Can We Actually Meet Everyone's Needs?

four fists meet in the middle

By Annie Gonzalez Milliken

I sat looking around the table at the exhausted religious educators sitting in my white identity caucus small group and wondered what to say. As we moved from processing our experiences as white folks at the fall conference for the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) to figuring out what resources we have for anti-racism work in Unitarian Universalism, the energy shifted. “I’m just worried about how to do this work without alienating people!” “Yes, everyone is in different places, how can I do something that meets so many different needs?”

Well the truth of the matter is we can’t. We cannot do one program that meets everyone’s anti-racism learning needs at once. That sounds sort of like trying to eat, hydrate, sleep and exercise all at the same time. We wouldn’t try to meet all our physical needs at one time, and we can’t meet all our spiritual needs at once either.

So I chose to share a framework with these religious educators that helps me meet my needs as I try to unlearn harmful systems in our society. The framework is pretty simple: I need challenge, comfort, and processing to learn and then I need practice to actually embody and use that learning. In other words I need to be challenged with new ideas, perspectives and real feedback so I can grow, I need space where I can admit that this work is hard and express my feelings about it and I need space to talk through and integrate my learning. Then it’s important to put those new learnings into practice in various parts of my life and continue the cycle. My hunch is that this is true for many folks. And my hunch is that conflict often arises when folks try to get these needs met in spaces that aren’t meant for those needs. This hunch has been confirmed each time I’ve shared the framework with others, especially white folk looking to grow in their anti-racism. When I shared this framework in my white caucus group there was a moment of relief and YES around the table.

I've decided to share this framework more publicly to see if it resonates with others and to hear from you all on how you grow spiritually.
If you’re like “cool, I’m sort of following you, but I need more information” then click on the challenge, comfort, process section to read more.
If you’re like “I think I get the challenge, comfort, process bit, but I’m really not sure how to live my new learnings” click on the practice section.
If you’re like “these ideas are intriguing and I think I understand them pretty well, but want to go deeper” click on the self/community evaluation section.
If you’re like “I love all this and I totally get it and am all set and so is my community” then sweet, that’s amazing, please share your tips and experiences in the comments!
And if you’re like “this is way off base” please reach out or leave a comment. I won’t engage if you’re hateful or troll-y, but otherwise I’d love to hear where you’re coming from.