Black Dogs

Sunday Service: Black Dogs

May 14th, 2017 - 10:30 AM                  Rev. Fiona Heath

Charles Darwin is one of our prophets.  Raised as a Unitarian, his theory of evolution upended deeply held beliefs about humanity and the natural world.  

While Darwin’s work is often reduced to “survival of the fittest”, this is a term promoted by others who considered themselves “social darwinists”, who wanted to affirm the superiority of certain classes and ethnicities.

Darwin himself argued that humans are profoundly social and caring.  He saw the social or maternal instinct as the strongest of all instincts.
For Darwin, it was truly about the survival of the kindest.

So it is appropriate that on Mother’s Day we are celebrating compassion.
What does it mean to be a people of compassion?  

The Dalai Lama says compassion is not religious business, it is human business.  We need one another to thrive.

Darwin saw compassion  - he called it sympathy - as a trait of survival – we do better together than apart.

The feelings of compassion for other people, for other creatures, for the earth itself motivates us to help, to be kind.  

We also need to be kind to ourselves.  We can be our own worst enemies.
This is especially true of people suffering with mental illness.

While we wouldn’t think twice about getting medical help for a broken leg, having a broken brain is somehow a different situation.

It’s easy to feel shame about anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia.  All of these illnesses make it hard to see ourselves clearly.

And there is a lot of  positive self help advice out there which suggests people with depression just need to get up and moving.   

But mental illness is not a failure of personal motivation or lack of will or laziness.  If your brain chemistry is out of whack, medical help is required.

It doesn’t mean that eating better or exercise aren’t helpful – that’s true for every one of us, it just isn’t enough for people with mental illness.

The struggle can be hard to talk about.  We’re just emerging from years of mental illness seen as shameful failure, as dark family secrets, as taboo.

My hope is that this service about mental health will help people feel accepted as they are. I hope you know you all belong here, no matter the state of your mind.  

Mental health concerns are common.  

In a moment I am going to ask some of you to stand.  You don’t have to if you don’t want to.

If you have mental illness in your extended family, if you have a work colleague or close friend who lives with mental illness, if you or your children have experienced mental health issues, please stand up.

Thank you.

After service, anyone with a personal experience of mental illness, their own or their parents or children or siblings, is welcome to join Colleen in the Sunflower room at 11:45am.  
This is a chance to share and support one another.

As a UU community, we can’t cure or treat mental illness.  We can advocate for more mental health funding, which is desperately needed.

And we can remind one another that we matter.

That each person here belongs to the chalice, that each person here is part of a much greater whole, that each of us is worthy of love and compassion.

May you know always that you are welcome here, just as you are, broken and whole together.

So Say We All.


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