Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Your devotion, will open all of life's treasures

By Jonathan Dunnemann

At some point in life, we each come up against the need to decide for ourselves whether or not to bring a true sense of devotion to the task/goal at hand: whatever it may be. 

Given that possibility, what does devotion look like to you and where does it come from?

Devotion generally reflects a form of commitment that can be easily evidenced in the following ways:
  • contract
  • promise
  • obligation
  • cognitive processes
  • ordering of priorities
  • personal growth
  • being virtuous
  • perseverance
  • state of being
  • emotional attachment
  • devotion to self
  • devotion to others 

So long as a person is committed to a task/goal, has the requisite ability to attain it, and does not have conflicting goals, there is usually a positive, linear relationship between task/goal difficulty and successful task performance. Because goals refer to future valued outcomes, the setting of goals is first and foremost a discrepancy-creating process. It implies discontent with one's present condition and a heightened desire to attain a much different objective or outcome.

For many of us, our learned religious commitments are foundational to our moral development, identity formation, family relationships and the amount of effort we are likely to devote to many other important areas of life (i.e., academic, career, extra-curriculum, volunteer, work, etc.).

Importance of Religious Commitment

"Much research has examined links between religious commitment and various positive and negative outcomes for youth. Generally, youth who are more religious exhibit higher levels of positive outcomes and lower levels of negative outcomes than their less religious peers. For example, religious commitment is predictive of greater prosocial behavior (Hardy & Carlo, 2005), less depression (Pierce, Little, & Perez, 2003), less substance use (Wills, Yaeger, & Sandy, 2003), and postponed sexual intercourse (Hardy & Raffaelli, 2003). There are a number possible reasons for these associations; for example religion teaches prosocial values (Hardy & Carlo, 2005), and provides social controls (Hardy & Raffaeli, 2003) and social capital (King & Roeser, 2009).

Religious commitment is also relevant to moral development. Compelling evidence suggests that religious and moral development are interconnected for many (if not most) people (Walker & Reimer, 2006). For example, Colby and Damon (1992) conducted an in-depth qualitative study of moral exemplars (i.e., individuals identified for their high levels of moral commitment). Interestingly, although the criteria for moral exemplar nomination did not include anything regarding religious commitment, religious commitment was central to how moral exemplars viewed the world and integrated their goals and concerns. Similarly, for individuals working in a residential community for developmentally disabled individuals, religious commitments helped frame their moral commitments and order their goals (Walker & Reimer, 2006). Furthermore, Walker, Pitts, Hennig, and Matsuba (1995) found that many people ground their moral judgements in their religious commitments.

Religious commitment also provides a context and grounds for identity formation for many youth (Good & Willoughby, 2007; King, 2003). Erickson (1968) argued that the making of religious commitments was an important part of identity formation for most people, because religion provides salient ideologies for youth to adopt. In fact, many common measures of identity formation (e.g., the Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status, Adams, 1998) tap religious commitments as one of the key domains of more general identity formation. Evidence also suggests that religious involvement and identity formation are linked developmentally (Hardy, Pratt, Olsen, & Lawford, IN PRESS)." (Layton, Dollahite, and Hardy, 2011)

In the absence of a genuine religious commitment one's voyage most often becomes more difficult to navigate. However, such a predicament can be counter-balanced through the substitution of some other mechanism for effectively regulating one's thoughts, actions, behaviors, beliefs, experiences and priorities (i.e., philosophy, psychology, social science, etc.). Once identified, properly outfitted, and the seeming blindness lifted, the capability to gain one's barrings returns along with the competence to chart a course which provides maneuverability around some of the most dangerous and enticing obstacles.