The following was in the comment section of Facebook in regard to an article in the Washington Post about the racial conflict at our All Souls’ Church in D.C. It is written by a non-UU who has a lot of UU friends. I found it particularly insightful into who we appear to be as a people:
“My observation has been that Unitarians are often intellectuals themselves, sensitive people who deeply desire harmony and reconciliation, but they are also often (of course not always) introverted, even socially awkward people, which is why they are drawn to Unitarianism–it is perceived as a safe place. But perhaps their social awkwardness can make dialogue difficult when the going gets rough, and it makes everybody vulnerable to busybodies or bullies or manipulators (I am not singling out a race when I say that–I am talking about everybody). The introverts become prickly and nervous (raising my hand here!), wanting to do the right thing and say the right thing, but not necessarily knowing how to resolve a burningly painful conflict, which involves participating in drama, which they hate, and admitting to their own anger and internal aggression, which is terrifying.–I am sorry if this sounds insipid, I don’t mean it that way. I believe that Unitarians and people like them (of all ethnicities) are a bridge to a better world, but they have to find a way to be completely honest, including facing their own unconscious prejudices, without burning their bridges to each other.”
Some points from this comment for WUUC as it moves forward:
- Many UUs are introverts – so when the going gets rough, folks will do all they can to avoid conflict.
- We want to do and say the right thing – we are perfectionists asking way too much of ourselves. No one gets it right all the time or even some of the time. It is better to risk and make mistakes than to never venture into uncharted territory that is perceived as being a minefield for our perfectionism.
- None of us was taught how to resolve conflict – UU or otherwise. We don’t want to rock the boat. Yet most times the only way to resolve a conflict is to go through it. Which can be terrifying. It brings up anger and other emotions we are not comfortable feeling and will do almost anything to avoid.
- We have to find a way to be honest with one another. That is not an excuse to let someone else “have it.” It is an invitation to authenticity, curiosity, compassion, understanding, and clarity.
In the field of social change, the phrase, “Calling someone in,” has replaced the phrase, “Calling someone out.” The difference? When you call someone out for a statement or behavior, you can shame them, shut them down, disengage with them. But calling someone in means asking the person to say more, to engage further or at a deeper level or to return to right relationship and continued conversation.
Now, not all UUs are introverts (I, for one, am an unabashed extrovert). Not all of us are socially awkward. But introvert or extrovert, most of us struggle with how to fight fair or be in a conflict and see it through to a resolution. Sometimes we get lost in the blame game which halts any forward movement. What I hope for WUUC in the coming months is that you will practice calling each other in to conversation and community rather than calling one another out.
What you all are about to embark on is sacred work. Engage with it. Remember to have some fun along the way and genuinely enjoy one another. Forgive each other. Have self- compassion. Give yourself over to the community not only through volunteering but by showing up on Sunday mornings expecting nothing, being open to what might happen, and taking away from it what you will. A community that worships together stays together.
That is my wish for you: that you stay together.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,