Category Archives: Self-forgiveness

To Learn to Love Ourselves

“There is luxury in self-reproach.  When we blame ourselves, we feel no one else has a right to blame us.”  — Oscar Wilde

Just as we don’t have the right to judge someone else, we don’t have the right to judge ourselves.  Our unhealthy script in the past was that when we did something we felt ashamed of, we judged ourselves guilty.  All too often, we then punished ourselves. Was that behavior an expression of our shame and sadness because of our defects? Punishing ourselves won’t stop our unhealthy behaviors; loving ourselves will.

We are grateful that our growth in our emotional health has taught us the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt lets us feel remorse and sadness when our actions violate our values.  Guilt helps us know when we’ve acted badly; shame tells us we are bad.  Guilt gives us a way back to ourselves through making amends; shame leaves us hopeless.  To give in to shame and self-hatred only harms us and intensifies the power of our unhealthy behaviors.  There is a better way, and that’s to learn to love us.

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Omnipotent and Ageless: Your Majesty the Baby

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“In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us.”  — Rilke

Too often we imagine life as sort of a magic carpet ride taking us wherever we wish to go.  Perhaps we’re watching television and an ad hooks into some fantasy we have in our mind and convinces us the world is at our beck and call.   We are omnipotent again, just as we were in infancy – “Your Majesty the Baby!”

But what would such a “magical” life yield in terms of change and growth?  Why would we even bother to strive if we could have everything we want or crave?  We would be the same at age fifty as we were at thirty and fifteen and five months – “Your Majesty the Baby!”

We need change and for the most part a majority of us are able to welcome it, even if change means some difficult growing pains.  With a little guidance from the Universe, we can strive toward an abundance of goodness.  We are omnipotent, but we are not alone.  We are part of a human community, and we can be in touch with that Power which is beyond ourselves.  That is the real miracle!

 


You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

Embracing the New ~ Imbolc

 

“An old error is always more popular than a new truth.” — German Proverb

The Wiccan celebration and ritual for Imbolc is fast approaching February 2nd. Imbolc brings the end of winter and of course a time of great change toward spring. Spring, even here in the desert southwest means new, rebirth, regeneration. I find that I often feel uncomfortable with the new because it causes me to reach out and expand my vision.  This may be painful and I don’t like the pain that comes with change.

My life at times is cozy and gives me a curious kind of comfort and reassurance.  When lonely or anxious or hopeless, I have at times turned toward unhealthy behaviors.  I am used to it and don’t need to do much to keep on going in the same old way.

Suddenly, I have seen the error of my ways.  Discovery, disgrace, legal issues, isolation, despair, the loss of a partner, the contempt of friends – all possible consequences of that cozy, complacent turn to my old behavior.  Yes, I may have awakened one day to find that my old behavior ruined my life!  This awareness has caused me to begin reaching out for the hard process of change.

Making difficult change is painful, but that pain is preferable to the agony caused by the inevitable outcome of unhealthy behaviors.


I am a Unitarian Universalist

 

Spirit of Life

“Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.”

Singing the Living Tradition Hymn #123

 

I consider myself to be a part of one of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations here in Phoenix, Arizona and plan to become more involved on a regular basis after I get settled in Tucson, Arizona when I move there this March. When I make mention to people inquiring what “church” I attend, and tell them I am a UU, the response is most often, “Oh yeah, sure; I’ve been to a Unity church before.”  Unity and Unitarian Universalism are not the same at all.

I was raised as a Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and in 1979 when I came out to family, friends and my church community, it was made very clear that I was no longer welcome “In God’s house” by my minister.  Thus began a spiritual drought for me which lasted until 1984.  That is, until one of my employees and I became close; close enough to discuss religious affiliations and beliefs.  Upon sharing my experience with the Lutheran church, she said to me, “You need to check out one of the Unitarian Universalist churches.”  I did attend a UU congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Easter Sunday.  I was impressed by the sermon challenging the reality of the resurrection.  I have felt truly “at home” in any Unitarian Universalist Association congregation I have attended in the country.

The Unitarian Universalist Association


For many, it is helpful to understand that the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a religious organization that combines two traditions: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. They consolidated into the UUA in 1961.

The UUA roots in North America go back to the independent, self-governing churches of colonial New England that made a covenant to help one another in times of need. In Europe, the UU heritage reaches back to religious and social reformers in England, Poland and Transylvania.

Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to give a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion. Use of “Universe” is seen as a non-judgmental, inclusive term; respecting the choice everyone makes as to his/her higher power.

