What are the signs of a truly spiritual person?

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Living in a world of such a variety of religious beliefs and persuasions it can be incredibly difficult to discern what it means to live a life that is in the most positive sense truly spiritual. Add to that the pressure to be productive, busy and active  and it becomes harder and harder to define. Is spirituality defined by what we do are by who we are of a combination of both? We also live in a world where centuries old values of right and wrong in such fundamental areas as lifestyle and sexuality are being questioned and systematically dismantled. Under the guise of secularism (which really is another form of religious belief that lacks the self-awareness to recognise a higher value) another set of values is confidently espoused.

In many ways this is nothing new. Here is how the apostle Paul writing in the first century described an unspiritual and empty life. The English translation is from a paraphrase called The Message:

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.”

That was written 2000 years ago, but it could not be more up to date!

That is a pretty depressing description of human nature and yet in may ways it does illustrate some of the characteristics of modern life presented through much of the media and culture around us.

So what does a truly spiritual person look like?

The best explanation I have come across again is that from the apostle Paul. He talks about this in terms of ‘the fruit of the Spirit’. In Galatians 5:22-23 of his letter , the New International Version of the original Greek, states:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.”

Here is how the Message translation paraphrases each of these different qualities:….

NIV                           The Message

Love                           Affection for others

Joy                              Exuberance about life

Peace                          Serenity

Patience                     A willingness to stick with things

Kindness                    A sense of compassion in the heart

Goodness                   A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people

Faithfulness              Involved in loyal commitments

Gentleness                 Not needing to force our way in life

Self-control                Able to marshall and direct our   energies wisely.

And here is the context within which that is presented through the Message translation of those verses:

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

So true spirituality is much more than a subjective inner sense of peace or calm. It is reflected in specific qualities of character.

For more on this also see:

Podcast #018: Spiritual Maturity

Podcast #007: Religion

How would you describe spiritual maturity in the most positive sense?

6 thoughts on “What are the signs of a truly spiritual person?”

  1. Being spiritual is being a questioning mind to reach up to the spirit behind the things happening around us. It has nothing to do with religion which was the result of spiritual search by the originator of that religion at that time. With the passing of time much more knowledge has been gained and being spiritual is a continuous journey rather than sticking to some old knowledge in the name of God.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Prem.
      I would say spiritual growth is much more than just knowledge. I can know what to do, but then choose not to do it. Knowledge is not enough.
      True spiritual growth is about transformation in character from the inside out. It is about truly growing in the fruits of the Spirit that are outlined in the post.

  2. Difficult question. Perhaps a spiritual person is one who is anchored. Anchored in a relationship with God that helps them reflect on life issues and bring their faith to bear. The phrase “learning to abide in Christ” at least for Christians comes to mind. Being able to turn our face to our God at any point in the day and “pick up the conversation”. Jesus said (something to the effect of) “i am the vine – you are the branches. Remain in me as I also remain in you”. That’s quite hard! but it helps me a bit. I agree the fruit of the spirit is the outworking of someone who life is centred on their faith and spirituality.

    1. What is helpful about putting it that way Chris is the perspective of being on a journey and not getting it right all the the time. I like the metaphor of being anchored – very helpful.

  3. Even though I’m supposed to be a Christian, unfortunately I identify more with the first paragraph from the Message rather than the second, it has opened my eyes to what I am not, how to become like the 2nd paragraph is my goal, but I feel a life long one.

    1. Join the club, Karl! It is actually very healthy to realise I have a long way to go. As John Newton said, “By the grace of God I am what I am. I’m not what I want to be, but I thank God I am not what I once was.”

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