Our Spiritual Responsibility

Our Unity teachings are based in the oneness of all life. We stand for diversity, equity, and inclusion. We support the well-being of our planet. We celebrate each individual in the pursuit of their highest ideals, and aspire to do all we can to make a positive and loving difference in our world.

Unity celebrates the presence of God or Spirit, inherent in all life. We believe in the power of our mind to connect with our divine nature, and through the power of affirmative prayer manifest the deepest desires of our heart.  We believe our body is comprised of divine energy and is  responsive to healing  prayers. In fact, the Unity Movement was founded on the power of positive prayer.  

As many of you know Unity’s co-founder, Myrtle Fillmore, suffered from a severe lung ailment from the time she was a  small child. After she married Unity’s  other co-founder, Charles Fillmore, and had three children, her tubercular symptoms flared up again, and this time the doctors told her  they could no longer treat her, and had exhausted all their medical resources. They also reminded her that she had inherited her illness from her father’s side of the family, and there was nothing she could do about it. And so, Myrtle was left to her own devices.

Because both Charles and Myrtle had taken classes in New Thought metaphysics, they attended a lecture by a prominent New Thought teacher named E. B. Weeks, who, after talking with Myrtle, advised her to speak this affirmation, “ I am a child of God, therefore, I do not inherit sickness.” 

Myrtle was thrilled with this statement, and took the affirmation on as her own. “I am a child of God, therefore I do not inherit sickness.” Now this statement has been the subject of much debate throughout the years. Some people have said that she was discounting the validity of hereditary illness, and pretending it didn’t exist. I don’t see it that way. I believe she was asserting her freedom over the power of heredity to interfere with the quality and length of her life. There is a big difference between those interpretations. The first one implies that there is no such thing as heredity, (which she didn’t say) and the second one states that, in this instance, heredity has no power over her health and well-being.  

After Myrtle  began repeating that affirmation, she was willing to take on the responsibility of overseeing her own healing. The next question was, how was she to  embark on her healing process. 

One day, as Myrtle lay in bed, she noticed a worm crawling on her  window sill. She asked herself, what was the difference between her and the worm? Why couldn’t the worm make a body like hers. After giving this idea some thought she concluded that she’s as a human being, possessed a superior level of intelligence, and  realized that she could use her intelligence to transform and heal her body.

Here are Myrtle’s  own words: “I went to all the life centers in my body and spoke words of Truth to them – words of strength and power. I asked their forgiveness for the foolish, ignorant course that I had pursued in the past,  when I had condemned them and called them weak, inefficient, and diseased. I did not become  discouraged at their being slow to wake up, but kept right on, both silently and aloud, declaring the words of Truth, until the organs responded. And neither did I forget to tell them that they were free, unlimited Spirit. I told them that they were not corruptible flesh, but centers of life and energy omnipresent.” 

It took Myrtle two years before the healing process was complete. Her healing became known throughout Kansas City where the Fillmores lived, and became the central event around which the Unity Movement was founded 133 years ago.

At the center of Unity Village is the prayer ministry called Silent Unity. They are open for prayer requests 24 hours a day and are one of the largest prayer ministries in the world. Unity uses the method of affirmative prayer to give thanks that all manner of healing is possible, and many individuals around the world have benefited immeasurably from these positive prayers. Unity students believe that if we become responsible for the quality of our own lives, and engage in affirmative prayer, those prayers will be answered. This belief has a downside, however, because if we’re not careful we can take on too much responsibility and end up frustrated and defeated if we don’t manifest what we call a successful outcome.

One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, as Unity students is, “How much responsibility can we take for what happens in our lives?” In the old paradigm, humanity was seen as powerless over life’s circumstances. Things happened because of luck or fate, or because the transcendent super being, (God) willed it that way. It was assumed that negative things took place in our lives because we had “sinned” in some way and were being punished.

In an effort to liberate ourselves from feeling totally helpless, however, many of us have gone too far in the opposite direction. We have gone from feeling completely powerless to affect our circumstances, to believing we have absolute control over everything that happens in our lives. This illusion of power is not the result of a paradigm shift, but a pendulum swing.

Too often, when we are faced with a challenge, well-meaning truth students will ask, “How did you draw this into your life?” This question can refer to everything from getting a flat tire to contracting a life-threatening disease. The implication is that if we had been “holding the right thoughts in mind” we should have been able to prevent these things from happening. At this point, instead of feeling supported in our time of vulnerability, we feel shame for having “brought it on ourselves.” This phenomenon is often referred to as New Age Guilt.”

The pendulum has taken us from feeling inadequate because we have sinned to feeling inadequate because we have failed to make right use of our mind power. All that has really changed is our vocabulary, not our actual mind-set. We still carry the burden of guilt, but for different reasons.  Rather than bringing us closer to God, we continue to feel alienated and judged. Whether or not we experience this guilt overtly or subtly, it has serious implications in relation to our feelings of self-worth.

What is our responsibility in life? Is it to analyze every single thing that happens to us and judge it with either self-praise or self-blame? If we continue in this mind-set we will find ourselves operating under the misperception that if we only did the right things, we would live a pain-free life.

There is, of course, a great deal we can do about changing our external circumstances. We know, for example, that many diseases are stress-related. We can take responsibility for monitoring our stress levels and for learning more effective coping mechanisms to enhance our physical and emotional well-being. We can utilize biofeedback, meditation, prayer, diet, vitamin therapy, and other effective life-skills. All of these practices contribute greatly to the reduction of stress in our lives. But does this mean we will never become ill or depressed?

We know that practicing forgiveness and maintaining a healthy loving attitude toward others will significantly enhance the quality of our relationships and produce greater peace of mind. Miraculous transformations can take place when we accept this type of responsibility. But does this mean everyone will always like and approve of us?

It is also important to be  proactive in our business undertakings, to cultivate a prosperity consciousness, to engage in fair and equitable business practices, to render excellent service, to be fair-minded and compassionate with employees and customers. But does this mean we will never lose a job or declare bankruptcy?

The truth is, we cannot take responsibility for everything that happens in our lives. Even the greatest of spiritual masters have endured times of great challenge. This is not because they weren’t good enough or evolved enough, but because challenges are a  part of life.

We can, however, take responsibility for how we respond to the things that happen to us. If we choose to look at a difficult situation as a learning experience rather than a failure, we will be far more able to handle it with internal poise and equanimity. If we choose to believe the situation can provide us with hidden blessings, we will take responsibility for finding them.

As we gain greater self-knowledge we can  learn to observe our tendencies toward excessive guilt or self-blame and not judge ourselves or others too harshly.

“Things may happen to us, and things many happen around us, but the only things we are really responsible for, are the things that happen within us.”  Eric Butterworth

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