The Social Sphere of Spiritual Life

The social sphere affects us more deeply than any other factor in our lives. A single happy social exchange does wonders to uplift the spirit, while a negative interaction can ruin our day. There's a good reason that our human connections matter so much: God planned it that way! Spiritually, we are children of God who were CREATED to need each other. We need to serve each other, to love each other. And eventually, in spiritual fulfillment, we come to realize our oneness with each other.

Spiritual growth is a team sport

The social sphere plays a major role in God's plan for spiritual development. A wise man said, "If God had meant us to go it alone, God would have made one planet for every person." To that we would add, "If God had meant us to GROW alone, God would not have created so many wonderfully SOCIAL methods for spiritual ascent."

So many spiritual blessings flow through social channels. Clearly, God didn't intend spirituality to be a solitary quest. Take a moment to consider the marvelous value of relationship for spiritual ascent, and we think you'll agree: Spiritual growth is a team sport.

Let's start with learning. It is rightly said that we get most of our education in the school of experience. Both directly and indirectly, we learn many spiritual lessons from human associates and from our experiences of social relating. Also, social engagement offers some of the best possible opportunities to put what we've learned into practice.

What about the personal relationship to God? It is often said, and truly, that our personal relationship with God IS our spiritual life. But every spiritual tradition also states, in one way or another, that our relationship to God is inseparable from our relationship to man: as we relate to man, we relate to God.

And let us remember the undeniable relevance of love and service to spiritual progress. Truly, the social sphere is fertile ground not only for growth, but also for sharing the fruits of our growth socially. What use is our spirituality unless we express it actively, for the benefit of the human family?

Surely, it's to everyone's advantage to use social means to further spiritual growth. This article will help you do that.

A Quick Look at Twelve
Life-Enhancing Powers of Relationship

First, in outline form, here are a FEW of the social sphere's most outstanding benefits to spirituality -- and to life in general:


Kindred spirits: the supportive foundation of like-minded fellowship (shared values and goals; deep recognition; spiritual support; soul loyalty). [more]


Great minds thinking alike: the (seemingly) magical power of agreement. [more]


Seeing ourselves through another's eyes: the enlightening power of objective feedback. [more]


Many hands make light the work: the power of social cooperation and coordinated activity. [more]


The joyful kind of giving: selfless service uplifts both giver and receiver. [more]


Everyday adventuring: the transformative power of social stretching and social risk. [more]


Nurturing raised to a Higher Power: the therapeutic powers of healing energy and healing thought. [more]


Unchained from the past: the liberating power of forgiveness. [more]


Sympathetic vibrations: the power of resonance. [more]


Group worship: the God-invoking power of social prayer and supplication. [more]


The uplifting circle of energy: the enlivening power of energy-sharing/cycling. [more]


A social "stairway to heaven": the power of soul communion as a bridge to God communion. [more]

A Deeper Look at More of the
Social Sphere's Contributions to Spiritual Life

Relationship inspires most of the ethically upleveling choices on Earth

Every day, in relationships of all kinds, millions of people transcend their personal self-interest for the benefit of others. For example: "I'll finish what I'm doing later; I can see you need my help right now." And: "We're spending less money on ourselves to save money for our children's education."

Philosophically, not everyone places great weight on self-transcendence as a conscious spiritual value, but everyone cares about the people in their lives. Because we care about others, we transcend ourselves far more thoroughly than we would for any other reason -- even for the sake of attaining our own spiritual goals. Time and time again, people spontaneously "go the extra mile" for cherished colleagues, special customers, good friends, and family members. Willingly. Happily! When we are truly caring, we serve not to impress them, or to indebt them to us, but simply as an outpouring of our caring, loyalty, and commitment. We do it FOR THEM.

Relationship shows us when and how we need to improve

Relationship excels at showing us what to do and what NOT to do. Relationship shows us which attitudes support well-being, and which attitudes reduce it. This provides tremendous help in spiritual steering and personal refinement.

In every relational context, we see our own reflection in the social mirror. Any unconscious negative tendency -- such as carelessness, selfishness, inattentiveness, etc. -- is reflected back to us by the discomfort of our associates. Sometimes, if we don't realize we're being difficult, a companion may tell us so DIRECTLY -- by making a comment, or offering some specific objection, guidance, or correction. But even if no one speaks up, we can easily FEEL the effects of our actions on the well-being of our fellows, and on the tone of our relationships. Either way -- by direct feedback or our own observations -- relationship shows us what we need to transcend, correct, or refine in ourselves. And just as seeing our silhouette in a real mirror can motivate us to exercise, seeing our effects in the social mirror reminds us to keep exercising our spiritual values.

