What does it mean to encourage others towards spiritual growth? At a recent board meeting, which included a fairly contentious issue, a number of friends and myself certainly did not encourage anyone towards spiritual growth. The root of the problem, as with many problems, lies with differences; differences of opinion, experience, and expectations. As a Unitarian Universalist congregation, we espouse the seven principles, which are as close to dogma as you’re likely to see in UUism. One of these seven “pillars” of behavior as a UU calls us to accept others and help them towards spiritual growth. How can we do that when we’re so different?
I’m repeating myself here, but repetition is the best way to learn anything, so let’s go again. Difference tends to cause us to build walls. Often we do not do so intentionally, but humans are animals, and there is a base tribalness to much of what animals do. It should not surprise us that we like to be with our own kind, to have our ideas reinforced, to spend time with those we’ve shared experiences. But that gets to the crux of it. Share experiences with other people. Embrace our tribalness to create connections with people who are currently strangers. This is not radical acceptance. If you believe that abortion is a sin against your chosen diety, that is not a good place to begin acceptance. Rather, why not talk about youre experience with your children? Talk about sports, the weather, and begin to ask questions.
Do you know where the members on your board were born? Where they were raised? What they personally believe? The stand out experiences in their lives? Their favorite books? Movies? What they love? What drives them crazy? These are not retorical questions. Nor are they questions that I have asked yet. So no need to feel bad. Being an accepting and welcoming human being is difficult preciscely because of our earlier manifestation as uncooperative animals. But by some miracle have developed the skills of discernment and cooperation, and we should perform social exercises to keep our open-ness well conditioned.