Compassion: For Yourself, within a Unitarian Universalist Theology
Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director
Take a midweek break. Pause, breathe deeply, and ask yourself: Have I been treating myself kindly? Have I given myself permission to make mistakes? Have I realized my value and not used my mistakes to cut myself down? Have I given myself permission to be human?
When you have self-compassion, you understand that your worth is unconditional. Our 1st UU Principle states that “we covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person”. That includes ourselves. This should not be taken lightly because it is necessary to have self-compassion in order to have compassion for others. So, essentially, our 1st Principle cannot be made a reality unless we start with ourselves. Our work cannot be done unless we are working on ourselves. Our work does not have to be, and should not be, self-sacrificing work.
You can find many online resources to help you understand and practice self-compassion. I’m particularly interested in the ones which speak directly to a Unitarian Universalist theological framework. From Psychology Today, posted on March 3, 2017:
Psychotherapist and wellness coach Megan Bruneau…reminds clients that to feel is to be human, and that whatever they’re going through is also being experienced by millions of others. If we can recognize our shared humanity — that not one of us is perfect — we can begin to feel more connected to others, with a sense that we’re all in this together. “So many people believe they’re ‘broken’ or ‘screwing up,’” says Bruneau, “when in actuality we’re all fumbling our way through this script-less existence together.”
Let’s unpack this so we can begin to lay a strong foundation for self-compassion, supported by our Unitarian Universalist beliefs. Here’s what I see as the key points:
- To feel is to be human
- We should recognize our shared humanity
- Not one of us is perfect
- We are connected
- We are in a “script-less” existence together
Let’s start with the first point this week (I’ll save the others for future reflections).
In 1819, one of the founders of American Unitarianism, William Ellery Channing, gave the sermon ‘Unitarian Christianity’. In this sermon he set out the foundation stones of our faith, one of which was “understanding the importance of human nature in discovering religious truth”. Emerson and Thoreau expanded on this idea and incorporated an understanding that human intuition was a source of knowledge, especially since the presence of God was believed to exist in every individual.
Indeed, trusting our intuition and our feelings is an essential first step in having self-compassion and seeking the truth of our existence. We are each sacred beings of the universe and our intuition is of divine origin. And, it is speaking to us. If we begin to beat ourselves up, listening to only our inner-critic, then we need to stop and ask ourselves: What sacred and worthy part of me is my inner-critic trying to protect? What feelings am I not allowing to come to the surface? How can I validate my own human feelings and draw on my own divine intuition to guide me towards being kind to myself?
Listening to our divine selves is an essential step towards forming our personal theologies and understanding the sacred truth of our existence. Be kind to yourself. Listen deeply to yourself. Then, you can take steps forward and start listening to other divine beings so we can connect our truths and search for meaning together.