Touchstones Small Group Discussion Guide on Acceptance

Preparation: (Read the Touchstones Journal on the theme and the questions below.)

Business: Deal with any housekeeping items (e.g., scheduling the next gathering).

Opening Words: “In trying to express only those aspects of ourselves that we believe will guarantee us the acceptance of others, we suppress some of our most valuable and interesting features and sentence ourselves to a life of reenacting the same outworn scripts. Reclaiming the parts of ourselves that we have relegated to the shadow is the most reliable path to actualizing all of our human potential. Once befriended, our shadow becomes a divine map that—when properly read and followed—reconnects us to the life we were meant to live and the people we were meant to be.”   Debbie Ford

 Chalice Lighting (James Vila Blake), adapted

(In unison) Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law. This is our covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, to serve human need, and to help one another.

Check-In: How is it with your spirit? What do you need to leave behind in order to be fully present here and now? (2-3 sentences)

Claim Time for Deeper Listening: This comes at the end of the gathering where you can be listened to uninterrupted for more time if needed. You are encouraged to claim time ranging between 3-5 minutes, and to honor the limit of the time that you claim.

Read the Wisdom Story: Take turns reading the following wisdom story.

Accepting Change?
complied by Margaret Silf, from an unknown source, adapted and expanded

     There once was an old Chinese farmer who had one son and a horse. His wife had died many years ago when his son was a baby. The farm was quite small, but they grew enough food to get by. The farm was located in a valley north of the famous Yellow Mountain in Anhui (an-way) Province in southern China.

     One day, the farmer’s horse broke through the small corral on the farm and went galloping off in the direction of the nearby hills that led toward the Yellow Mountain.

     The farmer’s neighbors felt sorry for the farmer, for a horse was very valuable for any farmer. “What very bad luck to have lost your horse,” they said. “Why do you say that?” asked the old farmer. “Who knows if it is bad luck?”

     And sure enough, the very next night the horse returned, and behind him came twelve wild horses, which he had led back home with him. The farmer’s son quickly closed the gate of the small corral, and instead of one horse, they now had thirteen. 

     The neighbors stared into the corral the next morning and said, “What extraordinary good luck—to have thirteen horses!” 

     “Why do you say that?” the old farmer replied. “Who is to say whether it is good luck?” 

     The farmer and his son went to the village and purchased enough wooden posts and rails to enlarge the corral because the horses did not have enough room. They also had to buy more hay to keep all of the horses well-fed. It took a full week of hard work to make the corral larger.

     Once this was done, the old farmer’s son went out riding on one of the new horses. But the horse was still wild, and it threw him off its back. He fell to the ground and broke his leg. The farmer took his son to the doctor who lived in the nearby village. The doctor put a splint on the young man’s leg and gave him crutches so he could get around.

     The neighbors visited the old farmer to commiserate. “What very bad luck,” they said, “that your son has broken his leg.” 

     “Why do you say that?” the old farmer asked them. “Who is to say whether it is bad luck?” 

     And indeed, a short while later, the Emperor’s militia came, forcing all of the able-bodied young men in the village and the surrounding farms to go to fight in the war, where many of them would probably lose their lives. But when they saw the old farmer’s son bent over on his crutches with a broken leg, they passed him by and went on their way. 

     “How lucky you are,” the neighbors said. 

     Given so many changes, all the old farmer could do was smile, and accept once again what had happened.

   Source: Silf, Margaret, compiler, One Hundred Wisdom Stories, Oxford, England: Lion Publishing plc, 2003.

Readings from the Common Bowl: Group

Members read selections from Readings from the Common Bowl as follows. Leave a few moments of silence after each to invite reflection on the meaning of the words.

