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20. Does your religion help you to be a better human being?
I believe it does, but not because it gives me a significantly different definition of what “better human being” means than I came in with. Rather, I chose this path for its values, as those values were compatible with my own. In some ways my values have been expanded, but only by showing me how things I did not previously understand actually do fit within my ethical worldview after all.
What my religion does is help motivate me to be the best possible human being, as well as remind me not to beat myself with the Rod of Unattainable Perfection. Most importantly, my religion – my community, my gods, and my spiritual allies – help me understand HOW to be a better human. I have always had some sense of what I was aiming for, but I frequently have no sense of how to actually GET there from where I am. This is where being able to ask my Elders, my Ancestors, my Allies, and my Gods and other Powers for advice becomes extremely useful.
Freyja has taught me how to be a person who loves deeply and fiercely and loyally without hurting myself or asking of others what they can not choose to give. She has also taught me how to value myself and what I have to offer so that I do not hide what I have to offer away from those who would most benefit from it.
Freyr has taught me how to sit compassionately with someone overwhelmed by emotion without needing for them to stop feeling what they’re feeling, nor needing myself to stop feeling what I’m feeling. Sometimes that person is myself.
Frigga has taught me how to track and manage the many tangled ties of a community, so that I may keep the peace between them, help them find each other, and generally help each other to meet all needs with minimal conflict.
Odin has taught me how to persuade those who have wandered astray from their paths, so that I may better help them find their way back, to their own benefit, and the benefit of the community. He’s also taught me how to dive into the fear of losing myself and come out the other side stronger.
Ghede has taught me how to tell the difference between what I want and what I need, what merely scandalizes and what actually harms, what seems to matter in the moment and what really matters in the end.
Ayida Wedo and Ostara have taught me how to find joy in the world, and how to carry that joy to others, that we may swim in a tide of wonder instead of drowning in our countless tears. (Apparently They also make me wax poetic.)
Exu has taught me how to do what needs to be done, even when it hurts.
Pombagira has taught me what I can do when I set my pride and fear aside.
Animal and Plant spirits have taught me to value all life, not just that which resembles my own.
Landvaettir have taught me what Home really means.
They’re all trying to teach me what Belonging means, but I’m kinda slow on the uptake…
Do I embody all of these lessons They’ve so generously taught me? Not constantly, no. I’m still flawed. I still get in my own way. Being Vanatru and a Spirit Worker doesn’t place me above the rest of the human population in a special category of goodness reserved only for those favored by the gods.
But my faith has a way of making the striving worthwhile.
Lon’s answer: Human Virtue