Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Principled Commitment: An Adult Program on Building Strong Relationships


Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, nineteenth-century author and speaker, trained as a Unitarian minister

Humility is a virtue that for too long has had a bad rap in our Unitarian Universalist religious movement and society at large. Humility can get associated with weakness, servitude, and acting like an all-around doormat. Such associations, however, do not pertain to the true, healthy kind of humility that we do well to cultivate in our religious and relational lives. Humility is absolutely compatible with worth and dignity. It means recognizing our own finitude — the limits of our individual and collective understandings. As the Reverend Barbara Wells ten Hove reminds us, to be humble is to be open and teachable, and to recognize that we don't know everything and still have more to learn. This virtue is truly a gift in our relationships, as it is a gift in our religious lives.

In this workshop, participants will discuss what makes humility difficult and will identify ways to strengthen the foundations of their connections by relating to each other with renewed humility.

Guiding Unitarian Universalist Principle

Second Principle: Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

Too often, relationships are thwarted by power struggles, defensiveness, competition, and gender dynamics. A healthy humility in both partners serves as an antidote to these destructive ways of relating and points the way to mutuality, which is an expression of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

Considerations for Adaptation

The workshop's alternate activities provide a variety of options for exploring the workshop's topics. Based on the interests and needs of your group, as well as your time constraints, you may wish to add them to your workshop or substitute them for some of the core activities. If you decide to use Alternate Activity 2, How We Met, plan to present it early in the workshop. If you use Alternate Activity 1, Faith in Action — UU "Horsemen," be sure to lead Activity 4, Communication Pitfalls, beforehand. Note that Alternate Activity 3, Small Group Discussions on Humility, covers some of the same territory as Activity 3, What Don't We Know?; and conducting both activities may feel repetitive.

You may want to plan a five-minute break during the workshop.


This workshop will:

  • Introduce the concept of a healthy UU humility and explore its application in relationships
  • Engage participants in discussing four types of destructive communication and identifying alternatives
  • Provide opportunities for couples to apply the workshop's concepts to their relationships

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Define humility and discuss its role in healthy relationships
  • Identify common communication pitfalls and strategies to address them
  • Name spiritual practices that can put them in touch with humility