“Listening is a form of accepting.”   Stella Terrill Mann

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”   Aristotle 

“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”   Alice Walker

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”   Audre Lorde 

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”   Reinhold Niebuhr

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”   Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”   Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back....”   Erica Jong

“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”   George Eliot

“People have a habit of inventing fictions they will believe wholeheartedly in order to ignore the truth they cannot accept.”   Libba Bray 

“I learned that accepting others and accepting myself are two sides of the same coin; you can't love and accept yourself without doing the same for others.”   Steve Pavlina

“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.”   bell hooks 

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”   Amy Bloom

“The trance of unworthiness keeps the sweetness of belonging out of reach. The path to ‘the sweetness of belonging,’ is acceptance - acceptance of ourselves and acceptance of others without judgment.”   Tara Brach

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”   Carl Rogers

“I want there to be a place in the world where people can engage in one another’s differences in a way that is redemptive, full of hope and possibility.”   bell hooks 

“It was strange how your brain could know what your heart refused to accept.”   J.K. Rowling 

“Thank you for accepting me as I am, with my virtues and defects.”   Jenni Rivera

“Art teaches something we all need to learn, especially about people who are different from ourselves: ‘To see things the way they truly are, sometimes you have to look more deeply.’”   Ron Hall

“When we look at things differently, things look different.”   Toni Sorenson 

“All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, it will not change you.”   Wayne Dyer

“Accepting others' life choices is something most people only learn with age.”   Neil Strauss

“May I befriend the unwanted parts of myself and continually learn wisdom from them.”   Joyce Rupp

“To go through life wanting to be someone else must be a terrible burden. It is hard enough just learning to be myself.”   Joan Chittister 

“What is essential is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one sees rightly.”   Antoine de St Exupéry

“If you travel far enough, one day you will recognize yourself coming down the road to meet yourself. And you will say — YES.”   Marion Woodman

“So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them. Only when you require no approval from outside yourself can you own yourself.”   Neale Donald Walsch

“If you are going to judge others it is wisest to do so individually not collectively and on your own direct experience of them personally. But first - and throughout - examine yourself closely. Blurred vision can often occur due to the lens, perspective and perceptions of the viewer projected onto the object that it sees. Be wary of taking to the judge’s seat. Above all, treat yourself and everyone else mindfully, compassionately with humanity.”   Rasheed Ogunlaru 

“Solitude is essentially the discovery and acceptance of our uniqueness.”   Lawrence Freeman

“Most advice regarding acceptance involves accepting oneself. This ignores the reality that our ability to accept others, especially those who are different from us, makes it possible to accept those previously rejected differences within ourselves.”   Kirk Loadman-Copeland

“Our job on earth isn't to criticize, reject, or judge. Our purpose is to offer a helping hand, compassion, and mercy. We are to do unto others as we hope they would do unto us.”   Dana Arcuri

Sitting in Silence: Sit in silence together, allowing the Readings from the Common Bowl to resonate. Cultivate a sense of calm and attention to the readings and the discussion that follows (Living the Questions).

Reading: “The first step to empathy and compassion is realizing the similarities between yourself and those that are suffering; the first step to forgiveness is realizing that we’re all human and we all share the same capacity for fallibility and foible; the first step to growth is to recognize the value of things that are outside your current mental frameworks so that you can grow into them.”   Oli Anderson 

Living the Questions
Explore as many of these questions as time allows. Fully explore one question before moving to the next.

  • As a child, were you valued/accepted more for who you were or for what you did? How did this impact you? How does it influence your self-acceptance today?
  • Do you feel that you are enough? If yes, how did that sense grow in you? If not, how can you reframe your sense of yourself to finally be enough and accept who you are?
  • In terms of being accepted by another person, whose acceptance has meant the most to you?
  • In terms of someone else, have you moved from a negative reaction to one of acceptance? What was the process that brought about that change?
  • What gets in the way of self-acceptance? What gets in the way of accepting others?
  • How can the practice of pluralism facilitate acceptance?

The facilitator or group members are invited to propose additional questions that they would like to explore.

Deeper Listening: If time was claimed by individuals, the group listens without interruption to each person for the time claimed. Using a timer allows the facilitator to also listen fully.

Checking-Out: One sentence about where you are now as a result of the time spent together and the experience of exploring the theme.

Extinguishing Chalice: (Elizabeth Selle Jones) We extinguish this flame but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment. These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

Closing Words: (Rev. Philip R. Giles)

(In unison) May the quality of our lives be our benediction and a blessing to all we touch.