Spiritual Survival Skills at College
- Find a faith community that accepts you
for who you are, and genuinely offers a safe place to share your deepest faith,
your worst fears, your biggest doubts, and your triumphs; a community that
encourages you to grow but doesn¹t try to force you into a rigid mold of what
it means to be a Christian, or a Jew or a Muslim etc.
- Just get involved: Even if you participate in just one
gathering a week or once a month, get involved! Being in college offers you the
unique opportunity to participate in numerous types of worship, prayer, and
faith development without having to travel far or take much time out of your
schedule. The activities in which you participate now will help shape the
person you are after graduation.
- Volunteer Service: There are many opportunities on campus to
become involved in community service. Whether it is through the Appalachian
Center for Community Service or a Religious Life group, you can find
ways to "be the miracle" and make a difference in someone's
life. Offering your time and talents to others is not only a benefit to those who receive them, but also serves as a visible witness as you put your faith into action.
- Pray without ceasing: Praying is something one does. It is
an active orientation to the world around us: our classes, friends, dates,
family, jobs, and problems. Being in prayer means letting our lives become a
prayer to God. It is in prayer that we find the motivation and clarity to
practice our faith. Try to take some time every day for prayer or meditation,
and look for ways to expand your knowledge and practice of prayer. If you
have the opportunity to participate in retreats or prayer groups, take it!
- Keep your ears open: Listening is the bridge between God and
you and others. It involves attention, being present, and
hospitality. It is an essential part of the discernment process and one
of the best ways to show our regard for others. But it takes practice to
develop a "listening heart." Consciously decide to make it
an integral part of your daily spiritual life. Remember, one who listens
joins the Spirit of the One who is always more ready to listen than we are
- Openness: Are you open to new ideas, new experiences, new
people? Openness is a key quality for the life of faith. In faith
terms, the Spirit of God blows where it will, and it requires openness to the
unexpected (a willingness to try something new, or consider a new idea, or
befriend someone different from you) to be receptive to new possibilities
brought by the Spirit. So take risks! Don¹t be afraid to engage in
conversations with people who challenge you or who don't have the same beliefs
as you! By engaging in dialogue, you can refine your own beliefs and
learn from others. And be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt!
- Hope: Faithful people are characterized by their hope. To
hope is more than merely wishing for good things to happen. It involves
patience, courage, confidence, and persistence. It means to be ready at
every moment for the Grace of God. One way to strengthen and embody hope
is to form caring relationships with peers. The insecurity of our day is an
overwhelming burden for us to bear; caring relationships are a powerful witness
in our hope for the future of humankind.
- Think: It may sound strange to suggest that training one's
mind to think is a form of faith work, but it has been long recognized that the
spiritual journey is a lifelong process of "faith seeking
understanding." Learning to think carefully about what one believes is an
essential part of faith. Many times religion can be reactionary rather
than thoughtful, so use these years to deepen your ability to be a thinking
person of faith. Make your faith your own, and do not simply accept someone
else's version of "the truth."
Take responsibility for educating yourself about your tradition and figure out why it's important to you. Ask questions! If there is something you don't understand or something that doesn't make sense or troubles you, talk to a the Chaplain, Assistant Chaplain, or your pastor.
- Gratitude: This is both a state of mind and a way of
life! As a state of mind, it is rooted in a thankfulness for the gift of
life from a loving God. In turn, this becomes an attitude by which we live our
lives, grateful for beauty, for mystery, for God's presence, for each other,
and the countless gifts of love, compassion, and wisdom we can offer each
other. So, appreciate the small stuff; be aware that God's hand is in all
things. Recognize the divine presence living in others. Along the way,
don¹t be too hard on yourself or others. Be forgiving. You will
occasionally fall short of your goals, and friends and professors may
disappoint you. Practice acceptance and forgiveness every day!
- Love: Love of self, love of neighbors, and love of God are
the foundation stones of the world's religions. Love is not simply or primarily
warm fuzzy feelings, it is a willed intention to be loved by God and to
actively express love for others. Learning how to love more deeply is the
goal of the spiritual life! Look for opportunities, great and small, to
be a bearer of love to others. Remember, "faith, hope and love,
abide, but the greatest of these is love" (The Holy Bible, New Revised
Standard Version. 1 Corinthians 13:13)