Not religious, but spiritual?
Two thousand years of Religious doctrine that judges and condemns people to hell may have pushed people away from religion. A consequence is that they also turn away from spirituality, perhaps thinking it’s the same thing. Many people say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Many others simply ignore everything related to spiritual or religious conversations. In my view, this is a sad loss because we are spiritual by nature. In times like a global pandemic, we can’t fully live human lives if we shut down the spiritual part of our being.
The problem is that when we think of spirituality, we think of religion, and we close the door. There may be some very valid reasons why we feel upset with religion. We may have felt judged and condemned by zealous preachers. We may have been emotionally or psychologically abused by parents or teachers who tried to obligate us to believe or face harsh discipline. A person of the clergy may have physically or sexually abused us. Or we may simply feel that the religious doctrines do not speak to human existence as we know it.
For whatever reason, we may feel hostile to anything religious, so when someone brings up spirituality, we put up our shields and defenses and do not want to go there. The sad consequence is that we fail to explore our spiritual nature, to our loss because we humans are spiritual to the core.
One of the consequences of having distanced ourselves from religion and spirituality is that when someone asks us, “What is your spiritual story?” we have no clue how to answer because it is a dimension of ourselves that we have not explored. For my doctoral research, I surveyed church-going baby boomers, and one of the questions in the survey asked if they could identify their spiritual story. 80% of them could not. When asked, “what is your spiritual narrative?” the answer was a blank look and a shrug of the shoulder.
So what happens to a person who has shut down their spiritual self, and they experience a life crisis? What happens to people who have distanced themselves from their spiritual self and suddenly suffer a traumatic loss? The consequences can be devastating. They could easily fall apart. They could have a psychic breakdown with no spiritual life jacket to help them survive.
On the other hand, people who have solid spiritual grounding are more resilient during a life crisis. While working with survivors of natural disasters In Asia, South American, and the Caribbean, I heard amazing stories of resilience from people who suffered traumatic losses. They are now thriving because they have connected to their spiritual self and found new life meaning and purpose. Their surviving and resiliency in the face of multiple losses has become their new spiritual story. I love to see those positive outcomes in the aftermath of natural disasters.
When life is rosy, it is easy to postpone the exploration of our spiritual identity. Often it takes a life crisis to get us off the couch and attend to building up our resiliency. That is the reason I wrote the book: “How to take your Spiritual Temperature: 10 Dimensions of Spirituality—from Angst to Joy.” Each chapter of the book will guide the reader through one of ten spiritual dimensions. At the end of each chapter, there is a self-review where the reader can access a spiritual temperature tool. At the end of the book, the reader will be able to chart the results of the ten dimensions of spirituality and have a clear picture of his/her spiritual story. I invite you to take the journey. Take your spiritual temperature.