Spirituality As My Moral Compass | Counseling | Therapy

Spirituality As My Moral Compass

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

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Spirituality As My Moral Compass: morality is the set of standards by which we deem something, particularly conduct or behavior, good or bad. Morals, our personal principles in regard to ethical living, derive from many different sources. Upbringing, religion, the standards of society as expressed in laws, our peer groups, even past experience all shape our moral code. Sometimes we find these many and varied sources at odds within ourselves, which can lead to a sense of confusion and frustration. One behavior may be deemed wrong by one’s choice of religion, such as premarital sex, while it is viewed as okay by another source, like the legal system. When moral codes come to conflict within an individual, the resulting need for guidance or a sense of guilt can wreak havoc on their lives, relationships, and self esteem.

In contrast to morality, which often deals in concretes, spirituality is a system of abstracts, if it can be called a system at all. Spirituality means of, or relating to spirit. The spiritual path is deeply personal and highly individual. Like snowflakes, it can be argued that no two are exactly alike. It is one person’s experience of the spiritual realm. That realm can exist within themselves and outside themselves. Usually, it is the connection between the two that is most important; the relation of inner spiritual sense, the human spirit, to outer spiritual existence, or the divine or universal spirit. So how does something as vast as spirituality converge with something as constricted as morality?

Using one’s spiritual sense as a guide to determine for themselves what they view as good or bad, right or wrong is a strong way to center the ethical voice within. When outward moral codes, such as those provided by religion, government, or culture, begin to conflict and create confusion or distress, the personal spiritual experience anchors an individual’s set of morals within themselves, giving stability and guidance in a singular, personal fashion. In other words, just as one often defines their own spirituality, they can likewise design their own moral concepts according to that experience. In this way, each person becomes accountable to themselves morally speaking. It doesn’t mean they are exempt from the limits and standards of other systems, like governmental laws, but they are ruled by their own definitions of morality, rather than the myriad of others around them.

That said, how does one go about the business of defining their own moral compass according to their spiritual beliefs and experience? By putting to themselves the questions they have previously left to others. Where a child might rely on parental guidance to dictate what is good or bad, such as “don’t do drugs”. Now, you must ask yourself, “How do I feel about using illegal drugs? Why do I feel that way?” A good place to start is with the topics commonly addressed by other codes of ethics, such as sex, dishonesty, and violence. Most controversial subjects are controversial because they come to conflicting conclusions within different systems of morality. We see this consistently with issues like abortion, capital punishment, and gun laws.

Sit down with a pen and paper and write out a list of these topics. Then ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” with each one and write down your personal answers, even if they’re conflicting. Now, go back over these topics and consider your spiritual path and the choices it has led you to make. How does it collide with these topics? Can you see your path leading you to make choices for or against them? Why? What about others? Does your spiritual experience require you to make choices concerning others who are for or against these topics? For example, you might find that though you are not comfortable with abortion as a moral choice, your spirituality persuades you to be empathetic towards others who are. You may also find that though you do not condone the act of murder, you also cannot abide the company of someone who does. Most likely you will find that many of your answers to these questions center around your perceptions of God or deity. They may even lead you to reevaluate your image of the divine and your personal connection to it. Or, they may merely cement what you were already experiencing.

Once you have begun to define your moral view on the big issues, you will find it far easier to do the same on the smaller ones. As you pursue your spiritual path, your definitions may change or evolve according to your experiences. The important thing is to be anchored to your own inward moral compass so that you are not tossed about by the conflicting interests of those around you, even if you find that many of your standards are much the same as everyone else’s.

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