Over 20 years ago, on a rainy weekend, I sat down and wrote my own religion. The rainy-day boredom had me thumbing through a small, dog-eared dictionary when I came upon this definition: “religion: a specific system of belief built around a philosophy of life”. So I figured by that definition, my own personal beliefs and philosophies were, indeed, my religion. I jokingly called it “The Religion of Betsy-ism.”
My religion ended up being ten pages long, and covered my views on everything from sin, heaven, hell, love, the Golden Rule, life purpose, God and even death. It isn’t very reverent or solemn, but then again, my personal philosophy of life contains a LOT of playfulness and humor. But to this day, if I start to feel off-track or un-centered, I can pull out my religion and re-read it and everything falls back into place for me.
To me, religion is a very personal thing, and is not something that is just reserved for Sunday services. Religion is the rules and guidelines that we choose for ourselves. The commandments, if you will that we choose to live our life by. These philosophies are collected throughout our lives from places like our parents, our churches, books we read, friends. I even think there are some great philosophies in modern advertising or songs that can be incorporated into a personal religion. Some of those song lyrics or advertising mottoes that seem to tug at your heart are probably part of your own personal philosophy….the lines that, if you remembered to try to live by them, would help you to really “be all that you can be.”
I think everyone has a personal philosophy of life of some kind. Some people have chosen to believe that life stinks, or life is unfair or it’s a dog-eat-dog world. I feel sorry for those people, because I think if that’s what they believe, then that’s how life is going to treat them. My own personal philosophy is more along the lines of “If you are good to life, life is good back to you.” I guess I just believe that if you lead a really good, kind, unselfish life, than life is going to be good, kind and unselfish in return. So far, this philosophy has worked out pretty well for me. When I am abiding by my ‘religion’, life is pretty darn good. When life ISN’T going so well, it is easy for me to sit back and see where I have gotten off-track from my own personal beliefs.
I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers for anyone else. After years of personal evaluation, I do, however, know a lot of the things that work for me. And part of my personal religion is to always keep polishing my own philosophies as I go along in life and learn more about what things work and what things don’t and which paths lead to good times and which lead to bad.
And anytime my life runs into another roadblock or obstacle that is trying to knock me down, I may stumble, but I rarely fall. I don’t have to find the newest self-help book or run to a therapist and start back at the bottom for guidance. I know right where to turn. I pull out my hand-written personal religion.
It’s a wonderful reminder of all the progress I have already made in life, and all the wonderful things I have already learned.
So the next time you are stuck at home on a rainy day or have an evening alone with nothing to do, I encourage you to sit down in a quiet spot with a few sheets of paper and write down some of your beliefs about life. Just write whatever comes to mind…your personal goals, the kind of person you want to be, the most important things to you in life. These beliefs are really who you are inside. They are your religion.
A personal religion is much more than a mission statement. It’s the blueprint for your life. And a great guide to help you create and live the life that you have always dreamed of.
**Author’s note: This essay was first written sometime around 2004. It was published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book called Think Positive in 2010.