The Twelve Principles of Personal Leadership: Principle #12—Embracing Spirituality

In 2004, theoretical physicist and former ABC News science correspondent Michael Guillen wrote Can a Smart Person Believe in God? This thought-provoking book offers some insightful comments about the importance of spirituality in people’s lives. Guillen contends that there are two important and distinct qualities to human existence. The first quality, Intelligence Quotient, is well known to people and is understood to refer to our abilities to solve problems, analyze situations, and acquire knowledge. The second quality, which is lesser known and often rejected or ignored, is Spiritual Quotient. Spiritual Quotient, or SQ, refers to our abilities to perceive nonphysical aspects of reality. When working in tandem, IQ and SQ give one the heightened ability to solve complex physical and metaphysical problems through spiritual consciousness and conviction. Our life journeys are enhanced when we seek both a higher level of IQ and SQ.

Guillen goes on to write that someone who only embraces physical science while denying spirituality is an Intellectual Cyclops who is incapable of seeing different dimensions, much like a person with only one functioning eye is unable to see stereoscopic images. Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, the most prominent Transcendentalist of the nineteenth century, conversely argued, “The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.” The lesson offered by both these intellectuals is that science and religion are not necessarily mutually exclusive or at odds. In fact, what are usually at odds are individuals’ differing personal interpretations of religion or science.

Religion’s Role in History

Critics of spirituality are often quick to make two claims that are neither thoughtful nor fair. Many like to point out that religion has been at the root of more wars than any other cause in human history. What this tells us is that people are passionate about religious beliefs in much the same way they are about allegiances to nation or family, and passion can be an emotion used for ill or good. These same critics will frequently ignore the twentieth century and neglect to mention that the two most devastating wars in human history, World War I and World War II, were both sparked by secular rulers adhering to secular ideologies such as nationalism or fascism. Others like to boldly claim that religion is nothing more than a myth used to placate the ignorant or superstitious. This claim ignores the fact that deeply religious individuals can be credited with achieving important scientific breakthroughs, establishing our greatest educational institutions, developing the cures for a host of diseases, comforting the afflicted through the establishment of philanthropic organizations, and advancing the cause of civil rights and liberty. The truth of the matter is that history is awash with the lives of people who were able to achieve great things because their faith prompted them to believe in something greater than themselves.

The Founding Fathers

One group of people who demonstrated a reliance on a higher authority to achieve their goals both for themselves and for posterity were the founding fathers of the United States of America. At the time of the American colonies’ rebellion against the crown of England, the prevailing belief in the divine right of kings—the belief that monarchs ruled under the direct authority of God—had been firmly entrenched in Western thought for centuries. The colonists were well aware of this philosophy, but the revolutionaries believed that the Creator had something else in mind. They believed that government existed by consent of the governed and that it was right for people to overthrow their government if their natural rights, bestowed upon them by Nature’s God, were violated. Three times in the Declaration of Independence the presence of God is acknowledged, and indeed God’s Divine Providence is used as a reason and justification for breaking away from England. The Declaration of Independence is both a remarkable statement of the nation’s founding principles and a revealing look at the underlying spirituality of the men who wrote and signed it, for these men had to be girded by faith and a belief in the higher purpose of their mission to openly and successfully defy what was the strongest nation in the world at that time.

Spirituality Today

Even if they don’t always sense it or understand it, many of today’s personal leaders have come to realize and accept the fact that there is a spiritual element to life, but they are often reluctant to discuss it or embrace it because it is not considered “politically correct” or in vogue to do so. Perhaps even more distressing is the large number of people who, as we slip further into a post-Christian culture, claim to believe in God but don’t have any type of personal relationship with Him.

Too many in our culture treat God as a genie who is supposed to pop up to honor a request whenever a prayer or wish is made, and these same people quickly become discouraged when they don’t immediately get what was asked for. However, to have a real relationship with God, we must understand that we have obligations and responsibilities to fulfill. That is the part of acknowledging spirituality that so many in today’s world find difficult, but meeting these requirements is necessary if we want to cultivate a unique and treasured relationship with our Creator.

It is a worthwhile endeavor, for spirituality can take your physical existence to the next level, helping you transcend physical reality and the limitations of your five senses while giving everything else in life additional perspective and meaning. As respected management consultant and author Peter Block reminds us, “Spirituality is the process of living out a set of deeply held personal values, of honoring forces or a presence greater than ourselves. It expresses our desire to find meaning in, and treat as an offering, what we do.”

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