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Spirituality

Chapter 15: Spirituality

Tools for Personal Growth

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

 

Prayer plus positive thinking

leads to creative change.

God always answers prayer.

When the idea is not right he says “No”

When the timing is not right he says “No”

When I am not ready he says “Grow”

And when all is in order he says “Go”

What is spirituality?

Spirituality is the:
  • Inward sense of a power or spirit greater than you who has the whole world, your environment, and you in His hands. This greater power and spirit is God. God is what you believe Him to be. God is the power greater than you upon whom you can rely.
  • Admission to self that God does have control of your life and that it is possible to turn to God with your problems. It is God's spirit that can provide for you the strength and courage to face your problems.
  • Amount of influence and control you can exert on your life's direction in perspective. It is the recognition that you do not have to burn yourself out struggling to solve all your problems on your own. It is the openness to let go of your sense of over-responsibility and let God have some influence over the problems.
  • Recognition that you have a relationship with God that needs to be continuously nurtured through giving God a share of your life in prayer, worship, and good deed.
  • Recognition that humans consist not only of physical matter but also have a spiritual dimension that needs daily care in order to survive.
  • Healing attitude you can bring to problems in your life. If God can accept you the way you are, with all your frailties and weaknesses, then you can accept yourself and others in the same way. Since God is able to forgive and forget all transgressions, failings, and misdeeds, you can learn to forgive and forget those of yourself and others.
  • Power to overcome a sense of guilt, over-responsibility, over-control, rescuing, and enabling concerning others' problems. By tuning into God's message to mankind, you know that the troubled persons in your life have ready assistance anytime they call for help. Our helper in the deepest of deep problems is God. Handing our troubled persons over to God's power, mercy, and direction once we have taken all reasonable steps to help them is an act of spirituality.
  • Frame of reference that keeps all problems, anxieties, fears, and needs in perspective. It recognizes that we are human beings; as such we are imperfect, prone to error, and not always strong enough to change. It recognizes that there is only one power strong enough to handle all problems, anxieties, fears, and needs; that is God. It also recognizes that God's will may be different from our will.
  • Medium through which people gain the strength, understanding, confidence, and reassurance to let go of grief, fear, over-responsibility, and guilt. Spirituality is the well that must be tapped whenever you need to handle the loss events in your life.
  • Texture of our lives that enables us to risk being vulnerable to pain and hurt so that we can heal, change, and grow. In living a God-centered life we are able to recognize the need to open ourselves to new ideas, new concepts, new ways of acting, and new people so that we may discern God's plan and direction in our lives.

What are three characteristics of spirituality?

Faith

Spirituality is easily identified in people who have a faith and belief in the power and presence of God in their lives. Their faith enables them to believe that God is helping them in their times of trouble, sorrow, and pain. Faith is the belief that God will never abandon or forget you during your time of need. Faith is clearly seen in the following story:

 

Footprints

One night a man had a dream.

He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.

Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.

For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; 

one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,

he looked back at the footprints in the sand.

He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.

He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied,

“My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Anonymous

 

Hope

Spirituality is easily identified in people who have hope and trust in God's mercy, wisdom, and justice. Their hope enables them to let go and let God. Their hope enables them to hand over their sense of over-responsibility, guilt, rescuing, and enabling to God's hands. Their hope enables them to take a tough love stance in order to get help for the troubled persons in their lives. Hope is reflected in the following prayer:

 

Serenity Prayer

God, 

grant me serenity

 to accept the things I cannot change, 

courage to change the things I can 

and wisdom to know the difference, 

living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, 

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. 

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. 

Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will, 

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life 

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen

 

Love

Spirituality is easily identified in people who are active in showing love, concern, and generosity to others. They are altruistic and giving in their approach to the world. They are able to make a difference in people's lives. The Prayer for Peace of St. Francis of Assisi embodies the love of mankind.

