In the Spiritual Relationship
Modern Roadblocks to Faith
Make no mistake—a lot of people still believe in God. However, many do not consider religion or spirituality important to their daily living experiences. Some have firmly rejected the idea of God or anything that cannot be proven by science; others simply believe that these concepts have little bearing in a modern world. People give numerous reasons for these negative or neutral views about spirituality; some of the more common ones include:
- Science: Science produces results; this God idea doesn’t. If I can’t see it or touch it, or if it can’t be proven by science, then, it’s not real and has no substance.
- Materialism: I live in a material world. I have a mortgage, medical bills, and kids going to college. God won’t help pay my bills or do anything about the real problems I have.
- Self-driven attitudes: a myriad of “self-driven” mind-sets prevents the open-mindedness necessary for investigation. A few of these are:
- Misconceptions: Erroneous beliefs about this spiritual life deter, or actually offend, the logical thinker. Below are just a few common arguments people present:
- Religions argue about God. Christianity can’t even agree on the details of their Bible or on important concepts.
- Religion does not work. I’ve tried it; going to church didn’t do anything for me.
- If God exists, why would anyone want anything to do with a God that causes earthquakes, genocide, and famines, or a God that takes people we love away and allows events like 9/11 to happen?
- Why do I need God? I’m doing okay. Religion is for the weak, those who can’t make it in the world on their own.
In the Relationship with Self
Lack of Healthy Self-love
Recognizing that all relationships connect to this self-relationship is nothing new. Over 2,600 years ago, Buddha said, “Consider others as yourself.” Then, centuries later, Jesus told us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many herald this as a path to world peace—if we just loved everybody, all would be well. However, we miss the fact that these admonitions imply two great truths: 1) We should extend healthy love to all people, but 2) We can bestow love only to the degree that we have a healthy self-love. It tells us to love our neighbor as we love our self.
We generally think of integrity as adhering to a set of values or principles; however, true integrity goes far beyond this basic concept. As discussed earlier, the word integrity comes from the root word integer, which is the quality or condition of being whole, undivided, unimpaired, and complete. Lacking wholeness leaves a hole. Such a void doesn’t produce a consciousness of itself but results in restlessness, an inner tension, a yearning to find something to fill the void—to find completeness and to feel better.
This impairment starts in our childhood. We start our life in an imperfect world with imperfect parents, family, and associates. Most of these people have their own inner void that they constantly strive to fill. They clamor and struggle, striving for more and more. This conflict negatively influences everyone they contact. When their inner conflict affects us, we respond the only way we know how: We use the same tools we see these very people using. That’s all we’ve got, so we become like them. We damage our integrity and start creating our own inner void.
We’re caught in a cycle. The hole is there. We feel the emptiness, the lacking of something, but we don’t know what we could use to fill it and regain our natural state of unity, our feeling of wholeness. So we continue to use answers sold to us by other less-than-whole people. We load the hole with power, money, bigger toys, sex, fame, drugs, alcohol, harmful relationships, and myriad other false fillers. Each time we get our current object of gratification, the inner tension and pressure abate for a short time, but they always return because we have filled the void with the wrong things.
The Big “I” Disease
Selfishness occurs when I seek something for my own advantage, pleasure, or well-being, without regard for others. It includes all thoughts, words, or actions that center on obtaining my own wants or needs, with little or no consideration of how that will affect others.
Self-centerednessrepresents the attitude that sweeps across all events that impinge on my life and focuses on how they impact me—what is their relationship to what I want, what I need, what I think should happen? All actions, all emotions, and all words are evaluated solely by their potential effect on the heart and soul of my universe–me.
Self-righteousness refers to overconfidence in my rightness, or being smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions of others. When acting self-righteously, I think I’m right and I pay little attention to other peoples’ ideas or opinions. I don’t need to follow directions. I believe that I either know the best answer or I can figure it out. This attitude sheds constructive criticism and limits opportunities for growth.
These three horses plow our mental field and sow seeds of discontent and discord, guaranteeing a harvest of misery. When we act on these intentions and actually feel a twinge of guilt, our mind tells us, “Everyone does it; I’m not really hurting anyone,” or, “It’s no big deal.” Actions based on these motives may produce some worldly benefit. Seen from the viewpoint of our current culture, the value of this material gain often seems to outweigh the slight negative pressure we feel inside for doing it. Then, tacit (and sometimes open) approval of others reinforces the pattern. Our little twinge of conscience becomes less and less noticeable each time we succumb to the unhealthy self-motivation.
In the Relationship with Others
Problems versus Symptoms in Relationships
When we have a problem in a relationship, we’re faced with a number of different theories about how we should solve it. Many current models for improving relationships ignore any spiritual aspect. Other approaches stress the spiritual component but fail to acknowledge the power of the mind. Many do not recognize the interconnection and dependence of the three basic relationships (spiritual, self, and others), or they fail to recognize the prioritized order in which these must be built. These methods do offer some good practices and concepts. They help some people some of the time, but they often limit their effectiveness because they concentrate on symptoms rather than the real problem.
Our extensive look at the self-relationship revealed that our feelings were the symptom but the primal problems are impaired integrity, lack of self-love, and self-based decisions. Only when we solve these basic problems can we hope to alleviate the symptoms.