On Jihad and the Messages We Pick Up Along the Way
January 31, 2019
An audio version of this post can be found here.
I was multitasking my self-care this morning, which meant preparing crafts for Henry’s birthday party and drinking coffee while watching self-help videos on YouTube. Ideally, I’d love to sit down and take an hour or so just to focus on myself, but that isn’t always an option, so I try to fit it in where I can.
I was listening to a discussion with Abraham Hicks. I can’t do the topic justice and I really recommend you listen to the video. There was a lot of pertinent information about empathy and love, and what struck me most is this:
“Most people think love should hurt.”
This spoke volumes to me. Until very recently, I thought that love meant suffering. I thought that life was a constant struggle that we endure because we have to and for the fleeting moments of joy.
In Islam, the term jihad means struggle, specifically the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.
As a practitioner of a spiritual tradition that draws inspiration from many sources, I spend a lot of time translating messages to make them relevant to my own spiritual journey.
My own jihad right now, my biggest struggle, is not against anything particularly tangible. I sometimes struggle with logistics, with managing my time, with keeping up with my laundry – but my spiritual struggle transcends my daily struggles.
My spiritual struggle is reconciling my truth and my highest good with all of the misinformation I have internalized about love and life.
I was raised in an environment that made love seem conditional. When conditions were not met, affection and kindness were withheld, and emotional aggression took their place.
Until very recently, I thought this was how love works. I thought love meant yelling, belittling, and refusal to compromise. I’m coming to realize that what I experienced was actually abuse.
I’m coming to realize that if something hurts or is energetically uncomfortable, that means something is not right. It means that in order to realign with our truth and highest good, there must be an intentional shift in the situation, environment, or our thoughts surrounding them.
Pain is an unavoidable part of the human experience, but suffering is optional. We do not have to suffer in the name of love, loyalty, honor, or meeting expectations. It is ok for things to feel comfortable or right. Not always necessarily easy, but right.
When we are on a right path, aligned with love, our truth, and our highest good, decisions and situations that are not easy or pleasant can still feel right.
Four years ago, I never would have willingly and excitedly committed to three years of grad school. It took a lot for me to embrace my call to ministry. I had to come to a place with myself where I believe I deserve to follow my heart and chase my dreams. When your entire life has been about what you can’t do, it seems impossible to think you are capable of or entitled to achieving your heart’s desires. Following this calling feels undeniably right, and I am ready and willing to do whatever it takes to live this dream.
Coming out as gay was difficult, but in a different way. I have always known I am gay, but society told me constantly, sometimes subtly and sometimes through hate crimes and picket signs that say, “God Hates Fags,” that it wasn’t right. I wonder how often I, and we, as a collective, have made choices, conscious or not, to deny our truth and highest good in the interest of the status quo.
Even though I’ve known I’m gay since I was 12, I still live in a cis-heteronormative society that sends the message that being LGBT+ is ok, but ultimately an alternative or inferior lifestyle to the “right” way to be. It took a lot of therapy, healing, encouragement, and support for me to be able to own this truth about myself, even though I’ve always known it, because in a lot of ways, it isn’t really socially acceptable to be LGBT+.
This attitude is changing drastically but is still present. It is especially prevalent in the region where I live.
Just last week, a student at the afterschool program where I work asked why I don’t have a husband. The answer I would have liked to give is, “Well, I’m single right now. I hope to have a wife one day, but I haven’t met the right woman yet.” That should be acceptable and would have been acceptable if I had said “husband” and “man” instead of “wife” and “woman,” but owning my truth in that moment just wasn’t worth the risk to my employment.
Tennessee is an at-will employment state, so even though I couldn’t technically be fired for being gay, I could be fired for nearly anything else, or nothing, so long as my employer doesn’t say it’s because I’m gay.
I feel like I should be outraged about this, but honestly, I am just thankful.
I am thankful that when things like this happen, I have a fiercely loving support system that has taught me and helps me remember that I am loved exactly as I am, and I do not have to prove myself to anyone or to society.
Ultimately, I am the expert on myself, my truth, my highest good, and my needs. As I continue to reconcile these things with the realities of the world I live in, I think I’m going to take another piece of advice from Abraham Hicks:
“Tune yourself to the highest good of yourself and others.”
I don’t have to react to or be influenced by the lowest common energetic denominator. I don’t have to listen to the messages from my past or society that tell me I am not enough. I have to tune into love and trust that it will never steer me wrong.
“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”