How to lead a spiritual life (and avoid pseudo-spirituality)

Monk Hands

“Show me your spirituality by how much you pray and I’ll show you my spirituality by how much I love.”  ~KW

It seems that almost everyone is talking about spirituality these days. But talk often falls short of the walk. I recently read somewhere of modern-day hermits who have isolated themselves in mountains and deserts to devote their lives solely to their spiritual selves.

But here’s the problem …

True spirituality cannot be developed in a vacuum. It cannot be exercised in isolation. To me, spirituality is connecting with the divine and letting that connection change us inside, so that we become something different than we were before the connection.

But that’s not all. If I don’t treat you differently than I once treated you, then you have the right to question just how in touch I am with my spiritual self. A hermit isolated from others can’t develop the kind of spirituality that changes relationships. The spiritual life should bear recognizable fruit, such a patience, kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

But what is forgiveness and patience in the absence of anyone to practice patience with or extend forgiveness to?

People Matter

People are the whole point of a spiritual path, for that matter. So if your spirituality fails to make you a better person or fails to change how you see and treat others, your spirituality seems to me to be worth about as much spit in the palm of your hand. It might feel warm, but in the end it doesn’t do anyone much good.

Authentic spirituality–the kind that is much more than a spiritual feeling, more than a path to inner discovery, more than a self-serving condition of the soul–has to have people as the central part of the equation.

A spiritual life devoid of people to help, compassion to extend, love to offer is not much of a spiritual life. A hermit can feel love for others, but it is a shallow kind of love if it fails to do anything or lead anywhere or bless anyone.

Applied Spirituality

So if you’re interested in developing your spirituality, go ahead and pray and meditate and contemplate and read spiritual text ‘til the cows come home. Those are necessary components to one’s spiritual growth. But be sure to include the brand of spirituality that extends love and kindness and decency and attention and service to others. If there is a disconnect between your spiritual life and your moral life, we’re left reasonably wondering how spiritual your spirituality really is.

In the end, the kind of spirituality that affects behavior is the only kind of spirituality I’m interested in. The rest, you can keep for your isolated self, thank you very much.

Your Turn …

  • So what do you think?
  • How has your spirituality affected your character and how you treat others?
  • What do you think is the essential component of a meaningful spiritual journey?

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