What Does It Mean To Be a People of Possibility?

Of all our topics this year, possibility is arguably most central to our faith. It has distinguished Unitarian Universalists from the start. Historically, when others saw depravity and sin at the core of human identity, we saw potential–sometimes with hardly any boundaries. When many were preaching that this world was fallen, and we should look instead to the hope of an afterlife, we found ourselves falling in love with the possibility of heaven on earth. Theologically, you might say that we were the people that believed that God hadn’t given up on any of us and so we shouldn’t give up on each other or this world. Psychologically, it’s led to us being a people of “why not?” Why not give people another chance? Why not fight what seems a losing battle? Why not risk a little failure? After all, to us the possible has always seemed more likely than not!

So that’s our religion. But what about us personally? How open have you been recently to “Why not?” How’s your faith in possibility doing? As we honor our religion’s trust in what’s possible, we need to allow space for the reality that trusting possibility isn’t so easy for many of us. Here’s how one Soul Matters member puts the challenge:

When I think of possibility, I think of all the people and opportunities we close the door on. Such as:

I will never see eye to eye with my sister.

I couldn’t possibly leave this job to start my own business.

I will never have close friends like I had where I used to live.

I will never really make a difference, so why bother?

UUs will always be a small faith.

We tell ourselves so many small things about who we and others are. And we know that’s not really because we’re pessimistic. More often than not, it’s about protecting ourselves. There’s comfort in convincing yourself that the work is hopeless; that way you don’t have to try and risk failure, hurt or disappointment yet again.

All of which is to say that maybe being a people of possibility has more to do with being a people of vulnerability and courage than we’ve thought. The work isn’t just about believing in possibility. It’s about being willing to endure a few wounds along the way. It can hurt to be hopeful. Especially with all that is going on in our world and society right now, we need to make room for that.

So maybe the question this month isn’t “Are you ready to lean into possibility?” but “Who’s beside you and who are you bringing along?” “Who have you gathered to patch and pick you up when the path gets bumpy?” After all, no one makes it down the road of possibility alone.

And perhaps that’s the real secret: remembering that “Why not?” is something we all have to say together.

Excerpt from Soul Matters curriculum.