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a pair of glasses sits on a notebook with writing
How are we doing?
How are we doing?

While it is easy to write clearly in a blog post about how challenge, comfort, processing and practice are different, life is more complex. Sometimes one person thinks a space is for their processing, but here comes somebody else with a challenge. Sometimes we’re trying to get comfort and the other person goes into processing mode. Sometimes we say we’re practicing justice when really we’re getting our challenge needs met to grow. Sometimes we show up to practice but we haven’t gotten our processing needs met and we’re not ready.

Real life is messy. So take a moment and think. Maybe get out a piece of paper or open up a spot to type on your computer and take some notes.
Where are you currently getting your challenge, comfort and processing needs met? Who are the people, what are the spaces and communities, what are the resources that support you in each of these needs?
If there are needs that are not getting met, where could you meet them? Do you need to find or start an identity caucus group in one of your communities or online? Do you need to seek out a mentor? Do you need to deepen a friendship? Do you need to sign up for a training?

Then think through the practices.
How do you practice your unlearnings personally? What practices could you add?
How about interpersonally?
What roles can you use to dismantle oppressive systems in your family, work and communities, and depending on your identities, what are the costs or barriers?
Lastly, what movements are you part of or do you support? If you feel disconnected, how can you plug in? If you want to deepen your participation, what’s the next step?

Then take another moment and think about any communities you feel responsible for.
Do you notice patterns of conflict around unmet needs?

I often notice conflict arising within Unitarian Universalism when folks try to process their learning from their privileged identity in a diverse space. For example, a man will bring his processing needs about patriarchy to a multi-gendered space, or a white person will bring their processing needs about white supremacy to a multi-racial space. Then when the inevitable challenge occurs, it is met with defensiveness or anger and things devolve from there. Sound familiar?

There may be other important patterns in your community. Maybe folks are so action oriented they never slow down to process, or maybe they’re so into processing they never actually practice. Maybe they’re so into challenging each other that they never seek comfort, or maybe they all retreat away into comfort and are afraid to show up for challenge. How might you support your community in shifting these patterns? Can you create a sub-group, help clarify the purpose of a particular space or gathering, offer clear paths to action, connect folks who might benefit from a deeper relationship?

The better we are at meeting our unlearning needs in appropriate ways, the better we’ll be at dismantling harmful systems. In these times, when the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that undergirds our country is now embodied by our President and other leaders, when harmful policies and practices are intensifying all the time, we must be at our best. We must commit fully to this work. Our spirits and our lives depend on it.

About the Author

  • Annie grew up Unitarian Universalist (UU) in central Illinois and has enjoyed being engaged in various aspects of UU life in Minnesota, New York, California and now Massachusetts. As an ordained minister she currently serves our faith by supporting young adult ministry , campus...

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For more information contact ya-cm@uua.org.