My partner grew up in a very religious family. Church three times a week, and door-to-door preaching. Needless to say, the family and church weren’t too happy with his ‘lifestyle choices’, and despite those trials, he’s a fairly well-adjusted person. A while ago he mentioned ‘the fruits of the spirit’ in a conversation. I’d never heard the term and asked what it meant.
“The fruits of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. It’s what a ‘good Christian’ should be aiming for in developing their personality, and what they should demonstrate to others. It’s one of my favourite things in the bible.”
What a list! It struck me immediately that this was a universal checklist, something for everyone. Love. Joy. Peace. Long-suffering. Kindness. Goodness. Faith. Mildness. Self-control. All of them are such admirable traits and in therapeutic terms, they could underpin a real process of growth, self-discovery, and repair. They are all utterly subjective, of course, but that’s what makes them great.
Love is a given – it’s vital to feel loved and to be able to demonstrate love to others. Joy in its many forms is an aspiration for all – the joy of connection, the joy of success, the joy of giving brings such satisfaction. Peace speaks for itself – I’m quite sure we all need to play our part in order to have peaceful relationships, families, and communities. Long-suffering doesn’t sound that great, but if you frame it as forgiveness it becomes a rock-solid part of moving on from trauma, be it small or large.
Kindness and goodness are things we instruct children in, but sometimes forgotten as adults, yet their effects are wide-reaching and bring rich rewards. Faith… hmmm, such a loaded word – but we can have faith in ourselves, in our friends and family, in our ability to grow and change, as well as in our gods. Mildness is a little-used word, but I feel that ‘softening the edges’ is a great place to start in developing empathy for others and understanding our own faults. Last but not least, self-control – seen through the prism of excess in modern society, it’s a great word for us to consider in terms of our actions and reactions.
I think I could have written an article on each of these, and referenced them with all kinds of therapeutic models and social theory, but like the original comment from my partner, it just came up, and it made me think about my relationship to these words and the way that language, society and context all interact. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you feel that these words resonate with you in light of your own situation. Happy to have a chat and explore these ideas further.