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Spirituality and religion are frequently, and often mistakenly, interchanged in

conversation and understanding. Many individuals may call themselves spiritual, but
not religious, and in saying that, they have the understanding that spirituality deals with
the universe and their individual connection to the unknown. Spirituality is where they
find meaning, direction and purpose in life and is often a more abstract thought (Hays &
Erford, 2014). Religion, on the other hand, is a representation of an individuals faith and
their behaviors and practices associated within their respected belief. Religion is more a
more concrete concept, with different religions including Buddhism, Christianity,
Catholicism, Islam and Judaism. Although an individual can be spiritual without being
religious, to be a part of a religion is to be a part of an organized construct of
spirituality (Hays & Erford, 2014, p. 9).
While religion is more easily defined by the ritualistic, behavioral and external
practices, to pinpoint the essence of spirituality is a little more challenging due to its
highly personal, internal nature. Spirituality evolves and develops over time and is
highly dynamic and transformative (Hays & Erford, 2014, p. 449). While the two are
different in several ways, they also share similarities. Believing in the complementary
view of spirituality and religion, it is understood that being apart of a religious community
greatly enhances the spiritual life and well-being, as disciplined spiritual practice
promotes growth. To those who are devoted to their religion, spirituality stands hand in
Poll and Smiths Model of of Spiritual Identity is broken down into four stages:
pre-awareness, awakening, recognition and finally, integration (2014, p. 54). Poll and
Smith posit that in journeying through these stages, an individual goes from having little

to no spirituality or spiritual experiences (pre-awareness) to experiencing a crisis that

leads them to a view and awareness of who God is based off of their situations
(awakening). From this worldview, the individual experiences an emotional
understanding of who God is and (recognition) and develop faith practices, behaviors
and beliefs (Hays & Erford, 2014, p. 54). According to Poll and Smith, the final stage of
integration occurs when perceptions, interaction, relationships and behaviors are
ordered by the internalized notions of who God is (p. 54).
I struggle with whether or not I agree with the aforementioned theory of Poll and
Smith. In a sense, I understand the concept of their theory and know of instances where
this has come to fruition. However, should this theory be all-encompassing, I find their
theory limiting. It is broken down so that the individual only comes to know Christ
through an existential crisis. Their faith and belief in God is based off of circumstances
alone. Their notion of God is based off of what is happening in their life at any given
time and doesnt allow for the fact that God is unchanging, unwavering, regardless of
circumstance. Identity in Christ is found not in situations, but in the security of the
promise of who God is, and that can only be found through the cross.

Hays, D. G., & Erford, B. T. (2014). Developing multicultural counseling
competence: A systems approach (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.