Monday, March 24, 2014

Defining Spiritual Maturity

As a framework within which to discuss spiritual maturity, I think it's important to recognize that there are things that can be said privately that can't be said publicly - in ALL groups of any kind. That's just social communion and sensitivity. On the other hand, I say things all the time in church that others would have a hard time saying without push-back, because I've had to do so all my life and have become fairly good at doing it in a productive, acceptable way - and because everyone knows I'm a "faithful", orthoprax member and not a threat in any way.

Spiritual maturity, to me, is about being comfortable with reality (mine and others'), even when there are parts of reality (mine and others') that I am trying to change. It's not expecting more than people can do and be (including myself). It's an empathetic orientation - even when there are things that bother me and that I am trying to change. It's judging carefully and minimally (only as much as is absolutely necessary) and always remaining open to the possibility that I might be wrong in even those judgments.

Spiritual maturity, to me, is close to "perfect faith (whole, complete, fully developed hope)" - or, recognizing the limits of my (and others') understanding and being at peace with those limits. That "limitation peace" is the foundation of growth, since it allows me to pursue "further light and knowledge" while being okay with my (and others') dark sight in the moment.

Spiritual maturity, to me, is knowing what you know, believing what you believe, understanding that you don't know what you don't know, etc. - and realizing that every one of those lists is subject to change - and being at peace with that possibility.

Spiritual maturity, to me, is being totally fine that not everyone is spiritually mature - and that some people are really, really spiritually immature.


Ben said...

Excellent. Thanks for those insights. I think the last part is often the hardest for me—recognizing that some people are just spiritually immature and there's usually nothing I can do about it.

Margaret Placentra Johnston said...

As long as what constitutes spiritual maturity remains inexplicit in our society, as long as there are "things that can be said privately that can't be said publicly,' we are destined to have to tolerate the dominant messages promoting spiritually immature concepts.

Only by speaking aloud - risking whatever sanctions the conventional world might impose - will we ever help society get beyond the gigantic limitations of their literalism. You can't promote universal spiritual concepts and world views without spelling out the limitations of provincialism.

For many centuries people have been speaking in code about what spiritual maturity consists of. Until someone spells it out in plain language, the conventional world will never wake up. Yes, we can be fine that not everyone is (very few people are?) spiritually mature. But we don't have to accept the belief that there is nothing we can do about it.

Papa D said...

I agree, Margaret. I've lost all fear of speaking out - but that's largely because I've had decades to learn how to speak in a way that has a chance of being understood and accepted. What I say and how I say it are important in any attempt to make a difference or a change.

Ben, it's not that there's nothing I can do about it. Rather, it's that sometimes everything I can do about it won't change anything for some people - and I have to be okay with that. I know that might seem like a fine distinction to lots of people, but it's an important one, I believe.

Anonymous said...

It's a fine balance, and can leave one'self very vulnerable to other's view of unorthdoxy, which can be very isolating. I work towards bearing in mind that we each have control over our own pace of change.

ji said...

I don't think being spiritually mature means speaking aloud and spelling everything out in plain language. To me, being spiritually mature usually means saying less rather than more. It means respecting others where they are, and sustaining them where they are.

Perhaps the very best primer on being spiritually mature is from Paul in Romans chapter 14 -- understanding why and allowing other people to have differing views even on seemingly important topics, and supporting them in holding those views, and controlling oneself so as to never put a stumblingblock in front of a believing brother or sister.