Master metaphysical teacher Florence Scovel Shinn was walking through a toy store when she came upon a display featuring a huge mechanical bear with flaming eyes, showing its teeth, growling fiercely. At the bear’s feet stood a little boy looking up at the beast, smiling.

     “Aren’t you afraid of the bear?” Ms. Shinn asked the child.

     “Not really,” he answered. “Bears don’t bite good little boys.” 
     If you know you are innocent, you don’t fear or attract punishment. If you know you are loveable, you remain safe wherever you go. If you know you are worthy, prosperity finds its way to you. Conflict, disease, and hardship do not befit the divine being you are.  You don’t have to escape the wrath of God. It is your belief in wrath you need to escape.  Voltaire said, “In the beginning God created man in His image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”

      I saw a documentary about the Burning Man gathering, a huge celebration of art and creativity that rocks the Nevada desert every summer. In the film, a fellow walked up to various people randomly and told them, “It’s not your fault.” He had never met these people, and knew nothing about them. Yet they all had an emotional reaction. Some broke into tears. Others laughed. Others hugged him. They all thought that something was their fault, and when they considered that they were innocent, they were deeply relieved.

     We all think that something, or lots of things, are our fault. From an early age we were taught, overtly or subtly, that there was something wrong with us. There was some deficiency we needed to offset, requiring a long series of arduous tasks to redeem ourselves. Parents, teachers, clergy, and siblings projected their perceived sins onto us, and we believed them. I spoke to a woman who, as a child, was taught by her Sunday school teacher, “If you have committed any sins listed in the Old Testament, you are already damned forever.”  Since she had lied to her mother a few days earlier, the child assumed that she was going to hell and there was nothing she could do about it.

     Fortunately, there is. Even though the voice of guilt has threatened her for most of her life, she is making decisions that affirm her worth and innocence. She is doing things that make her happy, and discovering that God is not punishing her. She is reinventing her relationship with God as a loving, accepting, forgiving parent. 

    A Course in Miracles tells us that we have made plenty of mistakes, but we have never sinned. There is nothing you could do that would cause the universe to withhold love from you. Life’s very nature is to empower you to do the things you love. If you have felt guilty for some or much or all of your life, this holiday season would be a perfect time to let go of that burden and live your birthright as a divine being. Of all the gifts you might receive, forgiveness shines the brightest. It is the most important gift you can give yourself. 

   We can use the New Year as a blessed  opportunity to step out of an old, confining identity as a sinner, and replace it with a new identity as an innocent shining soul. That little boy was not afraid of the mechanical bear because he knew that he was fundamentally good. Neither do we need to be afraid of the mechanical bears in our lives. When we know that we are fundamentally good, only good can come to us…

     It’s time to quit threatening and biting yourself, and let the universe love you. I wish you and your loved ones a most blessed holiday season and a bright, happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

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