Spiritual confidence and its contribution to wellbeing: Implications for education
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science / Social Justice Research Centre
Recent research among more several thousand Australian secondary school students in the “Schools Spiritual Project” has shown that 80% of them say that, at least sometimes, it is hard to know what to believe about life and the world. This lack of confidence is illustrated by the fact that many say they have no idea what to believe about God, reincarnation or astrology. The research shows that a lack of confidence is related to lower levels of ontological wellbeing, as measured by the sense of purpose, sense of identity and self-esteem. It has its roots in contemporary Western culture in which the “self has become a reflexive project”, an ongoing story of a series of experiences and relationships, rather than the self being formed through location within a particular community or tradition. Nevertheless, a stable sense of self-identity contributes to the individual’s capacity to “keep the story going” and wellbeing, particularly when it is achieved through an evaluation of options. Spiritual education can contribute to skills of thinking and decision making in the religious or spiritual sphere that will enhance the development of confidence in beliefs about life and world. It should assist young people in dealing positively and constructively with the plurality of ideas, beliefs and practices that are found in contemporary Western societies. Knowledge of some of these options is important, but even more important are the skills of evaluation and of developing those beliefs into a clear sense of purpose and direction for life.