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Are You Purposeful about Growth?

April 28, 2013

What have you done for yourself lately? Not in the sense of something fun or indulgent (which is important, too)… but in the sense of advancing your own growth as a person?

Most of us have an area or two where we do this naturally.  If we love to read, we grow our minds and perhaps our emotional or relational selves. If we love to interact, we learn (hopefully) from others directly.  But what about broader growth and balance in all key areas of life, including the spiritual (which I mean as including religion but not restricted to formal religion)? Are you advancing not only within yourself but also in your understanding of others who may be either a step or two “behind” you, or maybe a bit ahead? 

I wrote two posts recently on stages of growth and learning to recognize and think in terms of key developmental markers, transitions and certain stages that are broadly observed in Western societies.  They are found similarly in all cultural settings.  You can find those posts here and here.  Today I want to point out that these stages and their characteristics — strengths and limitations — can be seen within Christian churches and other institutions.  Such knowledge, and the ability to “locate” your own church or group in relation to others, can link up with your self-knowledge to help guide you… perhaps to a new religious involvement (or non-involvement) or to a place of greater understanding and effectiveness for others and your own growth.

A simplified chart of historical developments ...

A simplified chart of historical developments of major groups within Christianity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe an understanding of stage characteristics will help you understand a friend or relative as well as yourself.  The “locating” of a group goes beyond just its set of outward beliefs, although the beliefs are usually an integral part and a strong factor in placing them in one of several stage-styles.

The catalyst for returning to this subject (as I intend to periodically since it is a key foundation in most of my research and writing) was starting to read a new and highly enlightening, recently published book, Integral Christianity, by Paul Smith.  I will be writing a review of the book when I’m finished with it…. I already know enough of Smith’s work and have perused the book to be assured I will find it more than worthy.

I will share one important tidbit from Integral Christianity here, in relation to an issue of my own growth: Paul Smith speaks about having and then growing beyond anger with the ideas or the people most representing, to us, a spiritual stage we have recently “outgrown”.  There are various legitimate reasons for such anger which I’ll not go into here.  I merely want to mention that, while my anger was never intense, I certainly had some, toward the style of “Evangelicalism” I’d spent childhood and much of my adult life in.  It was seldom, if ever, directed toward any single person or institution. It gradually moved into mainly a sense of understanding, with mild frustration still lingering.

Perhaps because of my psychological and theological education and serving experiences, I always retained gratitude for the many positives of my background and earlier experiences… a perspective that Paul encourages in the book along with moving beyond one’s nearly inevitable anger.  With this comes the graciousness of allowing everyone to be at the stage they need to be and with the people they find important and supportive at a given time.

Still, this acceptance is not the same as postmodern “tolerance” which seeks to place everything believed or practiced on a single level of one’s personal “truth”.  Rather, it makes an informed and experiential “judgment” (non-judgmentally) that one has gone “beyond” or to a “higher” stage, without demeaning or belittling anyone who has not made such a transition or remains a step behind.

Thus, one can be comfortable with, even supportive of a person within the style of thought and practice where they are.  I have people close to me for which this is the case.  I know that the wisdom and grace to take this perspective (which I see as ultimately being from God) is liberating and powerful, both for me and for them.

So, do you have a practice, goals, or some kind of guideline for stimulating your growth? What is it? Is it in a form you can describe and somehow share with us? Or with others?

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