Acceptance and Encouragement

The third Principle of the UUA is “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations”. This is more of an internal principle, but it is no less important to the big picture. This is the principle that makes each congregation a family in a larger movement. We accept that we are all people of value, but more over, that each UU is doing his or her best to live up to that potential. This isn’t something we can safely take into the world, in this day and age, but it is important to know that we have it in our congregations.

We accept the people who join our congregations for who they are and we respect the perspective they bring to the conversation. Whatever race, religious background, gender expression or family situation they live with, we accept that they are good people trying to bring good things into the world. We accept that, even where we disagree on the best course of action, that we are all seeking to live these 7 principles and make the world a better place. We welcome everyone who agrees to live by those principles as part of our congregation.

We also encourage each other to keep exploring, examining and working out better ways to live those principles in our lives, individually and collectively. We share our victories and our dilemmas, and we discuss traditions and new ideas alike, looking for new ways to promote our values in the world. Like a family, we help each other through each crisis and trial. It may be one of the most universally recognizable qualities we share with other churches; we fellowship and support our members, reaching out to our peers like brothers and sisters, looking out for our elders and educating our children as part of a community.

Spiritual growth requires that we challenge our beliefs and discuss our frailties, and we can only do that when we feel comfortable enough to admit weakness. We debate, we discuss, and many times we argue, but we do so knowing that we are all working towards the same goals of human dignity and peace. We all search for answers, and we accept that our path may not be shared by the person seated next to us on Sunday. We show up, though, knowing that the people we share that time with, while on their own paths to enlightenment, will help us on our journey when we are in need. We aren’t all warriors, leaders, healers or teachers, but we know that those who are will help us when our search requires us to step outside our chosen role. It is how we show our acceptance and encouragement of the family we create from our congregation.


3 Responses

  1. Reposting here, as it seems to be a comment about this post, more than the blog as a whole.
    Okay, I’ve read what I could of your blog (unable to find principles 1 and 2) and I’ve enjoyed it. I am in the Agnostic camp myself, basically because I know that I don’t know everything. And that God, if he exists, may not be anything like what the major religions of the world have dreamed him to be. And that leaves all kinds of possibilities.
    I’m not clear on where you sit on your 3rd principal. Initially it sounds as though you want us to become evangelical and sing our (UUs) praises. Listing those things that make our religion better than theirs. But then you go on to explain how acceptance and mutual respect are so central to our beliefs.
    I don’t know that we can do both. Allowing for an others belief system with absolute respect does not then allow us to imply that there’s something wrong with their belief system if they don’t then join us. It grates against the core of being a UU. That ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ mentality that UUs hold so dear is one of the things I’m most proud of. That our daily efforts are directed towards being a good ‘human’ as opposed to a good (insert religion here) is inspiring to me. Jumping on that ‘I’m okay but you’re not’ train isn’t. I find it not only uninspiring but disrespectful. Don’t misunderstand me. I do think that if everyone could be as accepting and respectful as UUs, the world would be a happy peaceful place. But I know how I feel when my religious friends try to ‘fix’ me, or show me the light. And I cringe at the idea of doing that to someone else. The best intentions aren’t always the right ones. And aren’t always received well.
    Still, I get it. There should be a way for us to get the word out…..without the preaching. But how do we do it without compromising our beliefs?
    Anyway, looking forward to reading your other installments.

    • The great thing about being a UU is that we do accept the message of almost every other church and religion as valid, for those who follow it to the betterment of themselves and the world we share. We don’t need to convert them away from their faith to have them commit to the 7 principles. I think our congregations are welcoming and loving, and I know they try to incorporate the needs of all the new members, but I don’t know of a UU Church that has Mass yet, nor regular Torah readings; we can’t be all things to all people.

      What we can do, though, is to promote the 7 principles so that other people will choose to live by them. There has been a lot of talk about being a Christian UU or a Jewish UU, or a UU who doesn’t have a local church they are an active member of. We can have all of those, so why can’t we have people dedicated to the 7 principles (or even just 5 of them!) who are members of other congregations? It isn’t ideal, but it can, in my opinion, still help to promote our goals in the rest of the world.

      Also, I don’t think we have to take a completely “hands-off” attitude in regards to other people. We can’t encourage growth by letting people be lazy! It is ok to confront someone who isn’t living up to the principles they profess to, as long as we are constructive about it. If someone is having a hard time this month remembering the inherent value of others, it is ok to talk to them about what is going on in their lives that has them feeling misanthropic. We don’t have to accept anger, fear or hatred, even from fellow UUs. That is one of the things that is easy to overlook in the 3rd principle: Encouragement to growth is not a passive thing, it is an effort that we make with our fellow UUs to keep questioning and improving.

      I admit that there are religions that have dogma we can’t incorporate. We don’t believe that there is a God who only loves some people. We may disagree on how many gods, from 0 to thousands, but we believe in universal love and acceptance. We may disagree with how someone lives their life, but we believe that anyone who really wants to can contribute something positive to the world. We don’t believe in the idea of chosen people set aside from the rest of humanity, but not given an extra head or bright green hair or some other separation from humanity as a whole. We can’t reconcile these ideas with our principles, but we can still promote our principles in the lives of the people who hole these ideas, knowing that if they see how our ideas improve our relationships and communities, they might choose to emulate them more.

      But it isn’t enough, in my mind, to live them. We need to tell people, occasionally and with pride, that it is through the affirmation and promotion of these ideals that we lives the lives we do. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our religion, just because we understand the agony of prosthelytization; we just need to let people know that we don’t need to change them to accept them. They don’t need to join our congregation to join our movement.

  2. […] an excellent guideline to creating that better future and a Beloved Community. That includes “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth” as well as “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning“. What I saw was […]

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