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Spiritual Growth
The Lifecycle of Hope

The first "birth of God" is strongly affected by early attachment experiences and spans the first 6 or 7 years of life. The second "birth of God" begins in middle childhood and continues through adolescence. In the Catholic faith, this is the time for "confirmation". The Jewish Bar Mitzvah gives teens a public forum to solicit community support while affirming their faith in the Torah. A Lakota boy is given animal hairs and feathers which make it possible for him to move into an uncertain future with symbols of attachment, mastery, and protection. The Ifa elders in Western Africa provide the next generation with instructions on creating a "sacred space" to bond with Orisa. Adolescent Hindus receive sashes to symbolize the three Vedas that will encircle them, keeping them safe from danger and evil.

In this chapter we focus on gaining a better appreciation of how spiritual beliefs affect one's experience of hope. The process of spiritual growth is discussed in terms of the development of the hope-related motives and their building blocks. We also discuss how sacred rites and practices may trigger brain circuits associated with attachment, mastery and survival. Ultimately, these rituals can be thought of as ceremonies designed to create a sense of "communal hope".

Related issues covered in our book

    Why religion matters: Why religion is the source of hope for much of the world's population

    Religion and hope: How religious and spiritual beliefs determine your degree and quality of hope

    Hope in darkness: Historical examples of sustaining hope in the midst of tragedy and genocide

    Spiritual development: Four phases of spiritual growth and the impact on hope development

    Neurotheology: A hope-based twist on the new science of brain functioning and spirituality


Hope Tip #7: Tracking your spiritual growth

Here is our model of spiritual growth. After looking it over, try to answer the questions below.

Period in the Lifespan Primary Theme or Focus Major Spiritual Achievements
Infancy to Age Five Spiritual object formation A stable sense or image of a benign higher power
Six to Puberty Institutionalized spirituality Incorporation of myth, stories and rituals from your culture
Adolescence to young adult Individuated spirituality Development of a more personal and ideological hope
Mid and later adulthood Expansion and reintegration of your spiritual belief system Development of a more inclusive and cosmic hope

The Life Cycle of Religion, Spirituality and Hope: A Four Stage Integrative Model

1. Have you grown spiritually? Which of your spiritual building-blocks need further development? What can you do to make this happen? Are you motivated to grow in this way? Why or why not?
























































































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