Being Yourself and a UU in Today’s World
By Christian James
Christian is a graduating High School Senior and member of the congregation
May 26, 2013
It is now time to move. You are packing your things up and moving out of your house. What is the last thing that you must do? Sell your house. And you want the top dollar value for it. However, your neighbor has yet to mow his lawn. This will decrease your property value. So what can you do to fix this? Your neighbor just doesn’t feel like mowing his lawn, they haven’t got the time to.
There’s a town hall meeting about taxes. The town is at a standstill on whether to give more tax money to education for children, or give more tax money to veterans and retired folk social security funds. You raise the point of your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren futures and how they will take care of you sooner or later when you are old and unable to do the things you once could. You point out that they cannot take care of you, however, if there is nothing in their current education to teach them about caring for other people, such as even their own future children. Applause from the crowd has made you smile and feel confident about yourself. Then Joe stands up. Joe is 78 years old and retired. He yells to the crowd that he has no children, no grandchildren, and no great grandchildren. But what he does have is many bills to pay, and his social security is largely helping him meet those bills. He thinks that more tax money should go to social security, to help people his age and retired continue to pay bills and make ends meet. An equal amount of applause comes from the crowd for Joe. But the town is still undecided.
Your cousin comes over to your house and wants to hang out. You are too busy with your current job to take time off to hang out with them. Your cousin keeps asking you about your job and your inability to take time off, and eventually you scold him.
These are a few problems people can face. You know there’s a solution. You know you have to find it. But you just don’t know how to find it, with all the stress of the problem. But not only do you have to find the solution. Once you find it, you have to make a decision. A decision based on your personal values… or your religious values.
As a Unitarian Universalist, we follow our seven principles in that each and every person is right in their own way. And as our own individual self, we follow our own principles on what is right and true. Those two sets of principles can clash and combine with each other. When they combine… wonderful. But when they clash, you are forced to make a decision on which one to follow: Your personal values or your UU values.
Considering the problem with your neighbor, the personal value is summed up as wealth, while the religious value inferred here is mainly the 7th principle: Caring for the Earth.
The second problem has health as the personal value and the inherent worth and dignity of each person as the religious value.
The third problem, Time as the personal value, Justice, Equity, and Compassion in human relations as the religious value.
Which values are more important in these problems? Which ones matter the most?
That doesn’t matter. Nay, it is unnecessary to prioritize the values. Instead of making a decision based on those two values, why not do both?
When there arises a problem, there are many solutions that come with it. And those solutions can be “categorized” based on the personal and religious values. And there are also the solutions which include both. Those are the solutions you should go for.
Those solutions are also called compromises. They can be self compromising, or compromising with others. Meeting these compromises will defeat any sort of clash and conflict your values have on each other, creating a sort of inner peace with yourself.
Now that you know what kind of solution you must find, you have to figure out HOW to find it.
There are many ways to find a solution to a problem. The best way to do this is to first:
Take a deep breath.
Next, point out the problem and make sure it is crystal clear. You don’t want to view something else as the problem where it is not. Joe is not a rotten or evil person, he just disagrees with you and thinks tax money should go to the elderly. Your neighbor is not evil either, they just do not have the time to mow their lawn to increase your property value. And your cousin is not a pest, they just want to spend time with you but you have no time to spend.
Now, do something you enjoy immensely. Do it as a sort of meditation. If you enjoy cooking, go and cook. Make yourself some “frustration” brownies or “problem” cookies. If you like to play chess by yourself, then move that bishop to queen’s 4. Do you enjoy swimming? Take as long of a swim as you want. While you do these hobbies and activities that you so much love, keep the problem out of your head for as long as you can while you’re doing the activity. You can’t ignore it forever, but do so for that time.
After you feel that you have ignored the problem for as long as you can, or until you have finished your activity and you’re sitting at a table with a big fat smile on your face, review the problem again.
Hopefully, the solution will come forward. Remember, it’s the one that has both your religious and personal values. If you cannot find the solution, then rinse and repeat the steps.
Your solutions should be clear to you now, they should be welcoming and warm… and the greatest solution ever!
Ask your neighbor if you can mow their lawn for them. They most likely wouldn’t mind.
Go and hang out with Joe, just to talk about other things and maybe get a slice of apple pie.
Call your work and call in sick. You’ve done it before last year.
Your solutions have come and you have acted upon them.
Your neighbor is filled with joy as you mow his lawn and he doesn’t have to lift a finger to do it.
Joe tells you that every week he buys food for the homeless shelter and even volunteers there to feed and clothe the homeless. He may not have any children or grandchildren, but he certainly takes care of those in need still.
Your boss falls for your call! You’re free! Go bowling with your cousin! Have fun!
Your compromises have worked. Just think about what you would’ve done if you didn’t compromise.
You would’ve been a few hundred dollars short when selling your house. You would still disagree with Joe and think he’s a stubborn old man. Your cousin would have left disappointed that they couldn’t spend time with you.
I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.
So the next time you are faced with a problem, figure out your personal and religious values, meditate by doing what you love, reflect on the problem, and find the compromise. You’ll be happy with what you came up with.
And that is how you can be a UU and You at the same time.