In the sixth talk of our Fall Program series based on See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love1 by Valarie Kaur, Rev. Joanne encourages us to “hold onto love.”
During then past five weeks, we have discussed the three legs of the stool of Revolutionary Love – loving “others,” love for opponents, and love for self. This week, as we continue our conversation about love for self, we Kaur tells us that as part of loving ourselves, we must acknowledge our feelings. This includes allowing ourselves to feel negative emotions such as despair or hopelessness, instead of suppressing them, but also to acknowledge positive emotions such as hope and harmony. When we experience any emotion, Kaur tells us, it can be a signal that we are still acting from a place that is less than love.
It is easy to see how negative feelings may indicate we may be not acting from love - anger, jealousy, resentment – for example, can be instructive in this regard. Am I justified in my anger? Is my response to my anger appropriate? Why am I jealous, instead of happy for another? But how can positive feelings indicate that we may not be acting from love? This is harder to see. We may feel happiness, for example, at the misfortune of someone else. We may think, “I am glad so-and-so finally got what they deserve.” We are experiencing “happiness,” but it in such a case it is not coming from a place of love.
Rev. Joanne tells us that when we allow ourselves to experience our feelings, it has the ability to inform us of where our ideas of limitation and separation, and transition to a “birth” of something new. To help illustrate the difficulty that this process can sometimes be, Kaur uses the metaphor of a woman in labor. During the process (I am told, as I certainly do not have first hand experience – smile) during the pain and hard work of labor, a woman may say to her support team – the doctor, nurse, midwife, her partner – that she can’t do it, that she’s too tired. But with those around her, she does get through the process and a new life is born.
Just as the birth of a child is not neat, clean, or without work or pain, so too are most transitions in life rarely without challenges. While we are actually living through a transition, it is only the most spiritually mature person who can say, “gee, I am very glad I am experiencing this because I know on the other side of this I will have learned a valuable lesson and grown as a person as a result.” Yeah, right. I have never had that kind of foresight. But when we are having troubles, we can always become quiet and still, and go within to recognize what is ours to do. This applies to individual actions and collective actions as a family, community or nation.
Rev. Joanne reminds us that every day is a new opportunity, and that we must decide that I have it within me to recognize the transition that is occurring in this moment and asking ourselves what we can do to support an idea of oneness, abundance, and living with one another. She also says that the country goes through a transition every four years. But given the level of division, and even animosity, within our society at the moment we cannot wait for Washington and other politicians to unite us. She asks us to consider the question, “When we see ‘others’ are they actually ‘others’ or simply someone who is a part of me that I do not yet know.” Kaur tells us that an important element of practicing Revolutionary Love is to have a strong sense of justice. Like most spiritual traditions, Unity shares this idea. Rev. Joanne quotes Lowell Fillmore (1882-1975), eldest son of Unity co-founders Charles (1854-1948) and Myrtle Fillmore (1845-1931):
When we are just in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we are making right use of God’s harmonious, loving, good justice and mercy. . . When we join with God in expressing His love, we shall render justice to all persons and conditions in our lives, and by so doing we shall find joy and comfort. As we are just, our justice grows stronger, and we attract justice from God’s great storehouse.2 (click here for text to complete essay.)
Rev. Joanne tells us that we can create the harmony that promotes the practice of revolutionary love by trusting the deep inner wisdom within us. This is good advice, but comes with a built-in paradox. If we are living in a place of disharmony because we are not trusting our deep inner wisdom, how can we trust that we are actually tapping into that wisdom when we were acting from place that we originally thought was our best thinking? When we act or react from an emotional place, we are often not at our best. But when we pause and breathe, we are able to make better decisions. Being in community is an important aspect to achieving this harmony because it provides the support we need to “come back to ourselves” rather than acting rashly. But we must take care in whom we confide. If we associate only with people who are in the same dark place as we are, what we hear from our friends or family may drive us further away from love instead of toward it.
Unity teaches that every person has within them Twelve Powers, or spiritual tools, to help guide us. One of these powers is Wisdom. Unity Minister Winifred Wilkinson Hausmann (1922-2012) writes in Your God-given Potential3:
One of the faculties most prized by Jesus was the gift of wisdom, or spiritual judgment … Always he pointed to the importance of judging by the standards of the higher self, rather than by the example set in the world.
Charles Fillmore referred to the Power of Wisdom and our “judging faculty.” Judgment in this sense does not mean pre-judging a person place or thing. What is does mean is going within to access our true knowing of right and wrong and determining what is ours to do. Rev. Joanne reminds us that our current national situation and our own personal lives have not occurred in a vacuum, but every experience combines to create a whole. We all know we have work to do to help heal our lives, our country and our world. Creating unity often is best achieved by compromise and reconciliation. But sometimes, after going within to access our deepest wisdom, we determine that what is ours to do is not comprise, but resistance. We must take care to be mindful of recognizing in ourselves the appropriate actions in each aspect of our lives.
Rev. Joanne recognizes that our Unity Spiritual Center community has a diversity of opinions. There is strength in such diversity. One thing we in the Unity movement do have in common is our Five Principles. While always aspiring to live into those principles all throughout our lives, in this time of division and transition, it is particularly important that we do so. Rev. Joanne says that our country is ripe for healing. To help facilitate that healing, in the coming weeks Rev. Joanne will be leading a series of four conversations, With Malice Towards None, based on the program created by the organization, Braver Angels. The first conversation will be a forum for those who are pleased with the outcome of the national election; the second for those not happy with the results; the third a conversation between both groups; and the fourth a forum for all to make a commitment of reconciliation and healing. Please visit our website www.unityspiritualcenter.com for more information and times and dates.
We stand on the precipice of a historic opportunity. While the judgment of history should not be a primary motivation for action, the events of 2020 will be remembered for posterity. How future generations view us is less important than how our actions will effect our lives and those around us, now. Let us all know that together we can make a world that works for all.
Now Go and Be the Light.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
This week you will continue the practice of taking time to breathe each day. You will add to this the practice of listening to your deepest practice of listening to your deepest wisdom, the parts of yourself that are wise, brave, and unfailingly loving. Once you have relaxed through the breath you can journal, draw, color, create, or simply meditate allowing for the stillness to quiet the noise in the world as you listen to the wisest voice within you.
1See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love: Kaur, Valarie, Random House Publishing Group, Jun 16, 2020.
2Fillmore, Lowell, Justice is an Expression of God’s Love, Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO. Repeated from Weekly Unity, 1952.
3Hausmann, Winifred Wilkinson, Your God-given Potential: Unfolding Your Twelve Spiritual Powers, Unity Books, 1998.