UU Principles

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in UU congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within UU congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to face powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires one’s ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Welcoming Congregation

As a gay man, one of the most important components of the UU congregation for me is the “Welcoming Congregation” program.  In 1987 the UUA established the Common Vision Planning Committee. This committee found many negative attitudes, deep prejudices, and profound ignorance about bisexual, gay, and lesbian people, which resulted in the exclusion of bisexual, gay, and lesbian people from their churches.  As a result, the Welcoming Congregation program was created to educate its members. Each congregation adapts the program to best meet its goals and each unique situation can bring positive changes to people and congregations.

The Welcoming Congregation Program is a completely volunteer program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. It consists of a series of workshops developed by the UUA. The goal of the workshops is to cut prejudice by increasing understanding and acceptance among people of different sexual orientations. Some of the workshop titles include: How Homophobia Hurts Heterosexuals; Connections to Other Forms of Oppression; Gender Socialization and Homophobia; and Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality. Many congregations offer the workshop series several consecutive times as an adult religious education curriculum open to all members and friends. In some congregations the workshop series (and later the entire program) is sponsored by a Welcoming Congregation Task Force/Committee created for just this purpose, while other congregations sponsor the workshop series through their Interweave chapters.

What it means to be a Welcoming Congregation

Congregations who publicly and successfully welcome bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people have the following qualities:

Includes and address the needs of b/g/l/t persons at every level of congregational life—in worship, in programs, in social occasions, and in rites of passage—welcoming not only their presence, but the gifts and particularities of their lives as well.

Assumes the presence of b/g/l/t people and celebrates this diversity by having inclusive language and content in their worship.

Fully incorporates the experiences of b/g/l/t persons throughout all programs, including religious education.

Includes an affirmation and nondiscrimination clause in UU by-laws and other official documents affecting all dimensions of congregational life, including membership, hiring practices, and the calling of religious professionals.

Engages in outreach into the b/g/l/t community in its advertising and by actively supporting b/g/l/t affirmative groups.

Offers congregational and ministerial support for union and memorial services for b/g/l/t persons and for celebrations of…family definitions.

Celebrates the lives of all people and welcomes same-sex couples, recognizing their committed relationships, and equally affirms displays of caring and affections without regard to sexual orientation.

Seeks to nurture ongoing dialogue between bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and heterosexual persons and to create deeper trust and sharing.

Encourages the presence of a chapter of Interweave.

Affirms and celebrates b/g/l/t issues and history during the church year.

Attends to legislative developments and works to promote justice, freedom, and equality in the larger society.

Speaks out when the rights of bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people are at stake.

Celebrates the lives of all people and their ways of expressing their love for each other.

Confronting prejudices in a non-judgmental, non-threatening group allows the exploration of their origins and offers an opportunity to replace those prejudices with knowledge. Understanding prejudices leads to personal spiritual growth and congregational unity.

The Flaming Chalice


A flame within a chalice (a wide-lipped stemmed cup), like that which you can see at the top of this blog, is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith.  At the opening of Unitarian Universalist worship services, many congregations light a flame inside a chalice. This flaming chalice has become a well-known symbol of the denomination. It unites its members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of their work.

Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II.   To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love.  Unitarian Universalists today have many different interpretations of the image. To many, the cup represents religious community, while the flame represents ideas including the sacrificial flame, the flame of the spirit, and more.

The flaming chalice image has changed many times over the past 65 years.  There is no single interpretation of today’s flaming chalice symbol.  Modern chalice designs often join two overlapping circles which, for many people, represent our Unitarian and Universalist heritages.  Other images include added elements, some of which are merely decorative and others which are very meaningful.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the chalice in UU congregations please visit http://www.uuworld.org/ideas/articles/2442.shtml

Spiritual Life

I began this blog with my favorite UU hymn, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  It is UU Doxology, or perhaps the UU “Amazing Grace.” Many congregations sing it every Sunday, or at least enough to know the words by heart. Sermons have been devoted to this one song.

In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central to our faith—compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

 

Integrate Healthy Sexuality Into Life

Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation.  The other eight are unimportant.”  — Henry Miller

Henry Valentine Miller (December 26, 1891 –– June 7, 1980) was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms, developing a new sort of novel made up of autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association and mysticism, one that is distinct always about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller, and yet is also fictional. His works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring. Henry Miller also was known to write travel memoirs and essays of literary criticism and analysis.

It is good and healthy to laugh about sex – as long as the laughter is on the side of life.  Sex, after all, is part of the life force, and if it is surrounded by caring and honesty, it leads to a joyous intensification of our relationship with others and with the world.  Then sex, like laughter, integrates.

Too often, laughing about sex betrays uneasiness, shame, disgust, and the want to hurt.  We talk about “dirty jokes” and consign sex to the bathroom.  We split off sex from other feelings and surround it with taboos and rituals and mockery.  Viewed in this way, sex isolates us.

