Older, more patriarchal forms of religion brought with them the concept of divine testing.
It’s a test when somebody comes to you in need, extending their hand for help.
It’s a test whether or not you will take that glass of alcohol, or sugary desert, or piece of meat.
It’s a test whether or not you will be able to humble yourself accordingly.
It’s a test.
It’s a test of your generosity.
It’s a test of your character.
And, it’s a test of the essence of who you are.
Or, so they say.
These types of religion are almost always rules-based. Follow certain rules — pass enough tests — and you will progress, and maybe even get into heaven.
Those that break the rules and fail the tests, well, better luck next time.
This is classic patriarchal thinking—linear, logical, and based on punishment and reward. Judgment and criticism, similarly, are near at hand.
While there is a time and place for such thinking, casual observations of nature demonstrate that there is no punishment and reward system to be found.
What there are, instead, are cause and effect dynamics.
Threaten a snake and you will get a bite. Sow a seed and a plant will grow. Jump up and the force of gravity pulls you down.
In cause and effect, there is no “right” and “wrong,” in the holy sense. There is no judgment. There is no test. There is no pass and fail.
It is not tests of your worth that you are given over and over again, but opportunities.
You are given opportunities to dig a little deeper. Be a little kinder. Love a little more fearlessly. Evolve a little further.
What you do with those opportunities is your choice. There is no external judgment about the choice you will make, or the consequences that will result.
What you have is your inner guru, or conscious, which will let you know immediately whether or not the choices you make are in line with your values and truth. You get to decide how, if at all, you adjust your behaviour as a result.
Like any artist, athlete or performer learning their craft, you would not fault them for their mistakes, shortcomings, and weaknesses. These are seen as the necessary stepping stones toward mastery. The more “tests” you fail (which means the more opportunities you miss), the more you can learn, and the sharper you can become. Ask Michael Jordan.
Chronic feelings of guilt and having to live up to a “higher” standard is a method of control and should be rejected on its face for the toxin that it is to human psychology.
You mess up. Whoops, I’m sorry. You mop the floor, and then commit to do it better next time. You do not chastise yourself. You do not need to repent. You do not need to cower on for decades.
Be your best self and be kind to your worst self.