by: Martin Santos
In the Bible, adversity is used as a catalyst for growth. Illness is a demand to grow spiritually with conflict (disorder). Fundamentally, we are born into fear, poverty, illiteracy, and superstition, “the four horsemen,” who meet all of us in the beginning, middle and end; they must be tamed, or they can stampede the mind, acting as a wild stallion. Internal conflict, adversity, perseverance, and faith, describe my lifetime of personal growth in vital spiritual experiences.
Personal Growth and Spiritual Integration
We are all born co-dependent, necessary to form identity, health, and survival. We age (advance) and strive for independence. Beginning in dependence and fighting for independence, author Dr. Stephen Covey describes in his book Seven Habits of Effective People, that an individual moves through phases of “you are,” responsible, dependent, to “I am” responsible, independent, hopefully striving for “we are,” responsible, interdependence.
I can summarize my personal growth as responsiveness of change, from athlete, warrior, statesman, to spiritual recognition. Austrian psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung said: “Man needs difficulties, they are necessary for health” (RedFrost, 2021).
Diagnosed in 1994, with Bipolar Depression at age twenty-four, was an identity no one can prepare for, it is an individual experience. I was in search of healing and all my efforts were exhausted. I needed to be healed inside by stimulating my spirituality. My illness was a spiritual malady reflected in my actions of using alcohol and drugs to cope, maintain, and manage life.
I am not the events that happened to me, I am what I chose to become as a result. It is not the events of life but how we hold them, our position, our attitude, our meaning.
A position (attitude) is based on creating meaning. Our position may lead to no middle, gray, or balance, only yin or yang, this, or that, yes or no. We are taught right and wrong. Jung said: ‘The pendulum of our mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right or wrong’ (Marshall, 2020).
My personal growth for thirty-five years was of co-dependence masking as independence and interdependence. For thirty-three years, alcohol was a symptom of my co-dependency, inner pain, anger, frustration, and method of pleasant rebellion. Playing organized baseball for fifteen years, interdependence, is a part of my makeup. At nineteen years of age, in undergraduate studies, the process of individuation became awareness.
In my thirties, I found myself alone but not lonely. I used alcohol as an invisible companion to shift and alter my moods. I was seeking union with God, and foolishly believed alcohol and drugs provided instant access to resolve unidentified anguish. Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), in a letter from Dr. Jung expresses the dilemma I faced:
‘My craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of my being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God. Alcohol in Latin is “spiritus” and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum. Spirit, like God, denotes an object of psychic experience which cannot be proved to exist in the external world and cannot be understood rationally (McCabe, 2018).’
At age forty-five, entering my first AA meeting, I recognized the need for a dependence (partnership) in God by forming a partnership with Him to undergo the process of recovery, personal growth, and true maturity. Maturity, for me, is the courage and consideration for self, which leads to composure, acceptance, and resiliency. To embrace the innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness of self, is individuation, self-hood (McCabe, 2018).
In my relationship with the Higher Power, “we” recognize that my life is imperfect, but with our internal relationship, my true self remains intact. ‘We’ move forward in humility, faith, strength, wisdom, perseverance, responsibility, integrity, honesty, and compassion to all that comes. I am not a finished work; I am part of the larger equation.
The impact of my interpersonal relationships and spiritual integration has brought me to the present moment of what Abraham Maslow referred to as ‘self-transcendence;’ an independent, self-actualized identity of achievement and effective social connective state (Mustafa, 2019).
Eight years in sobriety, my abstinence from alcohol has formed soundness of mind, serenity, and clarity of thought. Being rigorously open, honest, and willing, to examine my part in the equation of life, I realize what is created in the mind is by selection, decision, and meaning. Sobriety keeps me in a state of interdependence, self-discovery, and faithful ability to meet adversity with resiliency, courteousness, and gratefulness.
Self-Renewal Techniques for Personal Development in Ministry Settings
According to Chandler et al., (1992), spiritual wellness is a “continuing search for meaning and purpose in life; an appreciation for depth of life, the expanse of the universe; a personal belief system” (p. 168).Continual self-renewal includes optimal functionality to identify, cultivate, and maintain an influence of personal development in faith.
Self-care, AA, psychotherapy, contemplation (meditation), partnerships (interdependence), and continual learning are practices (lifestyle) important in my life process and in ministry settings too.
The importance of personal development in a spiritual wellness ministry helps educate (educe), not indoctrinate, personal spiritual formation, physical and emotional self-care, cultural intelligence, protection of spiritual health, marriage, and family, through leadership and management (Miller, 2016).
Ministers deal with matters of life skills, behavior patterns, and character. By emphasizing presence, not productivity, and contemplation with an active prayer life, we become effective. Life is not about productivity but degree of presence.
Self-care, emotional health, abstinence, and stress reduction produce an environment for soundness of mind. A spiritual life (contemplative, Religious, philosophical) is part of the human essence, rich in emotional and cultural intelligence, fostered in cooperation, courage, consideration, and composure, which instills resiliency and proper responsiveness to change (Chandler et al., 1992).
Self-Renewal Techniques Enhancing Wellness in Others
Spirituality is a natural part of being human. To be grateful for what one has and become, enhances the self and others. Spiritual health needs clear conceptual definition. It must be lived.
Spiritual wellness is evident in the willingness to seek meaning and purpose in human existence, to question (critical thinking), including self. To appreciate the intangibles which cannot be explained or understood readily. A spiritually sound person seeks harmony (accepts) within the individual and the forces that come from outside the individual (Chandler et al., 1992).
To enhance wellness in others, and greater familiarity of the spiritual dimension, ministers need to define the concept of spiritual health (renewal) to facilitate growth. (Chandler et al., 1992).
Stephen Covey summarizes the practice of seven techniques that foster self-renewal: 1. Be initiative-taking, proactive 2. Begin with the end in mind, vision.3. Put first things first, values.4. Think win-win, cooperation.5. Seek first to understand then to be understood, compassion.6. Synergize, cooperative action. 7. Sharpen the saw, practice.
When ‘we’ realized that to change a situation, we must change ourselves first, and in changing ourselves effectively, we begin by changing our perceptions—meaning (Covey, 2020).
Pastors and everyone will benefit from work in these areas to develop listening skills, speak the truth, and manage conflict, for in the Bible, God uses adversity as a catalyst for growth.
Chandler, C., Holden, J., & Kolander, C. (1992). Counseling for spiritual wellness: Theory and practice. Journal of Counseling and Development, 71(2), 168-175. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsghw&AN=edsgcl.13322322&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=s8333196&groupid=main&profile=eds
Covey, S. R. (2020). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd. https://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People/dp/1471195201
Marshall, J. (2020). My spiritual coach: The mind oscillates between sense and nonsense not between right or wrong. News Media Publishing. https://www.myspiritualcoach.org/my-blog-articles/the-pendulum-of-the-mind-oscillates-between-sense-and-nonsense-not-between-right-and-wrong-what-does-this-mean
McCabe, I. (2018). Carl Jung and Bill Wilson 1945–1961. Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429472695-1
Miller, K. (2016). What it takes to thrive in ministry. Christianity Today, 60(1), 74–90. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rlh&AN=112126539&site=ehost-live&scope=site&custid=s8333196&groupid=main&profile=ehost
Mustafa Tekke. (2019). The highest levels of Maslow’s hierarchical needs: Self-actualization and self-transcendence. Eğitimde Nitel Araştırmalar Dergisi, 7(4), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.14689/issn.2148-2624.1.7c.4s.17m
RedFrost Motivation. (2021). Carl Jung- Life changing quotes. You Tube. https://youtu.be/f9KnSsrSNa8