There are many attempts at defining religion and spirituality. The way I define them is that religion happens on the outside and spirituality happens on the inside. Religion is based on organization, liturgical styles and sets of beliefs. Spirituality is within each of us, regardless of any (or no) religious association. It is how we make sense of our life, our world. It is how we connect with other people and animals and nature. Yes, it may be a belief in a higher power, but it doesn’t have to be.
So often, my clients struggle with this distinction for one very simple reason: when we are taught a set of beliefs, raised within a religious system, we don’t always question what we believe in our hearts. When someone we love dies, we may question for the first time – “Is what I’ve always believed true?”. One woman said to me : “But how do we know? Capital K, Capital N, Capital O, Capital W. How can we KNOW?” The simple answer is: we can’t know. We believe what we believe because we’ve come to believe it. Some of us have struggled along spiritual and/or religious journeys and others have always held tight to the same belief system. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not condemning or condoning any one way; I’m simply saying that it is natural to experience this struggle in grief. Some folks walk away from their church connections and seek something else. Others hold tight to what they’ve always believed, finding great comfort.
What are your thoughts about the difference between religion and spirituality? Where are you on this journey towards understanding?
Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC