It is easy to say ‘accept yourself’ and ‘love yourself.’ Doing it is something else entirely. For some reason, we have a tendency to be much harder on ourselves than we would ever be with a friend. And because we are so quick to condemn, we feel was must deny or hide away what we see as our imperfections. The first step to self-acceptance and self-love is to be honest with yourself. You have plenty of flaws. We all do! Being flawed is part of being human. Recognise them. Count them. List them. You may find that they seem smaller and fewer when you look at them honestly than they seem when you are busy pushing them away. They seem huge in your peripheral vision but shrink when you look at them head on.Read More
Happiness is not made of pleasure. It is not built by knitting together one pleasurable experience after another. It depends on the development of self-knowledge and self-acceptance. It requires that we become comfortable with ourselves - not in preparation of being a happy hermit but as part of the path to becoming a person who can love others open-heartedly and without losing ourselves. Only when we know and accept ourselves can we find true happiness in a life of purpose, meaning, and deep relationship with other lives.
This week, I hope you will make some time to be alone with your own thoughts. Turn off the music or the podcast. Put away the phone. Put down the book. Sit quietly or walk without distraction. Listen to your own thoughts. Take time to get to know yourself. Take time to grow happy.Read More
A lot of the figures in our culture that we’re supposed to look up to seem to be having a pretty happy life. Celebrities are beautiful and smiling and moving about the world with ease. We don’t see them covered in tearful snot eating crumpets in front of the telly. I’m sure they do though. Even Beyonce.
Remembering not to feel bad about feeling bad is a gamechanger. Knowing that some days all you can do is stay under a blanket and eat crumpets and stick on the telly and watch four more episodes of the Crown, and that’s exactly the right thing to do. Noticing it’s a bad day and gently taking care of yourself. Not adding the ‘woe is me, I shall never be happy again’ layer of self-punishment on the top.Read More
Whether it’s dog toys, cooking gear, shoes, electronics, or whatever, I crave stuff for the burst of happiness it provides and then, when that wears off, I am on the web looking for more and better stuff. In fairness to all of us who turn to stuff and having more and more stuff, we live in a market-driven capitalist economy. If we don’t want stuff the whole system falls apart. And it’s not enough to want one great phone, we have to want the latest phone. We have to want and to want more.
We can come to be happy with the life we live if we are not confronted with how much better some others have it. The challenge, then, is to learn to want what we have - rather than to continually strive to have everything we could possibly want. Even if we could get what we want, it would only make us happy very briefly before that happiness would fade in the face of the next thing or even just boredom.Read More
Meditation, kindness, exercise, helping others, keeping a journal - these are all ways to develop happiness. In the end, working toward happiness involves two complementary approaches: first, making choices that fill your life with meaning, purpose and relationship. And second, cultivating habits of mind and body that enable us to endure hardship without losing our essential happiness.
The ways of approaching these two objectives are many. The paths to enduring happiness are long and require effort, wise decisions and much practice. But the journey is worth taking.Read More
That same world where the people we love eventually die, or can commit ruthless betrayals, is also where someone can look at us as if we’re the only thing on earth that matters to them. The same world where one church can be a place of judgement or abuse is also where another can be a place of support, salvation, and comfort.
Understanding this balance is at the heart of what it means to be joyful. We can’t ignore all the terrible things we experience, and we can’t ignore the wonderful things. We must find a way to reconcile these opposing realities. Our authentic selves, our well-being, and sometimes even our survival depend on our ability to live where joy and adversity overlap.Read More
The question of what we want freedom from is actually the easy one. We can identify many way in which we are constrained and many changes that could make us more free. The harder question to answer is what we want freedom for - what we will do with that hard-won freedom. If you had freedom from financial constraints so you didn’t have to spend your time with earning money, what would your freedom be for? What would you do with your time? Would it make your life satisfying? Would it bring you happiness?Read More
We know from scientific studies that contemplation of your own death causes you to focus more on what are called intrinsic motivations such as relationships, self-growth, and helping others and makes you focus less on extrinsic motivations like fame, wealth, and physical appearance. Contemplating death causes us to focus on those aspects of life that are now well-known to be associated with greater happiness - our connection to others, our potential to develop as human beings, finding purpose in our lives. Death - whether actual or simply contemplated - has a profound way of refocusing our priorities. It turns us toward the aspects of life that bring happiness. I would like to invite you, if you wish, to consider how a greater consciousness of mortality might change how you live your life.Read More
Who among us hasn’t occasionally thought that a relationship wasn’t fair - that you were putting in more than you were getting out? Who hasn’t thought that they do more than their fair share of the caring, the listening, the supporting, the initiating, or the cleaning? Relationship is eroded when everything is about getting the best deal. This corrosive effect has been called ‘commodification’ - the process by which everything - including people - becomes simply an item of trade with a value assigned by the free market.Read More
This talk explores the problematic notion of 'Being a Man'. What does it mean to identify - or be labelled by others - as male? How does it influence that person's self-perception and behaviour? James Arnoldi, founder of New Unity's men's group Not Just a Beard, examines the consequences of being labelled 'a man', as well as exploring his own questions of whether or not to self-identify as one.Read More
