The practicality of spirituality
Or, how to not have to dine on your own words later
The practicality of spirituality
"What is wrong with our postal carrier?" I fumed as we walked into the house the other day. It was well past 6 p.m. and our mail had not yet arrived. I was awaiting a package that I knew would be delivered today, so I was annoyed.
My partner, Beth, who is more generous and wiser than I am, said, "Maybe he's just running late. You don't know what his day has been like."
In that moment, it didn't matter to me what his day had been like. As far as I was concerned, he was lazy and shirking his responsibility.
The next day, while listening to a podcast, I learned that the error I had committed in judging the postal carrier was called a "fundamental attribution error," which is when we question the character of someone based on their actions. Another example could be when someone cuts you off in traffic, and you attribute it to rudeness or stupidity, when, in reality, they may be rushing to the bedside of an ill or dying relative or have some other emergency.
In that moment, I totally forgot about my oneness with the postal carrier. I totally forgot he was also a beloved Child of God and in Reality, with a capital R, we're the same anyway since we're just an extension of God in this bodily world. All those big concepts can sometimes become cloudy and ethereal in the light of "real-world" (to the ego, anyway) situations.
This is the problem with spiritual talk sometimes. It can be lofty and ambiguous, offering us big picture ideas of oneness and unity that often are obscured by the noise and busyness of our days. What we need, then, is some practicality in our spirituality. We need concepts that can help us when our every day dealings with people may be frustrating or challenging, which can distract us from our ability to see them as innocent and beloved, just like us.
The best tool I can offer you to make your spirituality practical is this: forgiveness. I know, that concept sounds just as lofty and hifalutin as oneness and unity, but hear me out. Forgiveness works like a charm whenever you use it. I'm not talking about forgiving through gritted teeth, but actually forgiving whatever has occurred and moving on. How do we do that?
We forgive ourselves first. That's what I had to do when the package I had been awaiting showed up sometime after 8 p.m. I forgave myself for being a jerk, and that allowed me the space I needed to be grateful for a postal carrier who was so dedicated to his job that he was working way past any time I'd be willing to work. I would have bagged it and headed for home at 5 p.m., even if I hadn't completed my route.
Forgiveness offered me a miracle – a new perspective on a hardworking postal carrier who made sure I got what was coming to me – both the package and the lesson. I repented of my earlier judgment and said a prayer wishing him the best, and an easier workload.
I invite you to give forgiveness a whirl this week, especially after committing some manner of fundamental attribution error about someone. Someone cuts you off in traffic? Forgive them. Someone slights you at work? Forgive them. Someone says something that feels cutting or insulting? Forgive them. Your boss passes you over for a promotion? Forgive them.
We don't know the whole story about anyone's lives or motivations. If we react in a state of forgiveness for ourselves and for them, it allows us to detach from the situation and see it more clearly. Maybe there's an emergency, maybe the slight or the cutting words weren't intentional and came from some internal stress the other person was feeling that had nothing to do with you. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion because there's a better job or position for you in the future. The truth is, you don't know.
"Forgiveness," said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude."
Staying in that "constant attitude" of forgiveness prevents you from making premature judgments and fundamental attribution errors that you may have to forgive yourself for later and repent of your own unkind thoughts or words.
So, when you have the chance to either complain or give grace – don't be like me. Be like Beth.
Rev. Candace Chellew
Jubilee! Circle Spiritual Director
Want to learn more about A Course in Miracles?
Jubilee! Circle hosts an informal discussion group about A Course in Miracles every Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. If you’re in the Columbia, SC area, you can join us in-person at 6729 Two Notch Road, Ste. 70 in Columbia. If you’re anywhere else in the world, join us by Zoom using the link below. Whether you’re new to ACIM, or have been studying it for years, this is a low-pressure, friendly environment to learn more and grow together! Join us:
Are you looking for spiritual guidance?
I am a trained and certified spiritual director who can help you deepen your connection to the Holy and guide you as you seek spiritual growth and transformation.
If you’ve been feeling out of touch with the Holy or simply want to explore new practices to strengthen your spirituality, I can help you. I use a motley collection of techniques based in traditions such as Buddhism, Christianity, metaphysics and, of course, A Course in Miracles.
Contact me at email@example.com for more details.
Take 20 with Candace
If you don’t have time to watch the full replay of Jubilee! Circle’s weekly celebrations, you can cut to the chase and spend 20 minutes (give or take) with me and enjoy my weekly message. This message is taken from Jubilee! Circle's celebration from February 13, 2022, as we learned how to see the light in letting go.
Subscribe to Jubilee! Circle’s YouTube channel and join us every Sunday at 11 a.m. EST for our livestreamed celebrations!
About the Motley Mystic:
The Motley Mystic is an online community for people who have realized that the truth speaks with many voices. There is no one religion, philosophy, institution or dogma that captures the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. No one needs to swear allegiance to one line of thought or belief to discern Truth, because Love is the only thing that’s real. That’s what we explore at the Motley Mystic - all the tools and strategies we need to remove our barriers to Love and live fully as our true, Divine Self.
Candace Chellew is the founder of Motley Mystic as well Jubilee! Circle, an interfaith spiritual community in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians published in 2008 by Jossey-Bass and the founder and senior editor emeritus of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for LGBTQ People of Faith. She is also a musician and avid beer drinker.