In our previous post, we discussed the difference between spirituality and religion. Measuring spiritual and religious beliefs will further that discussion. If you are religious and/or spiritual, how do you measure the effectiveness of those beliefs and practices in your life?
My Catholic Faith ExperienceI understand “religion” to be a set of attitudes, beliefs and practices that are both privately and publicly proclaimed with others to enrich the life of the believer while encouraging behavior that will enhance the community. I believe religions should challenge, inform and strengthen spiritual beliefs. As a Catholic, I cannot prove everything I chose to believe. My beliefs make sense to me and therefore I sometimes chose to make a leap of faith. How do you measure the effectiveness of something based on faith? For me, studying Jesus, the scriptures and deepening my faith has made a huge difference in how I look at the world and how I live. So my “proof” in the value of my belief system comes from how it has enabled me to live my life. I believe my Catholicism informs and supports my spiritual growth.
Measuring Spirituality: the Impact on Behavior
So in my opinion, if looking to measure the effectiveness of a spiritual or religious belief system, the important question is this: are those beliefs leading to loving behaviors that enrich life? I am wary of “spiritual experiences” that do not impact behavior. I have had many experiences that I would regard as “divine inspiration” or “revelation”… a moment of profound clarity, an experience of overwhelming joy, a deep sense of peace and wellbeing, being enveloped in gratitude, an overwhelming sense of oneness with others. For me, the value of such experiences is that they teach me and challenge me to expand my sight, my heart — to be “more” in my life.
Seeking Alternative Paths to Spiritual Growth
I know I need spiritual teachers, scripture, religious practice, times of quiet reflection and mindfulness to have spirituality impact how I live my life. These external resources are a guide to my inner growth. We all seek and find our “higher power” in many ways, using many philosophies and various paths. But we know that many people have found established religions or more conventional, time-tested approaches to be personally disappointing or even hurtful. In these cases, it is understandable for seekers to look to alternatives as a spiritual guide in their lives. When stepping beyond more traditional spiritual systems, use the SEEK Safely Empowerment Guide to help assess the safety of the new approach. When following a self-proclaimed spiritual teacher, ask that teacher to practice the values of the SEEK Safely Promise. And ask yourself: is this spiritual experience helping me to be a contributor in this world? Is this helping me to live more richly, with greater compassion, insight and satisfaction? We at SEEK desire everyone’s journey to be productive and safe.