How do we know anything? We first begin to learn when we are infants. When we are hungry, dirty, or wet, we cry, and someone comes to help us. As we grow older, we learn from the people around us, then from teachers and mentors.

Consider how we learn our first language. We learn language from the people around us. Language is not formally taught until we start school but being around people and hearing them speak is the basis of our use of language.

What about how we understand ourselves? We are taught “who we are” by the way we experience the world around us and by the ways our parents, teachers, loved ones, and friends instruct us and react with us. This is where we form opinions of the world and other people, shaded by the way we see ourselves.

I have visited with hundreds of people who have been taught that God is angry with them, that God does not love them, or that they are not good enough for God. This is a gross misuse of the Bible and it is not from God.

I continue to be amazed at how people will judge others based on their own values, all the while claiming their values are God’s values! Jesus’ instructions are simple, “love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and … love one another as Christ has loved us … Do not judge” (See: John 3:16; Mark 12:28-31; 1 John 4:8; Rom. 14:13)

Perhaps you have been taught that you are not good enough, tall enough, smart enough, pretty enough, strong enough, etc., etc. You may have been taught that you are a hopeless sinner and doomed to destruction. Don’t believe that garbage!

We are all given gifts that can contribute to the benefit of ourselves and others. It has been said there are no disabled people, only differently-abled people. Regardless of our inabilities, we all have certain abilities that can contribute to the betterment of our lives and the lives of others.

I protest those things that tear-down rather than build-up. I protest anything or anyone that makes you feel unworthy or less-than anyone else. I protest religion that encourages divisions and separation. I protest a world that allows belittling and bullying to run rampant. I protest the circumstances that cause individuals to end their own lives.

I pray we will un-learn unhealthy patterns, stop following false teachers, stop doubting how beautifully made we are, and start loving our neighbors as ourselves. If you love someone you won’t let them be broken-down. If we love ourselves, we will not accept anything less than respect and dignity. If we love God, we will be better, happier people.

Be a student all of your life and be sure to learn how wonderful you are! If you need a cheerleader, come see me.

Blessings and Peace to You All,

Fr. David+

Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.