Many people are raised to believe in some kind of religion, and many people do stick with this belief all their lives. But where exactly does spirituality fall into this equation? Is it the same as religion? A component? A different concept entirely? The truth is, there is no right answer. As for what role spirituality plays in your life and how it does or doesn't interact with religion is a personal choice that is made by you, and you alone. Here are some things to remember when identifying your spirituality:
1 | Religion aside, we are all human beings
I am currently in a sorority at my university, and I recently struck up a conversation with some sisters who are all of different religious beliefs than I am. I am Christian, another girl is Jewish, another is atheist, and the fourth is Baha’i. We all had a similar conception of a higher power than ourselves (for the non-religious girl, hers was science) and we ended up having an extremely productive conversation about our personal beliefs, and I think that we really all learned a lot about each other’s beliefs as well. This particular interaction really opened my eyes to how understanding of others' beliefs people can be, and gave me hope for the future of spiritual acceptance. Something to keep in mind is that if you, your child, your sibling, or close family member chooses to not follow in the expected religious footsteps, it does not negate yours or their spirituality, or make these people any less close to you, unless you let it.
2 | Spirituality does not have to equal religion
It’s time for me to make my point by using that stereotypical moment of “Webster’s Dictionary defines ___ as…”, so get excited! Full disclosure, I actually found this definition on Wikipedia, but I feel that it embodies spirituality better than the actual definition from Webster’s Dictionary. Wikipedia so eloquently says that spirituality is the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” For many people, these values come from religion, but for many people they do not. One’s spirituality could be based on the idea of being kind to others. Someone else’s spirituality might be centered on living a simple, not materialistic life. The possibilities are endless, because you really get to choose what is best for you. Personally speaking, I was raised Roman Catholic, but there were several aspects of Catholicism that I did not exactly identify with. Through these past 20 years of my life, I have realized that my spirituality centers around treating people equally. Now this does intersect with my Christianity, but the two are not dependent on each other. Your spirituality is, simply put, how you choose to live your life.
3 | You don’t have to know what your spirituality is right now
As an undergraduate student, I will make a metaphor on this subject that relates to my current life. People are constantly asking me, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” Now, that is a very big question, to which I have an idea, but not a full-fledged answer to, and that is okay. I am only a sophomore student, so I have plenty of time to nail down my life plans. This same idea applies to spirituality. While in this situation it is not usually one in which others would question you, but more of a situation in which you might question yourself. Just as I shouldn’t be stressed by others rushing my life plans, you shouldn’t feel stressed about rushing your spiritual identification.
Everything about your spirituality – what it is, when you define it, how you live it – is entirely up to you. There are many things in life that are out of our control, or are influenced by society or the pressure to conform, and thankfully, spirituality does not fall into any of these categories. You have all the power to determine how you would like to live your life and how you identify with whatever spirituality you hold. You can choose to tell people verbally how you identify your spirituality, or you can keep it to yourself and live your life as you please. However you define and embody your personal spirit, it can be empowering to know that you can’t go wrong.
about the author
Hi! I'm Jackie, a psychology undergrad at Vanderbilt who loves dogs more than just about anything. When I'm not busy mentoring, you can find me playing or watching volleyball, playing the violin or, of course, watching a ton of Netflix!