Most people know what it means to be religious, but what does it mean when people say they are spiritual? It is a term that is thrown around a lot, with different meanings to different people.
According to Pastor Buddy Martin of The Christian Challenge, a local church and training school for Christian Workers that places an emphasis on missions, answers this question, explaining that the word “spiritual” is a bible term relating to our walk with the Lord. People who are spiritual are those people who have learned the importance of living by the Spirit.
On the other hand, Pastor Buddy Martin explains that the word religious means to be superstitious. Basically, if a person is religious it means only that they follow a religion. It is possible for a person to be religious without being spiritual because being spiritual means that a person is walking with the true God of the bible.
Other interpretations exist on what spirituality really is. In a book titled “What is Spirituality” by Paul Bjorklund, a clergyman on the staff at Hazelden Pioneer House, a rehabilitation facility for young adults in Plymouth, Minnesota, this topic is discussed. Bjorklund says that spirituality really deals with the quality of our relationships to the things and people that are most important to us. Therefore, since everyone holds people and/or things of importance to them, it can be said that spirituality is part of being human.
Moreover, in a study conducted by Rick Sawatzky, Pamela A. Ratner, and Lyren Chiu on the relationship between spirituality and quality of life the researchers discussed the many different definitions that exist for the concept of spirituality.
The researchers explain, “definitions of spirituality range from the perspective of organized religion with predefined beliefs and practices to seeing spirituality as an elusive and subjective human experience.”
Despite the varying definitions, there do exist certain common characteristics of spirituality. First of all, the concept refers to a relationship with some kind of higher power, as well as an “existential search for meaning and purpose”. Furthermore, with spirituality comes an orientation toward the sacred. The word sacred here refers to certain parts of life that are inspiring. Moreover, spirituality is associated with a person’s personal experiences that may not be expressed through their actions.
For the study, the researchers looked to the International Center for the Integration of Health and Spirituality to help them come up with a definition they could use for their study. What was decided on was that spirituality could be defined as “the feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors that arise from a search for the sacred. The term “search” refers to attempts to identify, articulate, maintain, or transform. The term “sacred” refers to a divine being or Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Truth as perceived by the individual”.
Going back to the question of how spirituality differs from religion, the researchers explained that there are a few different ways. For one, religion does not always contain a search for non-sacred goals, such as identity or health, in such a way that this search is its main priority. Also, religion relies heavily on the rituals that go along with this search that receive support from a particular group of people.
While most people can agree that religion and spirituality are two separate things, there is not one set definition of what it means to be spiritual. However, I believe that as long as you can find a meaning of spirituality that works for you and live by meaning, you can make your own spiritual journey to fit your lifestyle and beliefs.