 

Prayer for Peace 

Lord,

Make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred,

Let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine, Master,

Grant that I may seek

Not so much to be consoled,

As to console;

To be understood,

As to understand:

To be loved,

As to love;

For it is in giving

That we receive;

It is in pardoning

That we are pardoned;

It is in dying

That we are born to eternal life.

Amen

How does one develop and strengthen spirituality?

To strengthen spirituality you need to:

  • First be willing to accept God's spirit, influence, and power in your life.
  • Be willing to admit God into your life and establish a viable relationship with Him by offering prayer and worship to Him.
  • Begin to converse with God on a daily basis, letting God know how you are and what you are thinking through meditation and visualizations.
  • Share your problems, worries, concerns, and troubles with God.
  • Release your control over your own life and let God's will be made clear to you by signs of direction and discernment that only occur once you to let go of the reigns and let God lead you.
  • Develop a healthy sense of humility and realism that God's power, knowledge, and wisdom is omnipotent.
  • Let go of your need to always have a logical, clinical, scientific reason and research answer for the problems or troubles in your life.
  • Reach out to the weaker, poorer, and less stable people in your life and offer them reasonable support, interest, and caring.
  • Join forces with others who have a healthy spirituality in their own lives. They are able to encourage, reinforce, and support your efforts to grow in spirituality.
  • Free yourself to accept the direction, leadership, and authority of God in your life. By letting God take the lead in your life you put your self-esteem and self-concept in a healthy, realistic perspective that lets you see where you end and God begins.
Steps to improve your own spirituality

 

Step 1:  Perform a spirituality audit. Answer the following questions in your journal:
  • In what ways is my spirituality different from my participation in an organized religion?
  • How do I show myself and others that I resist the spirituality side of me?
  • Why do I resist spirituality as a valid way to heal myself and others?
  • Why do I resist the acceptance of God's power in my life?
  • How does it feel to realize that God is more powerful than me? That he has control over my life?
  • What does “having a relationship with God” mean to me?
  • What is the current state of my spiritual life?
  • How can God help me to let go, forgive and forget problems, hurts, and pains inflicted on me by others?
  • How will turning to God help me overcome guilt, rescuing, enabling, and over-responsibility in helping others?
  • How will turning to God help me accept my human frailty and powerlessness to change or cure the problems and ills in life?

 

Step 2:  Read through the above Section: What are three characteristics of spirituality?
Answer the following questions in your journal:
  • When in my past or current life have I acted and felt like the author of “Footprints?”
  • How have I acted toward God when I felt life had been unfair with me?
  • What in my past led me to reject or turn my back on God?
  • How active is the “Serenity Prayer” concept in my life?
  • How willing am I to allow myself to let go of the controls in my life and discern God's plan for me?
  • How much courage does it take for me to “accept the things I cannot change” and how much courage does it take for me to “change the things I can?”
  • How active a peacemaker am I?
  • How do I show my love and concern for others?
  • How do I show my altruism, respect, and generosity?
  • Do I believe I will be rewarded for my acts of generosity and peacemaking? When? How?

 

Step 3:  To strengthen your spirituality, complete the following plan of action in your journal:
  • I will make a commitment to accept God's influence and power in my life on: (month, day, year)
  • I will establish a viable relationship with God from that date forward by following this schedule of prayer and worship:
  • I will give God ____ minutes of my time daily in conversation, meditation, and reading the Bible.
  • I will let go of sole ownership of the following problems and concerns, and let God's power help me:
  • I will try to discern God's plans for me by being open to signs from him in the following areas of my life:
  • I will offer my assistance and support to the following people:
  • I will associate myself more regularly with the following people whom I believe to have a positive attitude toward spirituality:
  • I will show others God has a direction in my life by:
  • I will re-assess my spiritual development on a weekly basis and re-evaluate this plan on: (month, day, year), revising the plan when needed.

 

Step 4:  Once you have your plan of action completed, live it. If you find your spirituality lacking return to Step 1 and begin again.