Spirituality is a powerful term encompassing a way of thinking about, feeling, and living in the world. Essential to spiritual life is mindful thinking and choosing to experience the many different aspects of human existence and conscious interaction with others and our environment. With a spiritual view of life, we can see the divine in the mundane, the miraculous in each and every day, and the extraordinary in the ordinary. This monthly series will focus on the spiritual power of common words and the concepts they represent. This month’s word is Consequence.
The Mundane Meaning of Consequence
Consequence is defined as “something produced by a cause or necessarily following from a set of conditions”. We face natural, logical, and unintended consequences every day. But what does it mean to understand the spiritual meaning of “consequence”?
The Spiritual in Consequences
“We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the consequences that come with them.” (Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens) and “We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us.” (Ken Levine, Game Developer). Seeing life through a spiritual lens means seeing the string of consequences that connect to make us how and who we are.
Natural consequences flow in expected ways because of the laws of nature and the science of life. If I choose to train my body to be stronger by lifting weights, then picking up heavier and heavier objects over the course of my training will be a natural and logical consequence. Being sought after to play on my high school football team by the coach who notices me at the gym would be an unintended consequence.
To be spiritual with this concept means addressing consequences as purposeful lessons that may easily span this lifetime as well as previous ones. Opening the mind to past lives opens us to dealing with consequences that may have a mundane explanation but crucial spiritual implications.
Spiritual Consequence in Mundane Explanations
Let me share a personal story to illustrate my point. I am adopted. My adoption was a consequence of my birth mother getting pregnant at a young age in a time when abortion was not legal (1968). She was from a family of means, so her pregnancy was managed by sending her to a “boarding school” where she could have me and put me up for adoption, leaving no “stain” on the family.
My adopting mother could not have children, so foster care or adoption were her only options. As a consequence of her infertility, she and my adoptive father had to pursue adoption to become parents. These two consequences merged in May of 1968 after my birth in April and I was adopted. My adoption was a blessing for me and resulted in a very positive and wonderful childhood, and largely successful life.
Through my life journey, and my professional practice, I have come to learn that my very positive childhood is much rarer than I presumed. With a spiritual view and many past life regressions, I have come to understand that my good life in this lifetime is a consequence of some very harsh past lives where I attempted to do my best for others but suffered greatly. While my adoption was the result of certain choices leading to certain consequences, my adoption by the people who gave me such a good life and tremendous love was a consequence of my soul’s spiritual work and journey.
Navigating Negative Consequences to Grow the Soul
I meet clients at very hard times in their lives, when they are dealing with some very negative consequences because of unwise choices – trapped in a loveless or even abusive relationship, struggling with unsatisfying work, or dealing with loneliness and apathy. They are a mix of consequences of their own making and being caught in the wake of choices made by others. Much of the work we address is facing the consequences that brought them to their intersection with spiritual work as a way to address the consequences of their lives.
When we do not face the consequences of our choices, or we are not held accountable, not only do we suffer, but so does the world in both small and large ways. When we allow the consequences of other’s actions to define us long after we become strong or aware enough to challenge those consequences, we fail to grow spiritually. Our soul atrophies. When we become conscious of the path of consequences in our lives, we can make more informed choices to lead to better and better consequences.
I have always been a helpful person, which I understand to be a quality of my soul and a consequence of my adoption, as I chose to understand it and interpret it through my youth and early adulthood. Being adopted, for me, was filled with a profound gratitude that made me willing to help others as a “payment” for the gift of my adoption, but I did not establish healthy boundaries to protect my spirit and psyche, causing me to have a breakdown in 2009, a consequence of me always saying yes to others even when I did not have energy for myself.
After my breakdown, which lasted nearly four years, I learned from the consequences that brought me to the lowest place I have been in my life. Some were part of this lifetime and some were part of past lifetimes. I had to face the consequences of my choices as well as the consequences of the choices of people around me who affected my life. In a few cases, one of the epiphanies was to move certain people out of my life so I would not be swept up in the consequences of their decisions.
Ironically, I began to emerge out of my breakdown period when I started my spiritual advising practice in 2013. In the years that followed, I worked very hard to understand my purpose, which with each passing day of better understanding and practice, I began to see better and better consequences in my life – natural, logical, and unintended.
There Are No Shortcuts
Consequences exist to teach us. Whether we learn or not is often a matter of intelligence, awareness, and willingness. There is often a surprisingly fine line between blame and cause, between excuses and reasons, between victimhood and empowerment. At the spiritual level, there are actually no unintended consequences. This claim is not about fate, but about lessons. An unintended consequence is simply a natural and logical consequence we cannot see until “after the fact”.
We live empowered when we are willing to “face the consequences” even if they are the result of someone else’s actions. If we learn that the behavior of another person, by virtue of their power in our lives, rains consequences down on us, then we must find a way to change the consequences or accept them as necessary lessons if we cannot change them. My birth mother was forced to put me up for adoption and a host of consequences followed well before my consciousness and understanding of my adoption became part of my aware experience.
I am an adopted person and I could choose to be angry or hurt because of the consequences that resulted in that life path, not of my choosing. But I have had the pleasure to meet my birth parents and learn their stories, and see how my spiritual path is a consequence of their choices, while recognizing that I have worked hard to empower myself to be more and more in charge of my choices, and better able to face consequences in a way that gives me a positive life.