I had a lovely discussion with a friend this morning about spiritualism and existentialism. Our conversation danced around children and family and how our lives are meant to teach us lessons that are sometimes difficult. One of the many things we touched upon is what it means to be spiritual.
Dad and I decided to place you at a local parochial school. We did that for two reasons: We wanted you to have the outstanding education we knew this particular school had consistently delivered; we also believe that an introduction to God and the Bible are essential to your understanding of everything else in your world.
The fact is, the study of God and religion will be with you throughout your lives. We will talk about religion, and we will encourage you to consider the options available to you in terms of developing your own beliefs. Chances are, those beliefs will change as you grow and mature.
I still find myself pondering questions of spiritualism daily. This past year, my belief systems have been challenged on several levels, and I continue to study the world around me, listen to what others have to say, and strengthen my own "faith" as I confirm my approach to life within the spiritual realm. (I use the word faith in quotes to describe strength within myself, whereas many people use it to describe their strength of belief in something outside themselves.)
I won't preach to you just what I believe, nor will I tell you what I think you should believe. When the time comes and you ask me that essential question, "Mom, do you believe in God?" I will tell you what I think.
So, what is the most critical thing you need to know about being spiritual? That's a tough question to answer, and my first inclination is to tell you to always be good. The problem with that phrase is that, as human beings, we are not capable of constant goodness. In fact, I've come to accept that we are biologically programmed to have a dark side.
I also brace myself against anyone who tries to define life in terms of "good" and "bad" because I've found that those words are frequently used as a stop mechanism to cut off any further exploration of gray area. Don't fear negative feelings. The idea that good and bad exist in every one of us is essential to your study of spiritualism and your acceptance of yourselves.
What I think we (the collective "we") miss in this lifetime is that the basis of all spirituality comes from striving to be kind and reverent...to everyone.
The fact is, I am not always kind or good to other people. No one is, all the time. But, I try. In fact, much of the conflict in my life arises from the feeling that I've failed someone, or that I'm misunderstood in my good intentions. Kindness is a learned art. I'm still learning.
I can tell you from my experience in life that, in many instances where I judged someone or something to be "bad," I found out later that I was wrong. I know that as a young adult, I was extremely critical of anything I didn't understand. I know now that my behavior was borne from fear, which is a whole 'nother post. The point is, of the things I regret in life, those times when I was critical of others stand out in my mind, particularly in those instances where I've had additional experience to support the opposite of what I felt then.
On the other hand, there were times I was unkind to people out of instinct. Those were times when I was very likely in danger, like the time a strange man started to walk with me through campus at night and got angry when I told him to get away from me. At the time, I felt like I overreacted, but with my current knowledge of the world and the way it works, I know that my instincts were right on.
So, I'm not suggesting you have to be good to all people at all times and to the detriment of yourself.
What I am suggesting is that the perpetuation of hatred and misunderstanding is our responsibility within our spiritual existence.
I'm suggesting that it doesn't matter what Bible you read or religion you adopt if you can't have compassion for other human beings.
I'm suggesting that you can't possibly know everything there is to know about another being, about what she has lived through, what beliefs she has adopted, what weaknesses she has, or what her intentions are, so you shouldn't even begin to start judging her.
I'm suggesting that, unless you are pushed to make an alternate decision, the best thing you can do in life is to be kind. Practice patience with others. Be good to yourself. If you can do these things, your spiritual life will find itself on a straighter, less painful path. Your efforts, I promise, will bring rewards.
I want you to learn about spiritualism, the story of God, and the history of religion. I want you to study how you feel in the presence of kindness, and in giving kindness to others. I hope moments of unkindness in your lives are few.
You'll discover for yourselves what it means to be spiritual. Start your journey with kindness and reverence for others. I know you'll find your way.