This world. This place. This life.

How we believe


I’ve been reading fashion blogs recently, most of them recommendations from my friend and fashion mentor, Strange Attractor.  What I’ve learned from my reading is simply this:  it’s not the what, it’s the how.

Sally McGraw at “Already Pretty” posts photos of her daily outfits, and my reaction to almost every photo is, “I would never wear that.”  But the message beyond the specifics of her choices is that what matters is wearing what makes us feel most confident, what helps us be our best, most world-changing selves.

Over in the UU Growth Lab on Facebook, we’ve had several rousing conversations about the struggle to have both a core identity and diverse beliefs. As I’ve thought about this, rattling around in the back of my mind has been the lesson I’ve learned from fashion:  it’s not the what, it’s the how.  It’s not what we believe, it’s how we believe.

So here’s the beginning of a list of “how” UUs believe.  Feel free to suggest additions–or subtractions.

  • Humility.  As the Rev. Christine Robinson of iMinister has written, “Agnosticism of various stripes is our default theology.”  Whatever our beliefs, no matter how passionately we embrace them, we do so with humility, acknowledging that we might be wrong.
  • Respect. Our congregations covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  As members of UU congregations, we challenge ourselves to respect the worth and dignity of others, particularly of those with whom we disagree.
  • Candor. UUs commit themselves both to speaking and to listening with candor.  We try to speak the truth about our spiritual experiences as clearly as possible.  We try set aside our own experiences long enough to hear the experiences of others without bias or judgment.
  • Commitment. The spiritual path of a Unitarian Universalist does not end at membership in a UU congregation.  The free and responsible search for truth and meaning is a life-long journey, and UUs commit to ongoing learning, wherever the path leads.
  • Courage. Unitarian Universalism is not an easy path.  A popular misconception is that UUs can believe whatever they want to believe. Instead, we are compelled to keep on searching for what it is we truly believe, deep down, in our heart of hearts.  At the same time, we covenant to stay in community with those whose beliefs differ from ours, and we risk unsettling our deeply held beliefs.   Searching for one’s own beliefs, and listening to the beliefs of others, are two practices that require an immense amount of psychological courage.
  • Integrity. UUs reject the hypocrisy of believing one way, and acting another.  We work hard to make sure our words don’t get too far ahead of our actions.
  • Love. When all else fails, UUs try to stand on the side of love. When we can’t figure out what to think or believe, we ask ourselves, “What is the loving thing to do?  How does love inform our beliefs?”

What do you think?  Do you have any suggestions?  “How” do you believe?

6 thoughts on “How we believe

  1. I had not seen Christine Robinson’s writing prior to this post. Thank you for that.

    I’d give a vote of agreement on all counts. Though with the integrity, I’d add a clause of humility. We sometimes fail, and I think a clause acknowledging our humanness there would be appropriate. Of course, failure is not cause not to try, and I think that we aim and strive for that defines us more.

  2. Hi, Christine. Thanks for your addition–I think each of these needs a humility clause–even humility.

  3. Thanks. I’m on a new spiritual journey and in looking for a spiritual home I recently found the UU. I’ve only been to one service so I can’t yet say what if or how I shall fit in,but I’m willing to give it a go. I’ve been doing alot of reading on UUism’s and this post was recommened by a friend. I’m walking my path and where it leads…well…you know. Thanks for this insight,very helpful.

  4. I love it! People get so hung up on the “what do you believe” question, but that really isn’t what unites us as UU’s – and it is a question that frankly doesn’t interest me that much most of the time. I’ve usually fallen back on some sort of phrasing about how, for me, it’s not the answers but rather the questions that are important … but now I’ll add “It’s the How, not just the What”. Love it.

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