The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Did you ever have one of those moments as a child, lying in your bed, trying to get to sleep, when suddenly you began to imagine you were not alone? You convinced yourself there must be a monster hiding under your bed or that the shadow in the corner was some scary creature. If you were brave enough to turn on the light, however, you probably discovered there was nothing under the bed except a few discarded toys and that shadow was just your old coat hanging on the hook.
At this point in our movement, I wonder if we aren’t creating some of our own monsters. Unity teachings invite us to focus on our light and on maintaining positive thoughts, which are profound, transformative practices. However, we sometimes use these same principles to deny our shadow side. We “spiritualize” what we don’t want to face and use positivity to avoid the discomfort of change and conflict. The shadow, as defined by Carl Jung and many others, is that which is hidden, undeveloped, or has been labeled as bad, wrong, or negative, and is out of the light of our conscious awareness. When its existence is denied, our reactions are survival-oriented and we act out as if threatened. When it is acknowledged, understood, and given compassion, it can be the gateway to deeper understanding and greater integrity. Either way it is here for us to deal with—in our lives, our ministries, our organizations, and our world.
One of Unity Worldwide Ministries’ core values is transformation. We, as a movement, hold an intention to be on the cutting edge of spiritual evolution. However, transformation doesn’t always look pretty. Have you ever been to a birth? As a former Intensive Care Nursery nurse I can tell you: They are messy; they never go as planned; and there is a lot of chaos, fear, and tension as it is happening, not to mention plenty of discomfort. If you ask any woman who’s been through the process, I bet she would also tell you that along the way she had doubts and fears, maybe even wanted to turn back, and probably wished there was an easier way. The point is, if you want to create something amazing, it will require your full participation and willingness to experience it all—the good, the bad, and the messy.
We are giving birth to a new way of being in this world and that process is asking us all to go deeper. We must be even more committed to our spiritual practices and to taking responsibility for our actions and reactions. This time is an invitation for each of us to compassionately look at where we have been a part of the problem and discover how we can be part of the solution. Our shadow side can reveal where we need to heal, where we have limited ourselves, and where we have been playing too small. It invites us to find the Presence in the midst of our humanity, not by moving beyond it, but by fully being in it. In her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Debbie Ford says, “We live under the impression that in order for something to be Divine, it has to be perfect. We are mistaken. In fact, the exact opposite is true. To be Divine is to be whole and to be whole is to be everything: the positive and the negative, the good and the bad, the holy man and the devil.”
A movement that has 100-plus years of intentional prayer behind it does not end up at a point in time by accident. We are at the moment our founders were working toward. We are at the precipice of a new world. To get there we must be willing to stand in our discomfort without trying to “fix” it or pray it away. We must be willing to give up being right in order to be in relationship. We must find a way to express ourselves authentically and honestly, without making others wrong. And when we try and fail and learn and try again, let’s be gentle with ourselves and each other, and remember that people are far more important than ideals. I believe we can do it. We were born for this, after all.
So let’s look under the bed. You lift the covers and I’ll hold the flashlight. Let’s see what is waiting for us there. I think the Dave Matthews Band said it best:
We find love, it’s hiding here
In the darkness, in the shadows
Maybe it’s up to you and I
To bring it to the light.