The world is bigger than our families. The world calls us to do more than give up everything else to be the best parents we can possibly be. So, if you are a mother, and you are carrying guilt about not being the number one mum in the world, I hope you will recognise that - while important - being a parent is not your only purpose in life. And for all of you, if your mother was less than the ideal mum you might have wished she was, I hope that you will recognise that she was or is human - flawed as we all are. And recognise too that - as important as you are - she was also called to be herself.Read More
There are some fascinating themes in the Purim story. For one thing, the real hero of this story is a woman – Esther. Through her courage and ingenuity, Esther manages to save her people from genocide. Female heroes are not unique in the bible, but they are very, very rare. The story is perhaps even more remarkable because of the one character that is absent. Unlike virtually every other bible tale, one key player does not appear: God. I like that because it is empowering. It seems to me a message that human beings can bring about justice - can save their people - can right the wrongs.Read More
If you feel some level of suspicion or discomfort about people who are different from you, then you are a human being. This is one of the unfortunate ways we are wired - one of the ways that evolution as tribal animals shaped us. It is then reinforced by racism in our cultures. The first step is to watch your own feelings and thoughts as they arise - to be mindful about yourself. This is among the important pieces of work we must each do to become the people we want to be - people who can contribute meaningfully to creating the world we want for ourselves and for the generations who come after us.Read More
Self definition is the key for gender and for sexual orientation alike. Being labelled by others can be oppressive, finding and proclaiming your own name for your specific difference (I say name here not label) can be a powerful and affirming experience. Even wearing a t-shirt saying Weird-o (as is illustrated on our programme today) could be that! It also means that people who are able to announce themselves as Lesbian or Gay or Bisexual or indeed as Asexual, or as a different gender than expected, can find support from their peers. I proclaimed myself lesbian in 1972 and my community changed and affirmed me as well as allowing me to meet partners. When we choose our own labels we are more able to find that support, and it is sweet.Read More
Loving is caring deeply for another’s happiness and well-being so much that you are delighted at their happiness and sad yourself at their disappointments and sorrows. To love in this way involves a profound form of acceptance - a willingness to accept a person for who they are at any particular point in time. This means striving for a compassionate understanding of who what they are going through and why they do what they do. It means a readiness to forgive.Read More
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues published 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Male' and then, five years later, published 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Female'. There was immediate shock and outrage. Kinsey suggested rather than three categories of sexual orientation, there are six.
A continuum is a very beautiful thing. Were we to accept this, life might be a bit more confusing but we would all be so much freer. The possibility for relationships and for love would become unencumbered by the pressure of categories and communities. We could be more ourselves - we could be more vulnerable with one another - we could open our hearts.
We could let our true colours come shining through.Read More
Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a commemoration that was established to remember the horrors of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. We have days like Holocaust Memorial Day to remember and honour the victims, but - more importantly - we set aside times like this so we will not forget the dangers of human cruelty. We stop to remember and study so we can understand better what happened and how we can learn from it. By doing so, we hope that we can prevent such nightmares from taking place again.
If this world is ever to make ‘never again’ more than an empty vow, we need to understand and accept the unwelcome flaws in our nature. The reality is that we are wired to embrace and idealise our own group and to reject and dehumanise others. We are susceptible to simple tools that take advantage of our inherent tendencies - tools like labels and propaganda. And so, if we are to prevent such great horrors and the smaller everyday divisions, we need to recognise the tools of dehumanisation for what they are and raise the alarm early and loudly.Read More
There is no quick solution to the limiting and life-destroying aspects of class bias. It is too deeply entwined in our society and in our own thinking. And yet, each of us, and a community like this one, has an opportunity to do something. It begins simply enough by noticing our first impressions.
We each have slower, more determined, more value-based ways of thinking - ways that are more aligned with who we really want to be and the world we really want to live in. And so, the simplest thing we can do is to judge slowly. Judge thoughtfully. Allow the depth of each person to emerge and overcome the instantaneous label-driven judgement. Look beyond the labels. You might just change lives for the better - including the richness of your own.Read More
The word ‘label’ sounds like superficial thing - a tag that is easy to remove and replace with one that fits better. But our labels go deep. They shape us to fit them. An important answer to the question of how we can deal with our labels and the identities that confine us is community. Radically-inclusive community. A community where we are accepted and loved as we are - a community where others feel joy as we change and offer encouragement rather than condemnation.Read More
Labels can help relationships form when they lead us to conclude that someone is like us. They can prevent relationships when we use them to assume that someone else is too different to approach - when we assume that my label and your label don’t fit. I want New Unity to be always a place where we do the hard work of seeing past the labels people wear - knowing each other for who we really are, rather than how we have been categorized by ourselves or by others. Paradoxically, our labels can help us see past our labels. The labels can be the beginning of conversations rather than the end of one.Read More