We need to learn to talk about our sexuality in a proud and affirmative way. Talking and laughing in a group, or with a friend, or with a loved one, is one of the steps we take to bring sex into the open to take its place as part of the diversity of life.  Own your sexuality.  Talk about it without shame and claim it a vital part of life.

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Interpreting the Runes ~ Berkana ~ Beorch ~ Birch Tree

“The Birch, though fruitless sends out countless shoots; leafy branches, high-crowned, reach to the sky.” — Old English Rune Poem

This rune is a fertility symbol, drawn to resemble a woman’s breasts.  In ancient Viking times, the birch was regarded as the tree of fertility and the act of being lightly whipped with birch twigs was supposed to promulgate vigor and vitality!  The people of Scandinavia still hold this belief; after a sauna people are encouraged to roll around in the snow and then made to endure a lashing with a bundle of birch twigs. The Phallic maypole that was traditionally danced around, heralding in Spring and new life, was usually made from birch. The appearance of Berkana in a reading clearly points toward inception; whether of a child, a project or perhaps a new idea.

Berkana is rather auspicious. Yet  because it represents the mother, and by implication the child, there is an element of “nourishment” associated with it.  Even if the rune is essentially beneficial the new project will need the same kind of feeding or succour as an infant would. Success will not come on its own without some nurturing; effort and attention will be required.  This may explain the duality associated with the birch tree, the “fruitless tree,” implying that all is not as it seems and that success will be achieved only through authentic and genuine application.

Berkana Reversed

Reversed, Berkana becomes a symbol of sterility, implying difficulties and miscommunication, especially on the domestic front. Perhaps a desired pregnancy will prove impossible, or a current pregnancy be terminated. Alternatively, Berkana can point to worries over children, especially in terms of health. The surrounding runes always point to a clearer picture. A reversed Berkana is not particularly malign of itself and requires more ruthless runes to imply any real trouble, while helpful runes definitely reduce the situation.

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Ask for Help

 

“Asking for help does not mean we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.” — Anne Wilson Schaef

I’ve received a lot of help lately. Most from my dearest friend and some from people I never imagined I would receive so much of their time or efforts.  I don’t like to ask.  I’ll spend more energy talking about how hard it is for me to ask, than the energy I’d expend simply asking for what I need.

Many of us may have grown up in isolation and with shame being constantly reinforced the way I did.  Help began to feel like a luxury reserved for other people.  I thought I didn’t deserve it.   I thought I should be able to handle everything.  I failed to realize just when I needed help, because I’m so accustomed to living life in a “crisis mode.”  I tell myself that my concerns and problems aren’t important enough to bother somebody with.  Then, when life becomes really complicated, I blame myself for feeling overwhelmed and almost unable to act.

But we all deserve help.  We deserve all the help that we may want and need, whether it’s a ride to an appointment or for someone’s shoulder to cry on when we’re sad or upset.  We are worth the time, effort and concern of others – not because any of us is different, but because we are the same.

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Procrastination

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“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.” –Katharine Hepburn

I have deadlines in my life that I must meet. Don’t we all? There are bills to pay, appointments to make, responsibilities at work or home, kids, pets, school and all the innumerable small markers that push life forward.

When I realize that I’m procrastinating I need to be committed to not shaming myself. Procrastination does not indicate failure. How realistic would it be if we looked forward to doing unpleasant things? It’s human to avoid what we’d rather not be doing.

I find that as I free myself from the burden of perfectionism, I’m free to better accept my responsibilities. Meeting deadlines as well as we can, one at a time, has a pay off in serenity and manageability of life. When we’re crisis ridden, we’re forced to live by other individual’s demands, rather than our own choices.

So, in the face of procrastination, forgive yourself, laugh at yourself, live fully in the present and keep going. After all, tomorrow can be better than yesterday.

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Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

 

“Kindness it is that brings forth kindness always.” –Sophocles

 

“That guy on Facebook is being a total ass to me today.”

“What the fuck is her problem?  Did you see how that woman just looked at me?”

“That is so fucked up!  What’s wrong with this world?”

— Mark on a bad day.

 

“Bitch, bitch, bitch. That’s all you seem to be doing today” my friend Scott said to me; after listening to me spew negativity for a bulk of one morning together. His words got my attention.  Why would I blame the world, when it’s me that is out of sorts?

Life after all, is neutral.  It is our moods and attitudes that affect our view of things and the responses we receive.  If we are seeing life through the dark glasses of downheartedness, then we can’t blame the world for seeing grim.

I know that when I’m at ease with myself and feel at home in my life, other people seem friendly and serene.  A smile begets a smile; the simplest greeting elicits a friendly response.  And when I’m considerate to a neighbor or friend; it sets good deeds in motion.  Kindness is contagious.  I really do believe that it is kindness and love that make the world a brighter, better place.



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