What is spiritual fitness?
Spirituality is about connection; connection with people and with Deity or a divine presence. It is also about meaning: asking what matters. For many people, being spiritual is part of being religious. Others may be spiritual without any religious affiliation. People who are spiritually fit, who are living with a purpose and in connection with the world around them, tend to have stronger self-esteem, better coping skills, and more solid relationships. Spiritual fitness can also bond people through love, forgiveness and compassion.
Spiritual fitness is the development of those personal qualities needed to sustain a person in times of stress, hardship, and tragedy. These qualities come from religious, philosophical, or human values and form the basis for character, disposition, decision-making, and integrity.
Why should I care about being spiritually fit?
In 2003, The Fetzer Institute and the National Institute on Aging Working Group reprinted a report titled Multidimensional Measurement of Religiousness/Spirituality for Use in Health Research. This report and other research search shows that important factors that impact on health are a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs and their various practices. Specifically the report indicated the following domains that seem to be connected to health outcomes: daily spiritual experiences, meaning, values, beliefs, forgiveness, private religious practices, religious/spiritual coping, religious support, religious/spiritual history, commitment, organizational religiousness and religious preference.
1st Timothy 4:7-9 reads “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true and everyone should accept it.”
It seems clear from the research that our spiritual health and how we practice our faith has an impact on our physical health and general well being. Studies have shown the benefits of faith related to many areas such as cancer, hypertension, general health, heart disease, and other physical ailments as well as psychological, psychiatric and substance abuse problems.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
MYTH: Spiritual fitness is for “weak” individuals. Soldiers are not weak!
Spiritual well-being is important since soldiers function more effectively when they have a support system or framework of meaning to sustain them. However, spiritual fitness is little talked about by most soldiers nor is it planned for in unit training. Yet, we constantly deal with the soldier’s spirit. It is the quality of the soldier’s spirit which translates the professional Army ethic into realistic expectations for the way we do business.
Spiritual fitness goes beyond lists of values and memorization of codes of conduct–though it is important to know what one is expected to believe in and act on. A person who is spiritually fit consciously seeks to experience life and give it meaning and purpose through reflection. Using the results of one’s reflections to guide one’s living is the objective for this way of life. Army leaders often make the point that a soldier’s stated values must also be his operating values. Most Soldiers agree that this quality is a measure of Spiritual Fitness.
Would you answer TRUE or FALSE to the following questions?
- My spiritual life is good.
- I consider spiritual things at times other than crises.
- Courage, competence, candor, and commitment are part of my individual operating value system.
- Prayer, meditation, or quiet reflections are regular parts of my lifestyle.
- Spiritual growth is important to me.
- I share my values and their meaning with other people.
- I do things for other people I want them to do for me.
- Humanitarian issues are important to me.
- I believe there is something greater than myself.
- My values and beliefs guide my everyday activities.
- The professional Army ethic–Loyalty, Duty, Selfless Service, Integrity–makes sense to me as the way to live my life.
- I do not compromise my values.
Spiritual guidance and support to service members in addition to faith-based programs and conducting Strong Bonds events.