The following article is based on Chapter 3 of my ebook, Spiritual Growth: Live the Questions, Love the Journey, available here.
What if We Don’t Grow?
Is growth automatic or do we sometimes go in circles? I’m going to presume you have an interest in growth in your life since you’ve landed, one way or another, at this site and this article. (A warm welcome, by the way!) Then I also presume you don’t want to waste time mulling the same questions without new insights, or trying out churches or spiritual practices that end up being the “wrong” direction.
Maybe you are in a crisis of faith. Or what a wise pastor and author, Kathy Escobar, calls a faith shift. I’m confident you at least know someone who is…. Either you or someone you know could benefit from some support or direction. In the just-previous article, and chapter two of Spiritual Growth, I listed a few of the effects of going through such a shift.
Now I’ll focus briefly on a few of the issues involved in the midst of a shift. The process is called “deconstruction” and “reconstruction” by many “shifters”. Some leave off “reconstruction” in thinking they have no ongoing interest in spirituality or faith, as it is normally conceived. My observation is that everyone does reconstruct belief systems, actually during a period of doubting or throwing out previous beliefs, as well as after the major changes are finished. However, some may not do that in a deliberate or systematic way. They tend to think of their process as merely leaving behind wrong or dysfunctional beliefs or practices (usually both).
My focus here is the intellectual or belief-oriented issues. The emotional and relational ones are interwoven with them and at least as important… in varying degrees depending on the situation and the personality of the person involved. This is what prominent growth-stage theorist, Ken Wilber, calls the cognitive line of growth. The several lines of growth are interrelated but are not generally all at the same exact level. But this is critical: if the cognitive aspect becomes static, it tends to impede the other aspects of growth. That’s why I consider it improper to say that attempts to understand things or be consistent in one’s beliefs is of little or no consequence… that only what one does matters.
Finding Direction for Growth
Where do you look for deepening your understanding, for getting answers? If not answers, in the sense of settled, certain positions (which shouldn’t be the expectation on most issues), then some sense of what is proper not to believe, and why? Do you look to authority figures in your life, maybe a pastor or priest, or a professor? Do you look mainly to peers… your friends or maybe people on social media in a pertinent group? Other Internet sources? Books? (I fear books may indeed be last in use, at least for most people.)
Well, I admit to a bias toward learning from books, or at least from lengthy and thoughtful articles. Not suitable for everyone, I know. But I will encourage you toward stretching your reading muscles for issues like what to believe and why. If nothing else, you get to see how much and how deeply others have dealt with some of the same issues that trouble you, or make you curious at least. It may be in reading a full book on a given topic, or a cluster of related ones, you will begin to see things more clearly… better than by just collecting a range of opinions from people who have not studied that topic(s) in depth.
What have you gone through regarding the beliefs within your faith tradition and your own set of beliefs? How have you resolved conflicts and upgraded what you believe? Please share with us.