One of the challenges of being without a predefined spiritual label is that it can be just as hard to define for oneself the purpose of one’s nebulous spiritual endeavors as it is to describe your spiritual identity to others. When people ask what you are, what you believe, they expect an answer which is concise enough to give them the information they’re after without devolving into a sermon.
I think most of us find labels to be important to some extent. Even for those of us who don’t have a religion, finding a name for where we stand is an important communicative task. And, whether we like to admit it or not, we judge others based on the labels they choose for themselves. Both the choice of labels and our reactions to the labels chosen by others says a lot about what we want and think others should want from their spiritual life. And this means that, to choose the most appropriate and most useful label, we have to have a firm understanding of what purpose spirituality plays in our lives. The more certain I have felt in my life about what I believed and what my religion or spiritual path was supposed to do for me, the more easily I’ve selected a label.
In the past couple of decades, choosing a label has been extremely difficult.
And it’s more than not knowing what I want. It’s also not knowing what words will most effectively convey the idea to others. What we think we are saying isn’t always what is heard. Especially when we’ve rejected a label for ourselves, we can be prone to assuming we know what others who still use that label mean when they say it. Those assumptions say more about us than they say about others.
Though I’ve still not settled on a label which I feel is both meaningful and accurately communicative, I labor under the assumption that once I get a firm grasp on what I believe is the purpose of my spiritual endeavors the description will fall into place. That maybe settling on a label will be the signal that I’ve found my spiritual identity.
In the meantime, the centerpiece of my personal spirituality is the search itself, the quest for direction if not answers. I am, if nothing else, a seeker.Tags: identity, labels, personal essay, religion, spirituality
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