I used to be a "no regrets" type person. We all make mistakes, and focusing on the things we can't change won't make those things go away. Apologizing, making amends and then moving on with a lesson well learned is the best way to deal with our mistakes. I still believe this and still believe in cutting ourselves some slack and accepting our human fallibility, but lately a few things have been creeping up in my mind that I suddenly have started to regret, things that were so long ago that they are now virtually un-make-amends-able. Things I never knew I were mistakes at the time, because back then they seemed the "right" things to do. They were the "right" things to do, because to some extent my religion told me they were the right things to do.
So, since I can never go back to these people now and ask forgiveness for the hurt I may have caused while I was a Christian, I publicly apologize here, with the hopes that maybe one or two of these people will read this and accept my apology.
1. I am so sorry to all the people who I believed were going to hell. I was never one to yell from street corners, "You're all going to burn!" but I have been asked on several occasions (three that I remember very specifically) by special people if I thought they were going to hell, and awkwardly, uncomfortably, I had to say something along the lines of, well, yes. Something along the lines of, "If you don't turn to Jesus before you die, then, well, yes, I believe you will go to hell." Oh how I wish I could go back to all of you (you three in particular) and take it back. Now that I'm on the other side, I know just how horrible a thing that is to say to (or think of) someone.
2. I am sorry that I spent so much time arguing over finer points of theology, while inadvertently ignoring the person I was tearing down. While a good theological debate is always fun (even still), there were many times I took it too far. I took my "knowledge" of the Bible and used it to tear down the "lesser knowledge" of other people. I wish I'd spent more time listening instead. I regret the hurt I may have caused people in my quest to win Most Reformed Calvinist of the Year.
3. I am sorry to the boys whose hearts I broke during my dating years. There were a couple of times I either broke up with or rejected someone I truly cared about simply because according to the Bible we were "unequally yoked", aka, because they weren't Christians or even just not "Christian enough". While I'm glad that in the end I landed where I am, married to my soul mate, I am sorry I let religion tear apart good relationships, going against my own breaking heart. I hope you are all happy now and with your soul mates too.
4. Luckily, I'm able to say this to his face (and believe me, I have, many times), but I am sorry to my husband for the shame I put on him and the fear of losing me I caused him when he stopped believing before me. I'm sorry that I let his non-belief nearly break us up. While I am certain we would NOT have divorced, I am not so certain that my insistence that he be a "spiritual leader" would not have left irreparable damage to our relationship, had that continued. Once I finally accepted him for who he was, not what he believed, our marriage grew stronger than ever before. I'm sorry I spent so many years putting pressure on him to be what some ideology told me he was supposed to be.
5. I'm sorry to all the people that I simply prayed for but did not actually do anything to help in their time of need. When friends and loved ones went through hard times, I prayed, and I really was a good pray-er. But I was not a good friend. I'm sorry I didn't show up at your doorstep to babysit your kids during your hard times or bring casseroles over to save you making dinner or sit on your couch with you, letting you talk or not talk over glasses of wine, while you processed your grief. I wish I'd been there for you, instead of just praying for you from afar and leaving you alone in your suffering.
6. I'm sorry to my past self for living all those years telling myself how wicked I was, how unworthy, how sinful, how nothing I did on my own was worth anything unless it was done for God. I'm sorry for convincing myself I was inherently evil and no good. I'm sorry for never acknowledging the good in myself. I'm sorry I lived over thirty years in a state of self-flagellation. It will take years to undo the damage that kind of thinking has done to me. It will take years to not start crying whenever I start thinking about this. I was and am a good person, I'm just sorry I never told me that.