Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Doing good and feeling good can be two different things


Yesterday, at the church I used to go to, a faciltator from the district came to help people assess and reflect on the recent departure of several members including myself from the church.

There was a discussion about "healing", about our love for one another, about our all being a family. Some tears were shed because loss is painful, some mild anger expressed, and then nothing. Time was up.

I felt like I was in a therapy group. I didn't go there for therapy, I went there to problem solve. Maybe I am a typical male who likes to fix things while other people need to process their feelings. I am a therapist, have been for 40 years, so I try to attend to both, and this meeting was high on feelings and very light on problem solving.

Maybe this is what people needed and I am out of sync, but if Unitarian Universalism is to survive, especially in the small community of this church, it needs to get past its narcissism and get to work and I saw little evidence of an interest in doing that.

There is a danger in Unitarian Universalism of being too self indulgent, too self serving, too much about individual feelings and sensitivities. Maybe it isn't just about us, it's about the world. Maybe God is calling us to do some serious work and whatever our personal sensitivities might be, we have to suck it up in order to accomplish some mutual goals about how to achieve the common good.

Personally, after this meeting, I am more pessimistic than ever, not because these aren't good people, who don't mean well, who I don't love. I am pessimistic because I don't think they are going to get their act together and that requires more than just doing things that make us feel good. As Dr. Laura says, "Doing good and feeling good are often two different things."

7 comments:

  1. I'm not Jewish myself, but one of the things I've always admired about Judaism is the emphasis on doing good works -- not randomly or when you feel like it, but as a practice. Jews believe that our actions in the world are more important than faith, and given that we're socially interdependent, we're commanded to "repair the world." Ultimately, that commitment to action nurtures faith. In essence, by acting, the “feeling good” part takes care of itself. But it all starts with action, problem-solving, trying to "fix" things.

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  2. Hi Kelly:

    Thanks for your comment. Christians too have argued for centuries whether it is by faith or works that a person is "saved."

    Of course, as UUs we as much as say, "Believe whatever you want, but it these principles which we agree are important guides for life and relationship." So, I think that UUs probably fall on the side of works too.

    And just as a practical person, I am more interested in what you do rather than what you say. And as UUs we tend to forget that doing nothing is doing something.

    As I learned in the 60s, a person is either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. People who "cop out" are often part of the problem in that it leaves the status quo intact.

    All the best and thanks for your comment,

    David Markham

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  3. David, I'm glad you went; I'm sorry the meeting wasn't very productive. I'm not yet ready to burn all bridges and I hope, although don't really expect, that PMUC could be renewed and reinvigorated. That hope peaked when you and several others attended the workshop on growing our congregation and we were about to sign on a new minister. Hope has now ebbed, but maybe not completely lost. Let's hang in awhile. Feelings do have to be aired before people feel like doing more.

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  4. Very well said David.

    I especially liked this-

    "I felt like I was in a therapy group. I didn't go there for therapy, I went there to problem solve."

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  5. Are you sure you're not a "miracle worder"? ;-)

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  6. "As I learned in the 60s, a person is either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. People who "cop out" are often part of the problem in that it leaves the status quo intact."

    Couldn't have said it better myself. I hope you don't mind if I "plagiarize" this. ;-) Actually I will happily give a little honest attribution if I use your words.

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  7. Well I went ahead and "plagiarized" you David.

    Please have a look and let me know what you think, either as a comment on that "less than diplomatic" blog post or privately and confidentially by email at -

    robinedgar59@yahoo.ca

    Best Regards,

    Robin Edgar

    P.S. Anyone else reading this is welcome to chime in too.

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