When I was young I was taught there is a hell where we go after we die if we are bad while alive and a heaven if we are good. As a little girl and young adult I lived in constant fear. The images of people suffering and burning haunted me when I was asleep and while I was awake. I once threw a gum wrapper out of the car window and was certain I was going to hell. I lied to my mom or took $5 out of my dad’s wallet without permission and was certain I would burn for all eternity. Overall I was a good kid who was convinced I was doomed from the start. It was an absolutely horrible way to live.
One day in my late teens I got fed up with living in fear and said, “Screw it! I am already in hell living in such fear and dread.” That day I realized how much of my religious upbringing was focused on controlling me through fear. But that did not make any sense to me because fear never aligned with the loving, supportive, forgiving God I knew in my heart/soul.
So I began questioning everything I had been taught to believe. Yes, there may be an all-powerful source to which I must answer to when I die, but I have not feared it in years. I decided to live each day striving to be the best person possible. Not from fear of punishment or expectation of reward. But for the simple fact that doing my best each day keeps me from living in hell now and that allows me to experience the peace and love of heaven while I am very much alive.