This year, I will be exploring our Unitarian Universalist Principles which we covenant to affirm and promote. Our Faith Development theme for January is the Third Principle, “ACCEPTANCE of One Another and ENCOURAGEMENT to Spiritual Growth in Our Congregations,” or in our children’s version of the principles, “We Are Free to Learn Together.”
By “acceptance” this principle does not mean accepting the beliefs or ideas of others as your own, as we recognize the value in having a diversity in our communities. It also does not mean “tolerance”, since tolerating someone does not necessarily mean you are recognizing your common or shared humanity with that person.
Acceptance flows out of the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all. It focuses on people in their basic humanity, their dignity and worth, their needs for companionship, growth, love, compassion, and justice. We are capable of accepting someone for their inherent worth without necessarily accepting what they believe or how they act.
Martin Luther King Jr. interpreted the commandment to Love Your Neighbor in this way. You don’t have to like a person, but you do have to show them Love and Acceptance as a fellow unique being or “child of God.”
We realize we cannot make it alone in life, and in the words of Kenneth Collier, “If I reject the preciousness of others, I end up rejecting my own preciousness. If I seek to compromise the integrity of any person, then I will, in so doing, compromise my own.”
If acceptance affirms us as we are, encouragement pushes us toward whom we might become. As we strive for Beloved Community among a diversity of people we must recognize that each of us has different spiritual gifts and needs. To encourage the spiritual growth of all, means honoring the gifts and needs of all, as well as pushing ourselves to live into the call to make a more just and peaceful world. The word “encourage” literally means to put courage or heart into another. How can you encourage others? Consider this idea from Carolyn Owen-Towle.
“Think of yourself as a mirror reflecting someone’s image back to them. What do you see in them that you can affirm? When you notice a strength, an accomplishment, an insight—tell them, as accurately as you can. We cannot run around encouraging everyone all the time. But neither should we miss an opportunity when we see it.”
Yours in Faith,
Rev. Michelle Yates