Sunday, August 21, 2011

I know it's healthy to be...

self-critical, but sometimes when I'm reading UU blogs, I get really tired of the seemingly endless litany of what Unitarian Universalist congregations and ministers and establishments and laity and officers and Boston and the hymnal and worship practices and general philosophy/theology are doing wrong.

As if the world weren't hard enough on us already, we pile on even more self-critique. We're pitifully small, we're confused about our message, we ministers need to be more careful about what we say and do and wear, we're elitist, classist, aging, not growing, you name it---we're guilty of it.

And much of this self-critique is true! But sometimes I just want to scream "People, we're human, we're not perfect, deal with it!"

It seems to me that all the self-critique we put out there, particularly in blogs where we are self-editing, is a kind of self-flagellation, where we beat our breasts and publicly apologize for being imperfect. It seems to me that we lack collective self-esteem and feel a need to beat ourselves up for not saving the world faster, more efficiently, more perfectly, and able to convert others to our way of doing things.

When I was working with middle school kids, the hardest one to work with was the kid who was constantly complaining about his/her own imperfections and apologizing for every mistake, as though it were a criminal offense. That kid needed me to help him/her see his/her strengths, take some pride in his/her skills and successes.

The next hardest was the one who complained constantly about others' imperfections, pointing out all the mistakes others made, even though his/her performance was not exactly stellar. That kid needed to focus on his/her own performance, not that of others.

Self-critique is a good thing but it can be more discouraging than encouraging. And it's really boring after awhile. So here I am, being one of those who critiques others rather than my own performance. There's such an aura of sanctimony about self-critique sometimes. I think that's why it bothers me so much.

And yet here I am, being sanctimonious about sanctimony elsewhere. Sorry---I am a worthless worm today. Tomorrow may be better.

19 comments:

Sharon Wylie said...

Amen, amen! I agree with every word. "Self-flagellation" is how I think of it too.

Robin Edgar said...

:But sometimes I just want to scream "People, we're human, we're not perfect, deal with it!"

But that is the problem Rev. Ketchum. At least from where *I* stand, Unitarian Universalists abjectly fail, and worse even obstinately refuse. . . to properly "deal with it" when U*Us in general, and U*U ministers in particular, behave in a "less than perfect" manner. The Emerson Avenger blog would not exist if U*Us responded in *responsibility* to the Spirit of my very truthful and valid "critique" of internal injustices, abuses & hypocrisy.

In fact, many of my post April 2010 blog posts would not exist, or would at least take a very different form, if the UUA Board of Trustees had responsibly dealt with what I had to say during the April 2010 UUA Board of Trustees meeting. Instead of responsibly dealing with the serious concerns that I respectfully shared with them they totally ignored me as soon as I had left the proverbial building*. The Emerson Avenger blog is nothing if not a virtual monument to UUA negligence. . .


* Being polite here I *could* have used Rev. Peter Morales' "less than polite" description of 25 Beacon Street.

Robin Edgar said...

And it *was* this brand-spanking new TEA blog post that was the Big Fat U*U Straw that broke the proverbial camel's back wasn't it? ;-)

ms. kitty said...

Robin, this skates pretty close to the edge of my preferences for what you share in the comments at Ms. Kitty's. But I'm publishing it. No more, please.

ms. kitty said...

No, it wasn't the straw, sorry.

Robin Edgar said...

What?!!

You're publicly apologizing for *my* imperfection Ms. Kitty? ;-)

Yes it seems that you may have actually posted this blog post a few hours before I wrote that particular TEA blog post. BTW I thought that it skated well beyond the edge of your preferences and figured that you would *probably* treat my follow-up comment as a private message. :-)

Thank you for posting it Kit.

I will not link to any more TEA blog posts here but, in that this blog post overlaps with a lot of my concerns I hope you don't mind if I chime in later on some of your other points, not the least of them being the one about UUs *allegedly* publicly apologizing for being imperfect.

Robin Edgar said...

Private message, or not, your call.

Keep your chin up Kit.

ms. kitty said...

We'll just play it by ear, okay?

Robin Edgar said...

Sounds good to me Kit.

I almost always play it by ear.

Very much a "go with the flow" kind of guy, as some of my parody blog posts should make clear. :-)

A Winston Churchill quote comes to mind here which may be somewhat pertinent to your original post -

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Winston Churchill

ms. kitty said...

I really like the quote, Robin, thanks.

Robin Edgar said...

You're welcome Rev. Ketcham. Feel free to use it in a sermon I am sure Winston wouldn't mind as long as you give credit where credit is due.

I really like it too for reasons that should be fairly obvious. In fact I like the vast majority of Winston Churchill quotes and will probably ever so opportunistically put them to good use sooner rather than later. ;-)

Strange Attractor said...

Yes! Thank you for this post. You have articulated something that I have been struggling to write.

We are not perfect people or a perfect religious movement, but if we don't think we are doing a lot of things right, why are we even in it?

Sue Spencer said...

I really appreciate this post, Kit! Glad to see the blog-watcher on the on-line UU World has republished it.

Congratulations on your retirement decision!

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, SA and Sue.

Robin Edgar said...

:Glad to see the blog-watcher on the on-line UU World has republished it.

Me too! :-)

I think I just might appoint Heather Christensen as the offical Sancho Panza of the Don Quixote of the U*U World. ;-)

Christine Leigh said...

When I first got into blogging, I read the uupdates.net aggregator nearly every day. There was a blog (I won't name it, because that's not nice and I do not think the blogger is active anymore in the blogosphere as either author or commenter) that used to show up a lot. The first few entries that I saw were interesting, because they were critique. It was thoughtful. The author was in seminary, I should note that, so the entries came from a bit more expertise than let's say I'd written them.

After a long slew of critical blog posts and not a nice one, I determined that they must not like anything about Unitarian Universalism. Instead of being a place of conversation of "how can we better ourselves?" the conversation tasted bad, a cacophony of "Here's everything you're doing wrong." No thanks. Not everything is universally bad, and I stopped reading.

ms. kitty said...

I really like your blog, Christine, and read it regularly. Thanks for your thoughts.

Amy Zucker Morgenstern said...

Ms. Kitty, I've been thinking the same thing but have been (cue self-flagellation *grin*) too lazy to write it. You said what I wanted to, and beautifully, so amen.

Peacebang wrote recently about our "terminal uniqueness." The thing that bothers me about the tone of so much of our self-criticism is that it takes the attitude that we are the ONLY denomination in which people don't practice what they preach, the ONLY denomination where the worship is not uniformly deep and inspiring, etc. A quick glance at the Alban Institute's magazine ought to cure that.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Amy. What you say is so true!