Spirituality & Personal Growth
The College for Bishops Leadership Institute was established to provide educational resources for new bishops as well as trending informational resources for all bishops. Spirituality & Personal Growth focuses on specific resources such as:
New items are added monthly. To comment on current items or suggest additional topics and/or resources, please use the feedback form at the bottom of this page.
Emotional Health & Well Being
There is a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suﬀering: we don’t consider context. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take people’s actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, it would require an entire system overhaul. When you have a person with extreme human distress, we need to stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Let’s get to the deeper problem.
Faith leaders manage personal and professional communications, social media accounts, and a constant barrage of information and dings. How can you create a personal digital sabbath or rule of life, and digital boundaries so as to NOT burn yourself out? Hear the stories of Rev. Keith Anderson and Andrea Rosenberg McKellar from VTS’s Building Faith and learn about how they went from digitally overwhelmed to working on their streamlined online lives.
As we ponder the first-world scope of our possessions, I wonder, as Christians, should we even own property? After all, in the early church, believers held everything in common, and the Hutterites and other Anabaptist groups have set admirable examples of how to live with few material belongings. What sort of relationship should today’s Christian maintain with material possessions? See also the following TED Talk on possessions:
The process of making lists slows us down, helps us name what we truly want, educates our desires, and calms our anxieties. Obviously, the powerful lists above differ from grocery lists or to-do lists, helpful as these are for daily living. Lists that take us into mindfulness require us to notice things we would otherwise overlook. The secret of a good list is locating a candid category that engages a curious mind.
Anne Lamott discusses our annual failed commitment to diets and her own path back home, to herself, to radical self-care, to friendship with her own heart, to a glade that had always existed deep inside, to mostly healthy eating that she had avoided for years by achieving, dieting, binging, people-pleasing and so on.
Adult children of aging parents often find themselves hyperanalyzing the behaviors and choices of their mothers and fathers and using this information as motivation to do things a bit differently. That’s exactly the case for journalist Steven Petrow, who wrote about a list of things he will and won’t do as he ages in a recent New York Times article, “Things I’ll Do Differently When I’m Old.” Consider an exercise like Petrow’s list a practice in self-care. Not only is it a method of reflecting on your wants and needs, it’s also a step towards holding yourself accountable and working toward a better future for your aging self.
Guilt blocks and inhibits us but also propels us to work, work, work, to become relentlessly productive in the hope that we might – by our good works – rid ourselves of guilt. Guilt thus renders us productive and unproductive, workaholic and workphobic – a conflict that might explain the extreme and even violent lengths to which people sometimes will go, whether by scapegoating others or sacrificing themselves, to be rid of what many people consider the most unbearable emotion.
Want to End Ageism? Start by Watching this TED Talk
Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Aging, wants us to “dismantle the dread” about growing older and start recognizing that aging is not a disease to be cured. Recently, Applewhite has taken her message to a worldwide stage by speaking at the annual international TED Conference in Vancouver in June 2017. In this engaging TED Talk, she calls on the world to recognize ageism, stop making disparaging quips about our own “senior moments” and pitting our current selves against our future selves.
To say the words, “I agree” may be the basis of every community. But to say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong: these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. And the problem is that we’re failing at the task. Our disagreements may frequently hoarsen our voices, but they rarely sharpen our thinking, much less change our minds. It behooves us to wonder why.
Ministers seek to be available to parishioners, especially at the decisive, crisis moments. There are also the tasks of preaching, leading worship, directing staff, teaching, guiding mission efforts in the community and overseeing the work of various committees. It’s a daunting assignment, at times overwhelming. We spend our lives wanting, having and doing. But what about the essential verb: to be? A retired Baptist pastor reflects on his time at a monastery and how it helped him shift from nonstop doing to simply being.
Sheryl Sandberg went through a period of darkness after her husband’s sudden death two years ago. She turned to professionals and friends for help getting through it, and now she’s written a book with one of those professionals, psychologist Adam Grant. Sandburg recently spoke to NPR about her new book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
We all know the ancient Greek story of Sisyphus who revolted against the gods and was punished as a consequence. He was sentenced to push a boulder up a hill, just to see it roll down again, and keep doing so forever and ever and ever. How do we make sense of life in those moments when our ideas about the world suddenly don’t work anymore, when every daily routine — going to work and back — and all our efforts seem pointless and misdirected?
Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious. Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written. It’s informed, astute open-mindedness about what can happen and what role we may play in it.
Humans have long stigmatized solitude. It has been considered an inconvenience, something to avoid, a punishment, a realm of loners. Science has often aligned it with negative outcomes. But increasingly scientists are approaching solitude as something that, when pursued by choice, can prove therapeutic. This is especially true in times of personal turbulence, when as people remove themselves from the social context of their lives, they are better able to see how they’re shaped by that context.
We are all storytellers — all engaged, as the anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson puts it, in an “act of creation” of the “composition of our lives.” Yet unlike most stories we’ve heard, our lives don’t follow a predefined arc. Our identities and experiences are constantly shifting, and storytelling is how we make sense of it. By taking the disparate pieces of our lives and placing them together into a narrative, we create a unified whole that allows us to understand our lives as coherent — and coherence, psychologists say, is a key source of meaning.
As everyone who’s followed the research—or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today—knows, any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did we come to be this way?
Resilience presents a challenge for psychologists. Whether you can be said to have it or not largely depends not on any particular psychological test but on the way your life unfolds. If you are lucky enough to never experience any sort of adversity, we won’t know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount? Can we learn how to develop resilience?
Those of us involved in Christian institutions and churches often work to protect other people whose bodies are oppressed, abused, trapped in violent situations or discriminated against. But we don’t often stop to think about how well our own bodies sustain the work we are called to do. Our discernment processes don’t often consider the physical sustainability of our work, but Christian leaders have a theological obligation to explore this question.
In navigation, dead reckoning is how you calculate your location. It involved knowing where you’ve been and how you got there—speed, route, and wind conditions. It’s the same with life: we can’t chart a new course until we find out where we are, how we cam to that point, and where we want to go. When you reckon with emotion, you change your narrative. You have to acknowledge your feelings and get curious about the story behind them. Then you can challenge your confabulations and get to the truth.
Flaubert had it that “the one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy”. It turns out that reading doesn’t only help us to tolerate existence, but actually prolongs it, after a new study found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day lived longer than those who didn’t read at all. This recent study, published in the September issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, looked at the reading patterns of 3,635 people who were 50 or older. On average, book readers were found to live for almost two years longer than non-readers.
A December Gallup poll found that 61 percent of working Americans said they did not have enough time to do the things they wanted to do. Some of us feel this more acutely than others. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 9 in 10 working mothers said that they felt rushed all the time. But are the stories that we tell ourselves about our use of time accurate? What difference could it make to our lives if we looked at our use of time more honestly?
As the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School is finding, a sense of connectedness can be a marker of something very powerful for clergy: positive mental health. Positive mental health is more than the absence of negative emotions. People with positive mental health experience high levels of positive emotions, which can be anything from chuckling at a cartoon to feeling awe at the sunset. They feel good about themselves as individuals, experiencing meaning in their lives, positive relationships and personal growth. They also feel satisfied with themselves in community with others a sense of belonging and contribution.
Research has documented that outstanding leaders take time to reflect. Their success depends on the ability to access their unique perspective and bring it to their decisions and sense-making every day. Extraordinary leadership is rooted in several capabilities: seeing before others see, understanding before others understand, and acting before others act. A leader’s unique perspective is an important source of creativity and competitive advantage. But the reality is that most of us live such fast-paced, frenzied lives that we fail to leave time to actually listen to ourselves
Dealing well with stress doesn't mean simply trying to avoid it or ignore the impact of stressful experiences. Instead, we need to start thinking about how to have the courage to grow from stress. Those people who thrive under stress are the ones who look for ways to engage with stress, adapt to it, and learn from it. This TED article was adapted from Kelly McGonigal's The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It.
Brene Brown on Blame, Shame, & Vulnerability
RSA is a nonprofit organization working to meet 21st century challenges by showcasing ideas, undertaking innovative research, and building civic capacity around the world. RSA Shorts animation series provides a snapshot of a big idea by combining audio from RSA programs with creative illustrations by animators from around the world. In this short selection (3:26), popular "shame" authority Brene Brown gives a brief introduction into the problem of blaming. She considers why we blame others, how it sabotages relationships, and why we need to change this toxic reaction.
For more on this subject, view Brene Brown's TED talk, which is listed among the site's most watched videos.