Minister's Post, Sun Jun 21

Dear Ones:

Sexual ethics isn’t just ethics for people in sexual relationships. Sexual ethics also includes obligations that everyone in a society bears to affirm for its members as sexual beings. There are claims of respect that all of us are called to honor – respect for the many forms that human sexuality may take. “Single or married, gay or straight, bisexual or ambiguously gendered, old or young, abled or challenged in the ordinary forms of sexual expression, they have claims to respect from the wider society.”

The ethic of Just Love requires not only that we bring certain principles to our own romantic and intimate relationships, but that we participate in making a society that honors and respects romantic and intimate relationships.

The principles of justice do not stop at the bedroom door. In fact, they go through that door in both directions: entering to inform the sexual encounter, and, strengthened and affirmed there, exiting to inform all our relations.

Justice, as Cornel West said, is what love looks like in public. Recognizing, however, that love can take corrupted forms – can be manipulative, domineering, and abusive -- we need to add that love must look like justice in private.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit
Recent past services:
Apr 5: "Taking Care, Giving Care." TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 12: "Traditions of Liberation." TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 19: "What's Your Great Vow?" TEXT. VIDEO.
Apr 26. "Attending to the Indigenous Voice" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 3. "Transforming Your Inner Critic" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 10. "There Is No Try" TEXT. VIDEO.
May 31. "Presence in the Midst of Crisis" TEXT. VIDEO.
Jun 7. "Vision" TEXT. VIDEO.
Jun 14. "Just Love." TEXT. VIDEO.
Also find these videos, as well as videos of many other past services, at our Youtube channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Remember, Faultfinding Makes People Worse

Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these slogans, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.

If something is bad, it’s bad. Don’t make it worse. If someone is a difficult, troublesome person, don’t make the person worse. Don’t elaborate the person’s many faults, and don’t begin acting toward xir in such a way that those very faults will become even more severe. The opposite idea is much better: without expecting someone to be any better than he or she is, act toward the person in a way that would minimize rather than maximize the problems.

It typically happens this way: someone is nasty or difficult because xe has an (actual or metaphorical) injured limb. Naturally xe is going to act like someone with an injured limb, and this is going to cause almost everyone to look at xir and say, “You’re a really terrible person.”

Usually we won’t say this to the person directly, we’ll say it to one another, and even then it might not be direct. It may be subtle, in jokes or offhand remarks.

Even if the person never directly hears what others think of xir, xe will surely get the message strongly enough. Now the injured person recognizes, “Oh, look at the way everyone treats me. I guess I really am a terrible person. I will show them something. You thought that was bad so far? How about this!” Thus bad behavior and bad self-view are reinforced, build upon themselves, and what was bad to begin with becomes worse and worse.

The way we treat injured people is very natural and logical, but the logic is essentially faulty. Instead of noting that a terrible person is terrible and, based on this, treating him as if he were terrible, it would be much better to treat the person with tremendous kindness exactly because xe is so terrible.

We think it is natural, and emotionally true, to be kind and sweet to people who are kind and sweet and to be terrible to terrible people. But it should be just the opposite. If we have to be denigrating and mean, it is better to be denigrating and mean to kind, sweet people, because it probably won’t bother them so much; or if it does bother them, it won’t ruin them completely, because they are already kind and nice, and although they may be somewhat hurt by our disrespect, it probably won’t ruin their character.

If we are kind and sweet to someone who is terrible and who, because of being terrible, is conditioned to being treated that way, our kindness might change xir. It might surprise xir or even shock xir into better behavior.

Faultfinding makes people worse. This applies to yourself, too. If you believe you are a terrible person, and you treat myself like a terrible person, you'll become more and more terrible.

Don’t make everything so painful. When things are painful with other people or within your own mind, try to identify the actual pain and the actual problem. Then focus on that. Try not to elaborate on it with complaining or a proliferation of thinking or words and deeds that will make it worse.

Adapted from Judith Lief, "Don't Bring Things to a Painful Point"

We all have lots of faults, and it is easy to get caught up in dwelling on them. It is easy to see all the things that are wrong about everyone and everything else as well. We may feel that we are doing somebody a favor by pointing out to xir where they fall short, convincing ourselves that we are only doing so for xir own benefit. But focusing on people’s most vulnerable areas, their most painful points, can undermine their confidence and their ability to go forward. Likewise, focusing on our own faults can be equally discouraging.

What happens with this focus on the negative is that our critical attitude becomes so entrenched that we can only see what is wrong, and we become blind to what is right. By finding fault with others, we may feel good about ourselves in comparison. But in order to keep feeling good, we need to keep finding new targets for our faultfinding, in order to shore ourselves up. Deep down we do not trust ourselves, so we need to keep convincing ourselves in this way.

According to this slogan, instead of pouncing on people’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities, we should be providing encouragement and support for their strengths. That is what we should notice and point out, not just what is wrong. The idea is that it is more skillful to encourage positive qualities than to criticize what is negative. With this approach, we are not using others to heighten our own confidence nor are we undermining other people’s confidence by reminding them of their inadequacies.

Practice. Notice the quality of faultfinding, which can take place on a light level or on a more going-for-the-jugular scale. When you find yourself caught in this pattern, notice your motivation. When you have difficulty with a person, can you see beyond xir faults? Can you find a positive potential to build on, even if it seems small?

* * *

Moment of Zen: Impermanence

Brains were made for keeping us alive. Their capacity to imagine the future is for helping us mentally rehearse potential future situations so that we will more effectively cope, in the event something similar were to happen. It can't imagine nonexistence because its imagination exists solely to prevent nonexistence. Thus, it can only visualize situations with us -- or people we might have to deal with -- existing in them.

Through many spiritual practices, including Zen, one may come to apprehend that the self is the world. This is not imagining or visualizing, not a preparation for an eventuality of becoming the world, nor a preparation at all. It's just recognizing the fact that one's self comprises all of reality. Thus, the one who visualizes "your" futures will someday cease, but the self will continue in all its multitudinous other forms: ants, sticks, grizzly bears -- mountains, rivers, stars.

If this doesn't make sense, try being pensive beneath a starry sky for a while.

One night, under the starry sky, the circle was quiet and members seemed pensive.
Badger broke the silence and said, "You know, I can't visualize myself expiring completely."
Raven said, "A ghost."
Badger said, "Even ghosts are impermanent, aren't they?"
Raven said, "Take care of your miseries now, and they won't abide."
The one who attends to misery --
My inner Kannon hearing the cries of the world --
Gathers anguish up -- a curious burden
that buoys as it freights,
and liberates as it compels --
Smelts it and blends it into my mettle.
Alloyed gold
Is more durable than the pure stuff.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC News

E-Shrine of Vows

Check out our electronic CUUC Shrine of Vows: CLICK HERE. Eventually, these will be printed out and incorporated into a physical display. For now, draw inspiration from your fellow Community UUs by seeing what they have vowed. If you're vow isn't included, please email it Rev. Meredith at minister@cucwp.org

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