Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too. – Voltaire
We are privileged to live in a society where our freedom of thought and speech are protected and nurtured. The preponderance of websites, blogs (including this one), talk radio, talk shows and the like serves as evidence of our ability to think and speak openly. As Americans we celebrate the ideal of the independent spirit. There is though at least one competing characteristic in our Americanness, our humanness, that can inhibit our most authentic voice, the one that speaks of our personal points of view, our inner most tenets, our deeply held personal values. One characteristic is the desire to belong- to fit in, to be connected with a community. An other is the way in which we express and experience respect for others, and especially when there is a difference of opinion, thoughts or approach.
Wynona, a participant in one of my workshops, tapped into her experience of these competing characteristics and the tension created by this dynamic. Wynona feels a profound need to find a spiritual home for herself and her beloved family (husband and two young children) to ground their family life. She is also seeking for this spiritual home to provide her with additional support as she begins her foray back into the workforce as a fitness professional after spending a noble fours years as a stay-at-home Mom (which incidentally is a more than full time job in my opinion). As she discussed her powerful desire to find a place, a community that would embrace the same ideals held by her and husband, one that would value the need for less stuff in favor of more time and doing, of making memories and demonstrating authentic acceptance of difference, tears slipped out of the corners of her eyes and roll down her cheeks into a tissue. The tears were not a block for her, but rather the release on a lock to her concern.
These tears were a symptom of the pain she was experiencing because as much as she wants to find this spiritual home she has not yet found in it the churches of her youth or adulthood. Wynona and her husband have recently moved back to her hometown and are actively integrating themselves into the community at large. She explained while she respects those community and places of worship she felt she did not fit; they were too traditional in their expression of the various doctrines. She worried that she will always feel as an “outsider”. That her family, her children would lack the mooring that a spiritual practice and community bring to so many other people because they had not found one. Could she possibly be such a non-conformist, what price might she have to pay? Where could she go to find the spiritual home that was the right community for her family?
To the great credit of the group that gathered on that day, they shared with Wynona there are other churches and places of worship in the area and began naming at least a half dozen, including a Quaker group, a Presbyterian Congregation and a Unitarian Church. They group as diverse as they were with their own religious practices and spiritual beliefs, listen, respected and supported Wynona thinking for herself.
Frankly being part of a deeply personal and utterly respectful conversation has been an antidote to the shouting matches that all too often erupt in the media.