Fixing cause, not symptom, leads to spiritual growth

An author once said that we were moving so fast in life that we have left our souls behind. Socrates said it differently, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Humans today have not learned how to be silent and reflect on what is happening in their lives. We surround ourselves with noise or modern communication gadgets that keep us constantly occupied. We have a hard time just “being still” and looking at the “big picture.” Consequently, many people are on the road to destruction.

When something is going wrong in our lives, we often address the symptoms and not the causes. We want a quick fix. The following five areas in our lives deal with a variety of symptoms, causes and possible solutions to address the causes.

• Intellectual symptoms: A person might be experiencing boredom, lack of creativity or new ideas, inability to concentrate or remember things, loss of humor, indifference.

Causes: Laziness, doing boring work, not being challenged enough, materialistic values, doing too many projects, lack of goals, stagnation in life or trying too hard to succeed.

Treatments: Find new pursuits and challenges, spend time reading or writing, look at the possibility of changing jobs, evaluate your goals in life, join discussion groups and get involved with others.

• Physical symptoms: Ulcers, headaches, fatigue, hypertension, accident-prone or sexual dysfunctions.

Causes: Bad eating habits, overworking, lack of exercise, too little or too much sleep, abuse of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, failure to take time to “restore our batteries” or an unhealthy environment.

Treatments: Slow down, changed physical habits, exercise more, eat and drink intelligently, get a proper amount of sleep, learn relaxation techniques, get regular physical examinations, stop smoking or change environment.

• Spiritual symptoms: Grief, guilty feelings, lack of joy, despair, loss of meaning and purpose in life, an empty feeling, feeling detached from God and others or feeling helpless.

Causes: Too little reflection time, disappointments with life, loss of love ones, lack of commitments, holding on to past hurts, church politics or hypocrisy of self or church members.

Treatments: Spending more time in prayer and meditation, reading scripture and listening to uplifting music, meaningful involvement in worship, working through doubts, seeking spiritual counseling, clarifying values, forgiving and let go of past hurts, taking a stand on injustices and confessing our sinfulness.

• Emotional symptoms: Depression, anxiety, fears, anger, confusion, loss of confidence, emotional roll-a-coaster, traumatic experiences and need to control others.

Causes: Low self-esteem, failures, internal/external conflicts, lack of direction, ambiguity, unrealistic expectations, moving into a new stage of life or lack of affirmation and recognition.

Treatments: Address conflicts, accept self with gifts and shortcomings, practice discipline, try new behavior patterns, face your fears, find affirmation from others, think positively, learn to calm and direct anger, talk with wise people, talk to self about being confident or trust in God’s mercy.

• Social symptoms: loneliness, rejection, loss of friendships, acting out, aggression, putting on airs, promiscuity, antisocial behavior or dependent personality.

Causes: Dramatic changes in life, being displaced or moving, death of a loved one, change in job status, an unhappy marriage, pressure to conform or trying to please too many people.

Treatments: Find new friends, smile more, join interesting groups, be the person that God made you to be, evaluate your lifestyle, learn to stand on your own two feet, share your love, reach out and volunteer.

These five categories can help us evaluate our lives so we can change. When one part of life is not in right, it affects other parts. When people are sick, they are often grouchy. An unforgiving attitude often makes a person bitter.

When Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heaven Father is perfect,” he wanted us to perfect all aspects of our lives so we could love like God. I hope this exercise can help us do that.