Sometimes the phrases we casually toss around without fully thinking them through amuse me. An example is, “My spiritual life.”
Popularly overheard uses: “I’m working on my spiritual life right now.” “I’m trying to have a stronger spiritual life.” “I don’t have time for my spiritual life right now.” “Too much Facebook interferes with my spiritual life.” “Shh, don’t interrupt him! He’s working on his spiritual life.”
 
I’ve used these and many other similar phrases across the years. But smack in the midst of a season of taking fresh angles on many dynamics, I chuckle a bit and ask myself—and others—which part of life isn’t spiritual?
 
After all, we are eternal, spiritual beings, despite what we happen to be doing at any given moment. How do we take a “time out” from being spiritual for a while? If I’m “working on” my spiritual life right now, what am I doing the rest of the time? After all, I’m never working on my “Italian life.” I’m just Italian. I’m not working on my “male-ness.” I’m just a guy.
 
A more accurate way to express such intentions? “I am practicing steps to grow in awareness and application of my true spiritual nature.” But that sounds boring, doesn’t it, and makes you want to give me a wedgie.
 
The real point of this blog entry, however, isn’t to correct our grammar and phraseology concerning our spiritual growth. It’s more to pose questions about why we so often feel the need to talk about it and make sure people are listening.
 
Several times each month I’m in a public place where a person is yapping on a cell phones. I love cell phones. I feed my family because of cell phones. And it’s not uncommon at all to see or hear someone talking on a cell phone. What does stand out is when someone is talking so loudly that it seems pretty clear they want others to hear. It’s like they’re thinking, “Look at me! I’m talking on a cell phone. Jealous?”
 
I’ve observed that talking excessively about what one is doing to grow spiritually is nearly as revealing of a person’s unspoken motives, when compared to those public cell phone etiquette abusers. What’s revealed is the insecure ego, trying to entrench its status and identity. Never is that ego as combustible as when it “gets spiritual.”
 
We pad our egos not just when we talk about what we’re trying to do with our spiritual lives, but when we refer to what others are doing. “He’s a prayer warrior.” “She’s a woman of God.” “Man, that church is so spirit-filled.” We might be consciously embracing the best of intentions for the sake of others’ welfare, but a part of us is unconsciously yearning to elevate our own spiritual stature through the possibility of being associated with those doing great “spiritual things.”
 
So am I saying that everyone should stop discussing matters concerning spiritual awareness? Heck no. Those are the best conversations to have…when done with authenticity. Forget the posturing, grand-standing, one-up-man-ship. Let’s just share our journeys through fog and toward clarity together, and stop hiding behind our words.
 
Clearly there’s many other instances beyond the subject of “spirituality” where we hide behind our words. It’s a frequent instinct in politics, the marketplace, show business, HOA meetings, you name it. But it’s most unhelpful in “spiritual matters,” because people are quite vulnerable in this arena. After all, it’s got hope and eternity and all their cousins all wrapped up in it.
 
I’m asking myself more and more, “Am I hiding behind my words?” Shoot. There goes my ego again, wanting you to know how deep I am for thinking about these things. And with irony and paradox I hereby end this entry mostly believing in the positive intentions of others.
 

John M. DeMarco is a writer, strategist, and executive coach based in Nashville, Tennessee.