I’m writing from beautiful Unity Village, where history hangs in the air.
This is where Unity’s co-founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, wrote and taught and prayed nearly a century ago. (Here’s a video of the history, if you’re interested.)
Unity Village, an incorporated town in Missouri, is now a multi-million-dollar, non-profit business with a campus of offices, chapels, classrooms, a restaurant, a hotel, assorted residences and a prayer call center. In other words, people!
People working together.
And we know where two or more are gathered, there is often conflict.
Not surprisingly for Unity, the people who work here are diverse and strong-willed, with experiences, opinions and personalities that often differ. In a time of organizational change – which is nearly anytime -- there’s a possibility of conflict, even amid the roses.
Do you suppose there was conflict in the Fillmores’ day? Surely so, but I’ve never read about it.
What did the Fillmores do about employees who performed poorly or irritated the fire out of them?
How did they handle feelings of anger, betrayal or disappointment where other people were concerned?
Were they so spiritual they never had a negative thought?
No, in some of Myrtle’s letters, she takes the slightest tone of impatience with correspondents who didn’t get it, who thought she could somehow heal them with spiritual magic while they refused to make any changes in their thinking.
We also know the Fillmores were not immune from downturns.
They taught prosperity, but they stopped building at Unity Village during the Depression and pulled back to their original offices in downtown Kansas City.
They taught healing principles, but their boys sometimes woke up at night with croup.
Being highly attuned to the infinite does not mean you can escape all of life’s vicissitudes.
I wonder how often they had to forgive their colleagues – or each other – for perceived slights or screw-ups?
What did they do with a sassy child or a disrespectful subordinate?
I wish Charles and Myrtle had let their hair down occasionally to complain about life’s difficulties. Not only because I would love to read the juicy details, but because I’d like to know how they handled those situations.
A SURE REMEDY
Walking through the rose garden on the Village grounds, I surmised we actually do know how the Fillmores handled it.
We know the principles they taught – the oneness of God, the divine in all people, and the power of mind over our bodies and experiences.
We know they prayed, no matter the circumstances that might have triggered their displeasure. Charles and Myrtle each spent many hours a day in meditation, alongside their work in publishing and prayer ministry.
(Where did they get the time, you might ask? Charles’s mother did all the cooking and kept an eye on the boys.)
We also know they forgave, and Charles’s writing on the topic of forgiveness indicates he fully understood the range of human emotions that block our good and pull us from the spiritual path.
“Sit for a half-hour every night and mentally forgive everyone against whom you have any ill will or antipathy,” he wrote in a pamphlet called A Sure Remedy.
“If you fear or if you are prejudiced against even an animal, mentally ask forgiveness of it and send it thoughts of love. If you have accused anyone of injustice, if you have discussed anyone unkindly, if you have criticized or gossiped about anyone, withdraw your words by asking him, in the silence, to forgive you. . . .
“See all things and all persons as they really are—pure Spirit—and send them your strongest thoughts of love. Do not go to bed any night feeling that you have an enemy in the world.”
The Fillmores never would have let themselves feel like victims. They looked within themselves to find some imbalance in their own being, some error thoughts that might have attracted unpleasantness and could be corrected.
LIVING AT A HIGHER LEVEL
It kinda takes the fun out of conflict if you can’t judge and blame others or publicly prove yourself to be right! But as far as we know, Charles and Myrtle didn’t pursue that kind of thinking. They were on a mission from God.
They actually wrote a covenant with God, promising to do the work they were guided to do, while claiming God would provide for their needs. They signed and dated it in 1892, and judging by Unity’s global operation today, God seems to have kept his end of the bargain.
So what are we to make of this? Niceness pays off?
Living as they did, and as they taught, is more than trying to be nice. It’s not stuffing anger or gritting teeth to get through conflict.
It’s working daily to release any negative thoughts or feelings.
It’s keeping an elevated perspective, a God’s-eye view, so that people are seen only as divine beings who may be struggling in their human experience. They deserve nothing but compassion. (That doesn’t mean anything goes. Even Jesus told people “go and sin no more.”)
How did Charles and Myrtle do it?
Here's what they might tell us:
- Never forget the oneness of God and all things.
- Pray long and deeply, daily realigning yourself with your infinite nature.
- Forgive where necessary.
- Take responsibility for creating the circumstances of your life.
Simple but not always easy. That’s why we call it a path or a practice.
I’m still practicing. You?