  Cindy


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