|First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor|
Why was I holding back? Indeed, why does anyone hold back from entering into or committing to a community?
And people do hold back. Organizational memberships in all sorts of organizations are down. People are passionate about political causes but don't join organizations. Church membership is declining. We talk about the "Spiritual But Not Religious" and the religiously unaffiliated as a growing group. Yet a majority of those who identify themselves as one of the "nones" still believe in God. Maybe they just don't want to join anything.
He noticed that in the advice columns there were more letters asking when and how to get out of a relationship than how to get into one. I verified this fact in the advice columns in the Boston Globe.
This was the clue that led him to conclude that it was fear of ending relationships and being unable to get out of communities that motivated our caution about entering into them.
I connect this with the concept of self-differentiation: ability to stay in relationship when differences arise. Edwin H. Friedman calls it self-differentiation, but Francis David said long ago when he said that "we need not think alike to love alike."
William Ellery Channing calls it having a "Free Mind" and self-possession. His inspired articulation of the free mind is a part of a sermon called "Spiritual Freedom" (1830) in which he equates freedom with self-possession. Today we say that freedom is self-determination. And that freedom is essential to having the confidence to make deep connections.
To put it simply, although we are embedded in many relationships and communities already, we can make a conscious commitment to them only when we are confident in our ability to manage our selves in those relationships. Without self-possession, our choices seem to be only enmeshment or independence. Enmeshment is being over-committed and feeling obligated by the relationship, unable to say no to other's demands, being dominated by the community, losing one self in a group. Independence is just that, staying independent of the relationship, and missing all of its benefits of shared purposeful work, friendship, support and love.
My message is that you probably already have the skills and resources to manage your self in relationships and community. When I think about it, of course, my caution about entering into a new congregation is an ingrained habit that I carry around with me.
As A. A. Milne writes:
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.