Recently, I was conversing with someone who said that she doesn’t believe in the concept of spirituality. Her belief is that someone is either religious or they aren’t. To paraphrase her: Spirituality is what people say when they want the benefits of God, to make the claim that they believe, without going to church and worshiping or sacrificing. I appreciate different perspectives and opinions, and lend them thought and consideration. Sometimes it leads to a paradigm shift in my beliefs; however, in this instance, it did not. In fact, the more I considered her harsh opinion on practicing and honoring individual spirituality, the more annoyed and offended I became. My desire to contemplate and understand her abruptly shifted. Her dismissive view seemed self-righteous and superior. I was reminded of why I’d distanced myself from organized religion, church, so long ago. People like her often drive people away from religion, not towards it.
Let’s face it, none of us want to be judged. Personally, it irritates me more when coming from someone who professes to live by God’s word; yet, behaves as though they’re intrinsically entitled to condemn the rest of us. I decided that debating with this woman was not good use of my time, and moved on with my day. The topic of religion and spirituality got me thinking, though. As I often do, I considered what my college philosophy professor had skillfully challenged me to do, ask myself questions and challenge my philosophical beliefs. What were my opinions based upon? Was there information I hadn’t previously considered? Were they MY opinions or were they imposed upon me by others in my life? It’s unlikely that my professor will ever know the impact that one semester has had on the rest of my life, but this critical-thinking process has served me well ever since. The topic of spirituality was no exception, and as it so frequently does, metaphors and analogies began evolving.
I believe spirituality is the like a flower, its petals, fragrance, roots. Religion a type of environment where flowers can grow, greenhouses, gardens, fields, forests. Each having different levels of light, soil, nurturing and maintenance. One’s spiritual growth and enlightenment occurs inside and outside of religious structures. Just as flowers grown in different environment, spirituality does as well. We have a tendency to believe that our way is the right way, but the fact is, there are countless religions in the world, and endless translations and traditions within each. There’s a reason for that. We are different flowers and grow better in environments that meet our needs and capacity. Your way probably isn’t my way and that’s okay. My relationship with my higher power is between us. In my case, my higher power is God. My relationship with God has evolved and gone through a variety of seasons; however, I’ve never stopped believing in Him. When I’ve tried living my life on my own timeframe and terms, I’ve usually messed it up, sometimes terribly. However, I believe that I am a better person with Him beside me than I am alone. I don’t judge others for not believing in a higher power. I certainly know plenty of atheist’s who are extraordinary kind and loving people with strong values and character. Conversely, I’ve met plenty of Christians who only act that way while at church once a week.
Whatever you believe, it’s helpful to consider the foundation upon which those beliefs are built. From time to time challenge yourself and the integrity of your beliefs. Have new experiences shaped or modified your existing belief? Have you gleaned new knowledge or information that supports or challenges them?