I love God.

There. I said it.

What I’ve uncovered recently, however, is the amount of shame I have around my love for God.

Silly, right? I know. I agree. But that doesn’t change it.

There may be some of you reading this who are thinking, ‘How can she be a believer and be ashamed of God at the same time?’

It’s very simple.

I was raised to believe that God was all-loving…but also all-condemning.

I was brainwashed to believe that love for God came only through religion.

Growing up Catholic, I was taught about Hell and the Devil, and these ideas caused me to fear God instead of feeling connected to God. I didn’t understand how and why lying would send me to Hell, when my father was beating up his children.

How did a lie deserve the same punishment as child abuse?

Were we ALL going to Hell?

Why would God condemn us if He loved us so much?

I can remember being so jealous of the Jews in our town in Long Island, New York.

As a child, I noticed that Jewish people always seemed to be more playful and fun, and they had more money than the Catholics. That looked pretty good to my young mind.

Then when I was older, I went and lived in Israel and got a taste of how patriarchy sits front and center in that religion. I gained a different perspective through that experience, but to this day I still consider Jewish people to be my ‘tribe.’

I dabbled in Buddhism for a short time.

Again, it wasn’t what I expected. The Buddhist community I was a part of revolved more around fear than love for me.

Religion was a conundrum. And I am still at age 54 working through that programming.

I could never figure out how God could be so loving and so kind, but still allow me to experience the hell of my tortured childhood. None of this made sense to me, but always there was somehow a place for God in my life.

I’d always been taught that God had to be associated with a religion.

I may have been raised Catholic, but I am no longer a religious person…and I still love and believe in God. I still find joy and comfort in praying to Jesus, Mary, the angels and the saints. They brought me comfort as a child, but now I am free to have my own relationship with them, unfettered by any kind of doctrine.

I may still feel that familiar sense of connection to the divine when in a church, a synagogue, or other holy places, but I know that God is everywhere, in everything and everybody. I don’t have to go somewhere special to feel God’s presence: my soul is always present, and that’s where I find God. The only thing that I need to do is remember my own divinity.

What I have come to understand through decades of soul-searching is that God is love.

For me, it’s just that simple.

And the moment that I go anywhere—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically—that does not line up with love, I know that I’ve moved away from my connection with God. When I act out of fear or doubt or anger, I can’t hear God’s voice. When I live from my heart, with kindness and compassion and patience, I am embodying God’s love.

And every time that shame creeps in, and I get afraid that people will judge me for loving and believing in God, I have to remember that:

My definition of God is personal and it’s holy for me. @laurafenamore (Click to Tweet!)

Do you ever find yourself worried about being judged for your beliefs?

Tell us about it in the comments below.

Laura Fenamore, Body Image Expert, Coach and acclaimed Author is on a mission to help women around the world end the constant battle with their bodies and start adoring who they see in the mirror. Her approach walks students and readers through the heartfelt journey to self-love at any size or age by unlocking the secrets to a lifetime of emotional, physical and spiritual health. After overcoming a lifelong battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released 100 pounds – keeping it off for more than 28 years. She chronicles this journey to self-love and health in her widely acclaimed book, Skinny, Fat, Perfect: Love Who You See in the Mirror. Learn more about Laura’s programs, or invite her to speak by visiting SkinnyFatPertect.com.

Image courtesy of Robin Benad.