Friday, 2 March 2012

Looking out or looking in

There has been a discussion on the closed Unitarian Facebook about whether our spiritual focus should be on us as a community or should have a more outward focus. I guess that my most fundamental question would be - if I belong to a faith community and I am expected to nourish others then where do I get my spiritual nourishment from? I write this as a compulsive giver. A compulsive giver who is worn out. A compulsive giver who reckons that she has to stop and accept nourishment from others - to be self-focused.

Maybe I should channel all my giving through my faith community but I don't.  I have been involved in volunteering for over three-quarters of my life.  It is a well-embedded compulsion! I probably spend two days a week on voluntary activity - as a minimum.  I write business plans, newsletters, maintain websites etc etc. What I want my faith community to do is to give me permission to stop - to walk with me as I recognise a harmful pattern of behaviour, as I try to change my approach to one of greater balance.

And here's the key - it's not about looking outwards or looking inwards, it's about the needs of the community and achieving balance. My experience of Unitarian faith communities is that they are full of doers.  Those people who volunteer, work unpaid overtime, care for family friends and neighbours, give their money to charities and generally try to be good citizens. It is not always about outreach sometimes it really is about healing ourselves. That may be seen as selfish. When we eat our dinners do we eat guiltily and nervously thinking that we should be feeding a hungry person rather than ourselves?  This is what it feels like.  It feels like I should feel guilty about wanting spiritual nourishment.

We cannot function as a faith community if everyone in that community is malnourished.  The function of a spiritual community is to provide spiritual nourishment. This world has plenty of opportunities to give of ourselves to others, sometimes it is perfectly OK just to do things for ourselves.

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