Clearly, the dynamic "real-time" sensitivity of the social context helps us SEE better, and BE better. But sometimes, understandably, we find it difficult to face our reflection in the social mirror. And we may not always WELCOME social "pressure" to be good. What do we do then?

There are two ways to reduce the pressure of social involvement. The first option is BLAME. We can choose to blame others for the difficulties we experience/create. Or, when our associates react unfavorably to our negative tone or careless behavior, we may unfairly judge them as unreasonable or hypersensitive. The second option is AVOIDANCE. A common way people avoid the challenge of social sensitivity is to withdraw from social relations -- or at least minimize them. That way, the effects of lower choices seem less severe, and we feel less need to improve.

But here's the hitch: Minimizing involvement in relationship may be good news for the ego, but it's hard on spiritual progress. Why? Because you can't solve a problem you won't face. And you can't master an art you won't practice.

To the extent that one can manage it, the most constructive path is to remain in the social context, and use social feedback to consciously, conscientiously refine our approach. Tremendous spiritual gains can be achieved that way.

Love tests in the social sphere

Spiritual challenges come in many forms, but they all share one common objective: to test our ability to make a higher choice when tempted to make lower one. What's particularly useful about social challenges -- as opposed to other kinds of spiritual tests -- is that they're tests of LOVE. They test all of love's essential components: forbearance; forgiveness; affinity; compassion; etc. Harmony in ANY kind of relationship depends on our ability to effectively develop and use those spiritual qualities.

Love tests are not just RELEVANT to spiritual growth, but ESSENTIAL to it. To function as mature spiritual beings, we're obliged to love under all conditions. Social interactions test us thoroughly by providing lots of excuses NOT to love. We pass those tests every time we resist the temptation to respond negatively, and love anyway. Our track record in daily social experiences clearly reveals how much competence and consistency we have achieved at living our true higher nature.

Feeling frustrated about her boyfriend's insensitivity, Kyla complained to Jessica, "He's making it so hard for me to love him!" Jessica wisely replied, "No he's not. He's making it POSSIBLE for you to love him. It's easy to respond lovingly when we're treated with love. But you can only take credit for loving TRULY when you love under challenging circumstances!"

In each social incident, will we respond from a spiritual perspective? Will we handle the gains and pains, the elations and frustrations, of our social ups and downs with equanimity? Will we remain constructive in all our interpersonal interactions? Each annoyance, each headache, each heartache we encounter in relationship calls us to summon up a deeper love, a stronger commitment to remain loving REGARDLESS. No one can expect to be perfect, but every soul SEEKS perfection. Relationship admirably supports that quest.

In our spiritual maturity, we resolve to resist ALL temptations not to love. We absolutely refuse to forget the hearts of our friends when we get what we want. And, we absolutely refuse to withdraw or become resentful when we don't get what we want. To the extent that we're willing to love through both pleasure and pain, we are demonstrating our commitment to doing God's will. After all, God's will is LOVE!

Relationship shows the Oneness of Life

Unity is not just a lofty thought or a philosophical presumption -- it's REALITY. By demonstrating the fact of Unity, the social sphere supports the eventual awakening of true Unity-consciousness.

Showing the evidence of Unity. Perhaps in ordinary consciousness we cannot directly see the Reality of the Oneness of Life. And yet, every day, we find compelling EVIDENCE of Unity in our social experience, such as . . .

Psychic SENSITIVITY: the instant, wordless communication of feelings between human beings. [more]

Natural CARING: the natural tendency to CARE about the well-being of others, and the quality of our relationships with them. [more]

Social NEED: our fundamental need for social relationship. [more]

Awakening the consciousness of Unity

Hunger for Unity -- with other people, and with God -- drives all our social desires. Our efforts to draw closer to others -- like our efforts to draw closer to God -- bring us closer to satisfying that deeper hunger. Like a trail of breadcrumbs left by God, relationship LEADS to the realization of Unity. When appropriately used, the otherwise mundane experience of human relating becomes a dynamic, enlightening process by which separative consciousness is progressively undone -- and Unity-consciousness is achieved.
Click here to read how this process evolves.

Relationship IS a spiritual phenomenon

Now that we've told you about so many ways relationship helps spiritual life, we're going to let you in on a big secret: Rightly used, relationship is a legitimate and effective spiritual practice. And that just might be one of the world's best-kept secrets.

Few people fully appreciate the spiritual benefits of social engagement. Understandably so. Relationships so often fall short of their spiritual potential. To succeed humanly OR spiritually in the social sphere depends on right understanding and proper use. You wouldn't give your car keys to someone who is not a competent driver. And yet, we may establish friendships, become employees -- even start families -- with little understanding of what we're getting into.

