When I was a Catholic, I struggled with the cliché “Cafeteria Catholic” syndrome—the reality that Catholics do not agree with everything the Bible says, so we’d openly acknowledge that we pick and choose which parts of our sacred text we would follow and which ones we’d turn a blind eye to. The permission to be incongruent bothered me deeply. I didn’t want a worldview to which I’d have to make edits; I wanted a worldview for which I could be all in.

As I’ve discussed before in this series, the spiritual-but-not-religious worldview identity does not have a grounding theoretical text because spirituality is individual and complex. Many non-SBNRs would think that delegitimizes or complicates our worldview, but my experience has been the opposite. I love the opportunity to create my accountability system exactly the way I want it—after all, isn’t that the point? To honor my own ideas, wants, and needs?

However, this does not mean our identity is without principles, ethical foundations, and significant life lessons imparted by people we believe in. I believe in the trailblazers who do this work—the people who do not claim to be the “leaders” of spirituality, yet contribute meaningful content I can execute the way I want in my own life. Even more, my spirituality is not invested in a single person’s perspective on this world; my spirituality is a collection of people’s ideas as they relate to me thriving in my existence.

What would it look like for you to tether your internal and external compasses to the text you found most valuable? Once I came to terms with the fact that the Bible wasn’t resonating with me the way I hoped it would, I became liberated from the realization that my true spiritual texts were all around me:

The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo, from which I learned about the power of the inner journey being as integral to our life as our external, physical journey. I also learned that the true treasures in our lives are not ideas or things, but the people we love.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker, from which I learned people have an incredible ability to overcome obstacles and practice resilience. I learned God was not a man—that we are all “God,” and we all share responsibility for what happens to each other in our lives.

Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, from which I learned how the design of my life is intentional and beautiful. The things that challenge me the most are the karmic lessons I am meant to overcome in this lifetime. I also understood that the people in my life who make my heart go wild have spent multiple lifetimes with me, which makes our relationship all the more meaningful.

Big Fish (movie), from which I learned our lives are collections of stories that run parallel as well as intersect. Along with a reading of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, I understood that I can engineer my life in a way that will make it more interesting—make it a story worth telling.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (movie), from which I learned the inevitability of what is meant to be and how our interactions matter on a cosmic scale. This movie specifically taught me to lean into the discomfort of messy romantic relationships because there is always a lesson to be learned.

I could think of so many more books, poems, films, and other media to attribute to my own theoretical grounding. These words are the bits and pieces that create me and sustain me. I wonder about a world of complete congruence in which everyone, regardless of worldview, could live by the words that create them, rather than create themselves using the words they have been told are most important.

Which works have shaped you? What words could you unquestioningly stand behind?

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