What Are Spiritual Needs?

According to Wikipedia, the word "spirit" means "the animating or vital principle in man and animals." It's derived from the Old French word espirit which comes from the Latin word spiritus, meaning "soul, courage, vigor, breath" and related to spirare, meaning "to breathe."

The term "spiritual" means "matters concerning the spirit" and is derived from Old French spirituel, which is derived from Latin spiritualis.

"Spirituality" is the practice and process of personal transformation, either in accordance with religious ideals, or, increasingly, in accordance with personal experience. In a more general sense, it may refer to almost any meaningful activity or blissful experience. There is no single, widely agreed definition for "spirituality," so it refers to a wide variety of practices. Spirituality is NOT:

  • Just about religious beliefs and practices
  • About imposing your beliefs or values on another person
  • The responsibility of specialists, like ministers, priests, rabbis, etc.

Spiritual needs can include the need for meaning, for self-worth, to express oneself authentically, to receive faith support, rites, prayer, or sacrament, or to simply have a sensitive listener. Based on over 30 years of counseling and care, Howard Clinebell believes that humans have seven spiritual needs in common:

  • to regularly experience healing and empowering love from others, self, and an ultimate Source
  • to experience transcendent moments that expand us beyond the immediate sensory realm
  • to sense meaning and hope in the midst of loss, tragedy, and failure
  • to have values, priorities, and life commitments—such as justice, integrity, and love—that guide us in personally and socially responsible living
  • to discover and develop our inner wisdom, creativity, and love of our unique spiritual self
  • an awareness of oneness with web of all living things
  • spiritual resources to help heal the wounds of grief, guilt, resentment, unforgiveness, self-rejection, and shame, and deepen our experiences of trust, self-esteem, hope, joy, and love of life

Clinebell feels that we all must pay attention to these needs to feel whole and fulfilled, making spirituality central to human well-being (Clinebell, 1992).

Why is it important to help people who are living with life-threatening illnesses meet their spiritual needs? It's important because, more than any other factor, people whose spiritual needs are met tend to live and die in peace, and people whose spiritual needs are not met tend to experience spiritual pain, restlessness, craving, and fears of punishment or of not existing after they die. This course is designed to help you meet your own spiritual needs and use that experience to respond effectively to the spiritual needs of people who are living or dying with life-threatening illness.

I invite you to take a moment right now to look at the Human Needs List. Which needs do you consider spiritual? Which aren’t? What makes a need spiritual?