“I am not sure which was more traumatizing, your belief in hell or that you were special,” said my therapist. Part of the appeal of Christianity is the teaching that you’re special, the chosen one. But having to be special is a tremendous burden to carry, especially if you’re human. If you think you’re special, you’ll feel inadequate when you don’t meet your higher-than-human standards. If you feel inadequate, you will try to compensate by being special: performance, perfectionism, comparison. Inadequacy and specialness are two sides of the same coin. Both make humility (and growth) virtually impossible.

All of this is about judgment-driven living. Being sinful or being saved (special) both come down to ego and judgment. We’re caught in an endless ego-cycle of judging ourselves, feeling judged by god, judging the world, then saving ourselves, being saved by god, and saving the world–all while trying to live a normal life, deal with our problems, and maybe be happy. Am I good enough? I’m BETTER (special). I’m better than other people who don’t have the same beliefs. I will reinforce my ego and sense of specialness by saving these other people, changing them to be like me (or changing myself). Am I good enough? I’m the WORST (sinful). I’m not even as good as other Christians, unbelievers. I need to work harder, do better, obtain more forgiveness. How exhausting!

The solution is being human and accepting it. We are flawed human beings, imperfect and beautiful. No one is “chosen” or “elect,” and we don’t have to carry the burden of having to change or save anyone. The solution is getting out of ego altogether, escaping the hamster wheel of identity attachment, trying to manipulate and tame reality through separation-ego-judgment thinking. Freedom comes in understanding that I’m ordinary. Ordinary-ness is humanity, and only within that do we each find our own specialness.