Conventionally, we tend to use words like, “faith”, “belief” and “spirituality” interchangeably. But these words have different meanings. More than just an academic distinction, these differences can actually be quite enlightening and help in understanding the idea of Spirituality.
Most of us think of “faith” in supernatural terms, as in “faith in God.” This is actually more of what psychologists of religion would call “belief”. Faith, from a more naturalistic, psychological perspective, is merely the innate drive to search for meaning, purpose and significance. From infancy, every human person has an innate sense that “there is something more than just me” and a drive to discover what that might be. People, whether they are believers or not, seek the deeper meaning, purpose, and significance that exists in life, relationships and the things that happen to us. We recognize this basic striving as “faith” and it is a universal part of being human. Even atheists have this kind of faith. Everyone has the gift of faith–that innate drive to seek meaning, purpose and significance–but some people have exercised this innate gift more than others, allowing their faith to be better defined than others.
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Belief represents the truths claims that a person makes as a result of his spiritual journey. When, as a result of a spiritual striving, a person decides that “this is true” and “this is not” he is articulating various “beliefs” that he holds because of experiences he’s had while trying to satisfy the innate sense of faith (i.e., that innate human longing for meaning, purpose, and significance) by engaging in various spiritual practices and pursuits. Beliefs about religious or spiritual phenomena have important effects on human behavior and functioning. They can provide one with a cognitive map of the world that makes it meaningful. Such worldview beliefs can ?ll many functions. They provide a paradigm for, among other things, what is the purpose of life, they may provide a buffer against anxiety, enhancing a sense of safety and security, and they may satisfy needs for a purpose in life, anchoring a sense of what is right and wrong. Moreover, such beliefs connect people, enabling the sharing of a system of values and rules for a social group, values and rules that may be a prime guiding force for actual behavior.
The term “spirituality” represents both the things on which a person focuses his or her faith (e.g, God, place of worship, nature, etc) and the things he or she does to try to make a connection with those things (prayer, sacraments, hiking). In other words, spirituality represents the paths a person’s faith travels (Griffin, 1988) as it seeks meaning, purpose, and significance. In these terms, faith is an internal feeling, a sense that there is “something more.” By contrast, spirituality represents the effort to find out what that “something more” might be. Spirituality results when one’s faith has been activated.
Traditionally, spirituality refers to a religious process of re-formation which “aims to recover the original shape of man,” oriented at “the image of God” as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience of a sacred dimension (Saucier ; Skrzypinska, 2006) and the “deepest values and meanings by which people live,” (Sheldrake, 1998) often in a context separate from organized religious institutions. Modern systems of spirituality may include a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm, (Schuurmans-Stekhoven, 2014) personal growth, a quest for an ultimate or sacred meaning, (Snyder ; Lopez, 2007) religious experience, (Sharf, 2000) or an encounter with one’s own “inner dimension.” (Waaijmann, Kees, 2002).
The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other (Koenig, King, & Carson, 2012). The term “spirituality” originally developed within early Christianity, referring to a life oriented toward the God Almighty. (Wong & Vinsky, 2009) During late medieval times the meaning broadened to include mental aspects of life, while in modern times the term broadened to refer to a wider range of experience, including a range of esoteric traditions.
The emerging focus on spirituality shows its relevance for furthering understanding of various aspects of human functioning and how it effects his environment. The results of several studies indicate that though spirituality is related to traits comprising aspects of traditional theories of personality, (Hills, Francis, Argyle, & Jackson, 2004; Saroglou, 2002; Wink, Ciciolla, Dillon, & Tracy, 2007), it represents an aspect of personality that is not fully accounted for by these model).