WRITING YOUR SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY

by Richard B. Patterson

What is the point of writing an autobiography, especially for those of us who are not bound for fame? As with journaling, the autobiography can give us a sense of theme and pattern in our lives. So it is with our spiritual side. Writing your spiritual autobiography can give you a good sense of those themes of your spiritual world which have shaped you. It can also give you an idea as to which questions have pursued you.

The best way to approach your spiritual autobiography is to first of all simply tell the story. You might want to begin by telling the story of your parents religious background and general spiritual approaches. Your early life might include early messages that were communicated to you (for example,"God loves you" or "You're bad and the devil will get you!"). Of importance, too, are early experiences that had great impact on your subsequent spiritual journey. In my case, for instance, I lost two sisters to spina bifida. This raised the "Why?" question for me at a very early age. That question has dogged me ever since.

You can then explore your early experiences with organized religion and any particular events that may have impacted you. You may want to talk about persons who influenced you spiritually. You may also begin to explore your experiences with the concept of sin. My own thought at this point is that each of our faith experiences is a story about community. My own spiritual autobiography is made up of many stories, not so much about dogma, but about people.

As you work through your teen and early adult years, the notion of doubts may take center stage. Similarly if you have traveled through midlife, this spiritually tumultuous time may require much reflection.

The point is not to indulge in an ego trip. It is to help you define what you've come to truly belief, as well as to provide focus on those questions which you still want to pursue. For as Thomas Merton once said, a person who thinks they have all the answers spiritually is truly dangerous.

 

12/9/99

Richard B. Patterson is a clinical psychologist in private practice in El Paso, TX. He is the author of three books on psychology and spirituality.

 

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