It's a sensitive ecosystem, the social sphere. That's because, fundamentally, human beings are SPIRITUAL in nature -- and so are their relationships. When we enter into relationship, we're entering into a SPIRITUAL context. The spirit is naturally sensitive to factors of spiritual, emotional, and moral impact -- like kindness, for example, and trust. Such factors determine the spirit of involvement, not its outer form. They may be subtle, but are nonetheless potent.

It is said, "It's not what you say; it's how you say it." We recognize the truth of that expression, since we have experienced its truth many times. Even so, we may still focus more on WHAT we said than HOW we said it; more on WHAT we did than the spirit with which we did it. No wonder people often feel bewildered and out of control in the social arena! We're investing in the WHAT, while the HOW determines our results.

Example: In a divorce hearing sits another mystified husband. And like many before him, the poor fellow complains, "Look at what I did for her! After everything I did, THIS is the appreciation I get?" An honest response to his bewilderment would be this: "You poor fellow, you're right: What you did was fine, perhaps even heroic. But while you focused on WHAT you did, your mate focused on the spirit in which you did it. Possibly, you acted more out of a spirit of obligation than a spirit of appreciation. Surely, you're standing in this court today because of your HOW, not your WHAT."

The fact that children of God are SPIRITUAL beings -- and as such, good and sensitive -- is what makes the social sphere emotionally/spiritually CHALLENGING. But it also makes relationship a spiritual opportunity of ultimate value! By accepting the spiritual nature of relationship, and adapting to human needs spiritually, we can fulfill our relationships AND further our spiritual growth -- all at the same time, and by the same means. Happily, we have the opportunity to practice a truly spiritual way of relating in virtually every interaction we have, in every relationship. Click here for an example.

The uplifting potential of relationship depends on how you use it

How do we consistently bring a good spirit to our social interactions? By keeping our PURPOSES high. Like any spiritual opportunity, relationship can be used for the achievement of spiritual purposes, or abused in pursuit of egotistical purposes. Spirit purposes are generous; ego purposes, selfish. To realize the positive potential of the social sphere, we need to:



Release the ego-approved strategies that undermine relationship, and

Embrace the spirit-guided approach that makes relationship beneficial, supportive, constructive, and uplifting.

Spirit loves interpersonal harmony. If Spirit is allowed to guide our social relations, it will maximize the good by means of human sensitivity, spiritual discernment, and Divine obedience. To the extent that we consistently approach our human interactions from the Spirit's perspective, we can make marvelous use of the uplifting powers of relationship.

Ego loves social failure. Unlike the Spirit, ego tends to be unconstructive in relationship, perhaps even perverse. Just when a relationship could have provided a spiritual boost, ego sets it back. If ego is allowed to guide our social interactions, it will bring them to grief, because failure helps justify and perpetuate egotism.

More than anything else, ego wants others to leave us alone. Ego feels THREATENED by the moral and spiritual requirements for relationship success. Social life calls for a higher degree of love and surrender than does a solitary existence. With its anti-social habits of offense and defense, ego rebels against the actual requirements of love, and makes relationship hell. Eventually, by so doing, it gets the monkey off its back -- and makes relationship look bad in the bargain.

Once ego-directed relating robs the social sphere of its upside potential, solitude seems preferable to togetherness. No wonder many people conclude, "It's much better to live or work by myself, because relationship is a real drag. Or, "God is the only true friend. Relating to people never works."

But remember, the dangers of relating, though real enough, exist primarily because EGO creates them. Ego causes social problems, and then warns us about them. It even gives us very bad advice about how to solve them -- advice that only makes matters worse. How can we possibly be problem-free following the advice of ego? How can we ever be problem-free unless we are FREE OF EGO? It's impossible. We need a different way to go.

The good news is, we HAVE a better choice. We don't HAVE to simply surrender to ego's rule, watch our relationships be ruined, and end up alone. Instead of giving up on relationship, we can give up on egotism.

Despite the disappointments we may have suffered -- and all of us have had our share -- we must beware of throwing out the baby with the bath water. We should NOT throw out the baby of beautiful, spirit-guided relationship with the bath water of ugly, ego-ruined interactions.

God will help

You can count on this: God is ever ready to help us relate rightly, because God works more through human relationships than by any other means. To play our part socially, our most important contribution is the willingness to be Divinely guided -- as opposed to ego-misguided. That's a formula for spiritual success in ALL the spheres of life, isn't it?

Personal spiritual growth is only one of the fruits of spiritual participation in social living. The Divine plan for planetary healing and upliftment DEPENDS ON human collaboration. The Living Water of Divine love, grace, and healing is always pressing against the dam of human will, waiting to pour forth to bless the world. In our own case, will we hold it back, or will we let it flow? If we let it flow, not only we, but EVERYONE we contact in the social sphere of life will be blessed.