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Opinion & Essays - Aug, 1999 Issue #60

Being Real
By Robert Campbell

“This is Amazing! One can take this class and then be who they really are!” Another student said, “Mr. Campbell, I went to the class wanting to know what I believed, and I found out.” Those were the reactions of students taking the Spiritual Development Class at Keweenaw Academy, a facility owned and operated by Youth Services International.

There is a hunger in our young people. It is a hunger for meaning, purpose, to be real and authentic, to be loved, to have who they are taken seriously, and to discover their beliefs about the mystery of being. They want answers, but they do not want to be told the answers. They come with religious beliefs, but they do not know what they believe or how their beliefs relate to who they are or what they do. They want to unlock the meaning of life and to know what happens to them when life ends. They feel guilt, loneliness, loss, grief, emptiness, isolation, betrayal, etc… How can a rehabilitation program based on cognitive development address those issues? The answer is, “It can not.” I discovered this issue as I began creating the Spiritual Development program for Youth Services International.

Recognizing the need for a Spiritual Development as a program component is the fruit of five years’ effort to make Spiritual Development applicable-first with churches, and then with rehabilitation. Spiritual Development is a component that elevates a program to help a student address their belief system and how it relates to other aspects of their lives.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Spiritual Development. One is that Spiritual Development is about religion or religious rituals. Another is that Spiritual Development is about religious study, or other catechesis. Even more damaging are the religious peddlers that make Spiritual Development into a tool of converting others into a specific religious tradition.

Actually, if the term “Spiritual Development” was broken down, “Spirit” means life and “-Ual” means filled. Therefore, Spiritual Development is the process of developing a “life-filled” life. How Spiritual Development has been related to God comes from Jesus’ saying that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus becomes the Way to have life, and to have life in abundance. All religious faiths have a similar belief, that following a specific religious path will lead to life.

Spiritual Development addresses the roots and meanings of these belief structures. Without a direction that leads to life, the human spirit goes its own way, investing itself in self- destructive patterns of thought and action. Lacking such a direction, to various degrees people fill their lives with thoughts and actions that diminish and/or destroy not only their life, but also the lives of those close to them. It is possible that after a while, they can die inside, while still breathing. So, the objective of Spiritual Development is to address belief systems and its impact on their relationships to their world. In so doing, a person finds and develops life inside their life, creating rehabilitation, healing, and wholeness. At the same time, they fulfill their responsibility to heal a world they have been hurting.

Spiritual Development does not simply ask questions. Spiritual Development has purpose and direction. Ultimately, Spiritual Development aims to transformation of the human spirit. How transformation happens is rooted in mystery, but it does have form. It follows a matrix of Spiritual Development. The Spiritual Development matrix that describes a relationship between one’s beliefs and Self, World, and the Void. It shows how that relationship is mediated and formed by one’s family, friends, neighborhood, city, state, nation, world, etc; and how that relationship and learning is expressed to the world as one tries to embody his or her beliefs.

The Spiritual Development component is working well at Keweenaw Academy. The students have only positive things to say about it. The staff members that teach the class love to teach it and say they have learned as much as the students. According to a conversation with the chaplain, Jim Keranen, in every new class, the students have become more involved and ask more questions. He also said that the impact of the component can already be seen on campus-even though the component has only been running for one year.

Currently, I am available to other facilities to create a custom- made Spiritual Development component for their programs. The component can be integrated into any program and setting, clinical or non-clinical. The challenge I face with Keweenaw is helping the staff to see that Spiritual Development happens regardless of whether or not it is intentional. What we need, is to intentionally include it in every aspect of the program.

Copyright © 1999, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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