This Religion Will Break Your Heart

It's something I learned in seminary -- I went to one of our two UU theological schools, Meadville Lombard, and attended the other one, Starr King, for one semester.  When you're at a school full of people who want to dedicate their lives to serving our religion, your heart will be broken.  Something will go wrong or toxic or just plain hurtful, and it'll hurt all the more because it happened in a place of love and trust and faith.

It happens again and again in our churches and in our ministry, for congregants and ministers both.  A congregation will behave badly as a system, and congregation members will leave, hearts broken, from pain that the institution they loved could behave so badly.  Ministers will behave badly, too, and people will leave, hearts broken.  And people will stay, hearts broken.

For ministers, we will see colleagues we know and love behave badly.  We will see a friend leave the ministry, forced out by their own misconduct, and our hearts will break.  We will also see friends we love forced out of the ministry for reasons we can't understand, and our hearts will break. 

If you stay in this faith long enough, your heart will be broken.  Somebody you loved and trusted in this faith will do something you think is so hurtful and incomprehensible, so wrong-headed, that it will break your heart.  Or something will be decided that you just can't agree with, and it will break your heart.  And then, if you stay long enough, it will happen again and again. 

That person who has broken your heart still has inherent worth and dignity; they are still worthy of love.

That system that has broken your heart still has important work and worth to our movement.

This faith that you love still is a vehicle for greater love and justice in this world.

Carry on.  Love on.


Anonymous said…
Beautifully written. Thank you. I needed this.
Sue Magidson said…
Thank you for this loving reminder at this time of heartbreak for so many. The one postscript I feel compelled to add, in case it's not abundantly obvious, is that your message is not limited to UUism, or even to religion. In some sense, it's true of (nearly?) any human relationship.
Cynthia Landrum said…
Absolutely true, Sue. A welcome postscript -- it takes the implied and make it plain.
Lori said…
Oh my! Thank you so much for this reminder. I am two years+ into the healing process post traumatic break-up of a system I loved but could no longer participate in. Re-learning to love and trust is a process. Truly embracing the worth of the "other" after conflict (not just giving it lip service) is a spiritual discipline.
Ian Riddell said…
Thank you for this, Cindy. Very meaningful words at a difficult time.
Julie Bohnhorst said…
Thank you Rev. Cynthia - so true.
Off to the Rainbow Rally this afternoon in downtown Brighton. I'm taking our Standing on the Side of Love banner to hang on the gazebo.
There is much to be done.
Florence said…
Thank you! As James Ford wrote, "First your heart will break," and broken-heartedness joins us to the world.
Juanita said…
Well said. I've noticed that when I finally found a place where I was more like the majority than in other places, I grew comfortable and began to believe that I had found a form of UU Heaven. I relaxed and grew complacent. I began to notice that the others around me were acting in ways that began to break my heart. I, like many others in my fellowship, drifted away from my spiritual home. At the same time, my daughters and husband were finding our congregation to be a place of great comfort to them. I slowly began to realize that the congregation was made up of people. Real people. And, moreover, people make mistakes. Some mistakes made by others can break your heart, but, our hearts will remain forever broken unless we act to heal them. In my case, it meant returning to my beloved church home, speaking up, participating, and taking responsibility for what OUR spiritual home was becoming. I can honestly say, our congregation is not UU Heaven, but a wonderful conglomeration of people with varying skill and talent all searching together for a place where they feel more like the majority sometimes for the first time ever. Any place can break your heart. You can break anyone else's heart too. Together, we can heal our collective hearts. Leave if you must. I prefer to stay and be the change.

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