What Is Spirituality?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jul 21, 2015 1:30:00 PM / by John MacDougall


There are many definitions of spirituality. define spirituality as the quality or nature of our relationships in three dimensions: relationships with our Higher Power, with ourselves, and with other people. As such, everyone has some spirituality. It might be terrible, but we’ve all got some. Our spirituality is the theme that runs through all three relationships. It unites us, animates us, and makes us who we are.

It is easier to see this theme in others, because we look at other people a lot more than we look at ourselves. Try thinking of a variety of people you know. Then fill in the blank in this sentence: “He/she has a spirit of _____.”

Whatever word you put in the blank defines that person’s spirit. If someone has a spirit of greed, they will be greedy everywhere they go, and conflicts in their lives will be resolved in favor of whatever gets them more money; they will complain to God, or to the universe, about not having enough money. If they have a spirit of provocation, they will provoke arguments everywhere they go; they will resent God for not running the universe well. If they have a spirit of despair, they will be downhearted about most things and won’t want to take on new projects or new relationships because they have learned that most things fail; they will expect nothing from God, either. If they have a spirit of cheerfulness, they will spread cheer to others and will expect that God is good. If they have a spirit of industriousness, they will be willing workers and see God as a partner.

The three relationships - with Higher Power, self, and others - are closely intertwined. They can’t be effectively separated. I don’t think it is possible to love God, be at peace with yourself, and treat everyone else like dirt. It just doesn’t happen. Any improvement in one of the three relationships lifts the other two. Any breakdown in one of the three relationships tears down the other two. If you have an ugly fight with the person you love, you aren’t likely to go to bed and say your prayers to God, because you are embarrassed about your conduct. Also you won’t feel very good about yourself. So all three relationships - Higher Power, self, and others - are damaged, even though you are only fighting with one person.

If you want to improve your spirituality right away, try treating every human being you meet as if they were a beloved child of their Higher Power. That doesn’t mean you have to love everyone right away. In some cases, that might be too much of a stretch to make. At least imagine that they have a Higher Power, and that their Higher Power loves them.

Once you start imagining all people as children of God, you will start treating them with dignity and respect. As a result, your relationships with them will improve, you will feel better about yourself, and it will dawn on you that, if everyone else has a loving Higher Power, so do you, and your whole attitude and outlook on life will change. You will lighten up and have confidence in God.

In A.A.’s Big Book, the program identifies selfishness and self-centeredness as the root of our troubles On page 62 the Big Book describes us as driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity. A spirituality that teaches us to value other people as equal to ourselves, as fellow children of God, can go a long way towards correcting this natural, alcoholic tendency towards selfishness. As we see ourselves in fellowship with others, rather than in opposition to them, we become spiritually fit.

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Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism, Recovery, AA Big Book, Recovery Program

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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