Spirituality Has Essential Lessons, But None of Them Are Absolutes

By Rachel Puryear

Regardless of your own spiritual inclinations, there are a few general teachings that most people recognize as belonging to a variety of traditions – and some of these values are adopted by many believers and non-believers alike, as wise principles for living a more compassionate and meaningful life.

Some of these values include kindness, compassion, tolerance, unconditional love and acceptance, empathizing with different viewpoints, being less materialistic, and helping others in need.

A small golden seated Buddha statue, placed between two lit tea light candles. By Moodywalk

In life, though, reality is not black and white. Accordingly, sometimes applying even the wisest and most treasured spiritual principles requires looking at the surrounding context. Furthermore, a bit of common sense can be applied – we were given brains capable of rational thought, and are meant to apply that capability in our spiritual development, not to suppress it.

Here are some very common examples:

  • Being non-materialistic: It’s great to value non-material wonders, be less greedy, live a simpler and more sustainable life, and to realize that there is much more to life than money and material goods. At the same time, when faced with poverty and a lack of basic necessities in life, one must be duly concerned with their economic circumstances, and are justified in desiring to have enough.
  • Accepting other viewpoints: It’s awesome to make the effort to value and appreciate viewpoints other than you’re own. In fact, it’s essential to becoming a decent and evolved human being. However, one still has to draw the line at certain things – for instance, openness to other perspectives does not extend to views that arise out of bigotry and hate – or even clear foolishness and stupidity, such as utter rejection of science.
  • Living in the present: It’s important to be able to live in the here and now, and to be aware of the present moment. However, there is also value in examining the past – as we can learn a great deal from this. It is also valuable to keep an eye on the future, and consider how present actions will have consequences for the future.
  • Nonviolence: Learning nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts and working out differences is essential for a more peaceful world. Most of the time, nonviolence is also the right approach to a disagreement. However, when dealing with people who are themselves very violent, and intent on forcing their will on everyone else; nonviolence will often not stop them. In such instances, the only choice may be to fight back, as hard as necessary. This is the only way to protect those being attacked. Furthermore, for those perpetrating unprovoked violence, standing up to them might be the only way to get them to realize the kind of pain they have inflicted on others.
  • Generosity: Generosity does wonders to help others in need, and can solve many tough problems. However, being generous with people who are greedy and selfish takers, and who themselves have no sense of giving back; tends to just result in getting drained and used up. It also fails to teach greedy people how impoverishing their behavior is; and the importance of becoming more grateful when they receive, as well as more generous in giving to others.
  • Forgiveness: Forgiveness can heal a lot of pain and difficulties. At the same time, it must come voluntarily from a person who has been genuinely wronged – pressuring someone to forgive deeply unjust treatment against them, particularly where the perpetrator has never expressed remorse or made restitution of any kind; only deepens the harm, and denies the harmed person the healing that can come from receiving compassion from others and an apology from someone who hurt them. Furthermore, it denies the perpetrator the opportunity to acknowledge their wrongdoings, and endure the pain of remorse – remorse which, even if it hurts or kills them, is the only way for them to learn their own needed spiritual lessons.

The purpose of spiritual guidance is not follow a set of rules blindly. Of course, the guidelines are there for a reason, and are based on wise principles. However, it is important to develop one’s own conscience as a part of spiritual development; and to develop judgment as to how to apply these guidelines, as well. Applying the guidelines in a more nuanced fashion doesn’t make you less spiritual – in fact, doing might even further enhance your spiritual development.


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to seeing the gray areas, and seeing beyond absolutes. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

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