Spirituality, Not Religion, Makes Kids Happy
The link between spirituality and happiness is pretty well-established for teens and adults. More spirituality brings more happiness.New study, same old story: embrace spirituality, give religion and God the boot. And, low and behold, guess what conspicuous aspects of existence are purported “measures of spirituality” as deemed so by researchers? The sentiment of a meaningful and valuable life and the development of deep, quality relationships. Basically, focus on yourself and other people, forget about God. What seems to elude these researchers (or they choose to ignore by design) is that by embracing God - and I do mean embracing Him, not just going through the motions of “attending church, praying and meditating” – children are developing the ultimate in “deep, quality relationships.” God is not just a “concept;” He is a living Being. And, for that matter, what is prayer if not the development of a “deep, quality relationship?”
Now a study has reached into the younger set, finding the same link in "tweens" and in kids in middle childhood.
Specifically, the study shows that children who feel that their lives have meaning and value and who develop deep, quality relationships — both measures of spirituality, the researchers claim — are happier.
Personal aspects of spirituality (meaning and value in one's own life) and communal aspects (quality and depth of inter-personal relationships) were both strong predictors of children's happiness, said study leader Mark Holder from the University of British Columbia in Canada and his colleagues Ben Coleman and Judi Wallace.
However, religious practices were found to have little effect on children's happiness, Holder said.
Religion is just one institutionalized venue for the practice of or experience of spirituality, and some people say they are spiritual but are less enthusiastic about the concept of God.
Other research has shown a connection between well-adjusted and well-behaved children and religion, but that is not the same, necessarily, as happiness.
One researcher goes on to suggest that “Strategies aimed at increasing personal meaning in children — such as expressing kindness towards others and recording these acts of kindness, as well as acts of altruism and volunteering — may help to make children happier.” Excuse me, Mr. Researcher, but don’t you think religion might cover this stuff better than any “Find Yourself” summer camp or trite homework assignment? (You don’t. I know.). I mean, come on now, Jesus was the ultimate servant and taught by example. My church regularly plans service projects for children from preschool age on up. We are constantly reminded to strive to become like Jesus, the very embodiment of altruism, kindness, and volunteer work. We are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves, for crying out loud. What could be more altruistic? Unless you don’t love yourself, of course. In which case, what could be more successful in “increasing personal meaning” than developing a relationship with our Savior and gaining a mature, tempered, long-term perspective by learning and understanding our divine nature? If you take God out of the equation, you sever our very intimate ties with divinity – our Heavenly Father.
I may not have scientific research to back me up in this assertion, but by golly I’ve got hundreds of devoutly religious friends who will attest to the fact that gaining a personal testimony of the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior will do more for the state of one’s happiness than jotting down “smiled at Billy” in a miniature spiral-bound journal.
Shoot, my own personal testimony – gained through prayer and scripture study, I might add – has done more for my level of happiness than any amount of “personal meaning,” soul-searching drivel. I know Jesus is my brother. I know God is my Heavenly Father. I know I have a divine heritage and a purpose here on earth. And this knowledge combined makes my soul absolutely sing with exuberance in a manner that three million notebooks full of “recorded acts of kindness” could never even come close to achieving. Assignments are good. Service is good. Developing meaningful relationships with the right people is good. But no amount of secular assertions and heavenly substitutes will convince me that abandoning my Creator, my Father, will bring my body, mind, and spirit, happiness.
I just pray that many, many others will see through this overt and ultimately counterproductive attempt to devalue God and religion.
Your Blissfully Happy Religious Freak,
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