You could ask 10 people for their definition of spirituality. Most likely you would receive 10 different definitions. There may be common themes, but everyone looks at spirituality in a different way.
Definition of Spirituality
These are all definitions of spirituality that you can easily find through the wonders of the internet:
“The aspect of humanity that refers to the way that individuals see and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Christina Puchalksi, 2009.
“The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things- essence, being, self.” – Google
Finally, from a young musician: “Modern Spirituality is centered on the ‘deepest values and meanings by which people live.’ It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality. It envisions an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being.”
“The quality of state of being concerned with religion or religious matters.” -Webster
Have you chosen your preferred definition of spirituality?
I happen to really like this next one. It is a bit long, but it talks about relationship and I am all about relationship. What about you? Here it is:
“Spirituality is a dynamic and intrinsic aspect of humanity through which persons seek ultimate meaning, purpose , and transcendence, and experience relationships to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred. Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.” –Hall, Hughes, Handzo, 2016.
There is a lot to define and explore here. Let’s try.
Ultimate Meaning, Purpose, & Transcendence……
Today, I asked someone what their basis was for right and wrong. That’s not exactly a word for word quote, but that was the main idea. There was a lot built into that question. What I was really asking were questions like:
- What is your foundation of what you do?
- Do you just do what makes you feel good?
- Do you do what you do because it is the right thing to do?
- What is your guideline for what you believe is the right thing to do?
I think all of this is tied up in the idea of ultimate meaning and purpose.
As a Christian, I believe the meaning and purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I just copied this from the John Wesley format of the Shorter Catechism. However, I happen to believe it.
So then, we need to dive into some of those most difficult questions a person can ask themselves: What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose in life? Generally, people are often focused on what the next task is that we need to take care of. Usually, we do not take the time to think about our purpose or ultimate meaning. Do you?
My guess is if you are taking the time to read an article about the definition of spirituality, you are ready to dive in and explore the answers to these questions. I would also guess that you are hopeful that discovering the answers will give you a focus and perhaps peace. Also, exploring the answers may give you a pathway for what is next in your life. These are pretty exciting results and make exploring purpose and meaning worthwhile.
Experience relationships to self, family, others,
That is part 2 of the definition of spirituality that we are exploring.
Relationships! If you know me, you know I am all about relationships. Okay, I really love sewing, genealogy, reading, and writing too. However, relationships are what gives me joy! The relationships with Jesus, my husband, kids, family, friends, and colleagues are what give me purpose and meaning.
Honestly, my purpose and meaning do not come from cleaning. Being with people, talking on the phone, (yes I use it to talk, not just text), and even using messenger on Facebook to talk with friends and family, are the activities that I really enjoy and bring me the greatest happiness.
At this point, you may be wondering if I am only thinking about doing what makes me happy or makes me feel good or just making excuses to justify spending time talking rather than cleaning. Good question.
Honestly, I have to reject that concern. This definition of spirituality emphasizes the need for relationships. The hallmark of this definition of spirituality is healthy relationship. Being engaged with others in a caring fashion with genuine concern for the well-being of another is critical.
Relationships that increase our wellness must be built on trust, honesty, transparency, confidentiality, and a consideration for the other above ourselves. These are high standards, but ones that need to be met for the relationships to be uplifting and growth producing. These characteristics are those that come from my foundation or core values and beliefs. What characteristics of relationship are essential for you?
(the next step in the definition of spirituality)… community, society, nature,
Relationship within community and society is a key to spiritual wellness, as well. All of those family, friends, and others do make up a community. Spiritual wellness, at least according to this definition, encourages us to live beyond this close-knit community to explore relationships with others. These relationships may result from our jobs, the common interest groups we belong to, our faith communities, and more. Making those connections are vital to wellness in life. Perhaps I should emphasize that real connection is possible only when we live those relationships in-line with the tenets of Christ, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
… and the significant or sacred.
Here we arrive at the most crucial aspect of this definition or any other definition of spirituality: our relationship with the sacred. What does the individual hold as sacred and significant? Who or what do I see as sacred and significant? What do you see as sacred and significant? Do you or I believe in a higher power, a divine authority, a god, or God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Again, what is your foundation? And what is your (or my) relationship with that higher power?
Spirituality is expressed through beliefs, values, traditions, and practices.
Our beliefs, values, and tradition influence our practices. Or at least, if we if want to live in spiritual wellness, our beliefs and values are lived out in our actions. Therefore, we need to really explore what we are doing and why. Next, we look closely at our motivations. Are we content with how our thoughts and actions mesh with our values?
Introspection can be a very difficult and painful process. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I turn to prayer when deciding next actions. Well, in the interest of transparency I promoted earlier, I am best off when I go to God in prayer to discern where I am living in God’s will and where I am not. I can also seek the counsel of a trusted friend, a clergy person, or even a professional counselor to help me examine if my actions are connected to my beliefs and values.
I hesitate to write “in conclusion” because this is a topic that can be explored endlessly. But for today, we have a lot to think about. What is your definition of spirituality? We would love for you to share what it is in the comments below.
Take time to explore your thoughts, beliefs, and traditions, to see how they influence and align with your actions. Spiritual wellness is an integral part of our overall wellness. This can be a tough one to take on. Let’s take it on together.
Until next time… Please, take the time to give some thought to your definition of spirituality. Does your foundation align with your beliefs and actions? Is your foundation firm? Let’s talk about it.
Rev. Debbie Burgio