What is your story? Who are your people? How do you see yourself as unique, yet part of your family, community, and God’s ongoing work in this world? We want to grow as individuals so that we can live out our strengths and feel a sense of fulfillment through contributing; yet, many of us struggle with finding our place and feeling joyful in our daily lives. Many of us find ourselves internally conflicted—torn between obligations and passions. Some of us have stories we tell about our lives and the world that keep us from experiencing fullness in life, connection to others, and the love that we need. We need good stories for our lives that help us grow our capacities to love and serve—stories that help us live out the best of our abilities.
A sense of identity and even one’s narrative are usually not first to come to mind when considering spirituality. However, spiritual health involves a growing cohesive sense of identity, self-awareness, and narrative. From a psychological perspective identity involves our self-concept—who we know ourselves to be and who we are becoming. Identity includes everything from physical characteristics (ex., tall, long hair), our behavioral tendencies (ex., shy, witty), our evolving values, our passions, and our sense of our strengths and weaknesses. In addition, identity includes those to which we belong—our family, school or work, our ethnicity, or our religious, political and/or other communities. Identity also integrates our beliefs about the world, faith, our responsibility to others and our planet. Healthy spirituality allows us to explore, understand, and revise our sense of identity and belonging.
Here are a couple of thoughts and questions to help you look at your identity and narrative —upward, inward, and outward.
UPWARD: Do you have a narrative that connects you to a source of transcendent love? Do you have beliefs that help you cope and grow through difficulties?
Healthy spirituality fosters a belief in love beyond ourselves, and this loving connection is an anchor for us during difficult times. Not only does it bring our focus to the bigger picture of life, creating perspective, our connection to our source of love allows us to feel held, safe, and seen as we search for what we truly believe, and want to believe, about ourselves—our identity.
Pursuing transcendent experiences can be a way to increase our awareness of love. Whether that looks like taking time to sit in gratitude or meditating on what we truly believe about the world, our identity can be revealed on a deeper level and strengthened during these experiences.
INWARD: Do you understand your unique giftedness? Are you offering it to the world? What are the stories you tell yourself about you? Are they helpful?
Sometimes negative narratives that have been established throughout our lives can hinder our ability to see our strengths clearly, inhibiting us from living into our true purpose. Simply becoming aware of the existence of these narratives can set us on a track to shift towards more loving stories about ourselves.
With a growing sense of identity comes a clearer picture of our strengths. As we pursue a narrative of love and redemption, our gifts can come into focus and we can see what we have to offer the world around us. We can look at the rhythms of our lives and see if our giftings have been naturally worked into our stories, or how we can create opportunities to intentionally incorporate them.
OUTWARD: Do you have a sense of who you belong to (family, friends, ethnic group, religious/spiritual community, political group)? Do your people affirm your individuality? Are you able to affirm theirs? How do your stories support or hinder your ability to do so?
Feeling like we have a place where we belong and people who unconditionally accept us is a massive component in creating our identity. Healthy, active community is an anchor point, as we solidify our values when they are validated by others. Loving community allows us to safely explore and establish our beliefs about ourselves and the world.
Our narratives can support or hinder our ability to find and connect with the right types of loving communities. With healthy narratives comes the belief that we are worthy of love and acceptance for our individuality and we develop our capacity to give love and show acceptance to others for their individuality.
Blogs: The Divine Individuality of a Thriving Life; The Power of Storytelling: Shaping Future Generations With Our Past; Attachment Styles: Why Does Love Sometimes Feel so Difficult?; Helping youth find their coordinates
Meaning-Making (Part 1): The Power of a Meaning-Making Mindset
The practice of meaning-making involves exploring our belief systems, especially our beliefs around spirituality, which offer a distinct and powerful role in making meaning.
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