Religion, spirituality and your mental health this Christmas

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 20 December 2015. By John Abbate.

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
—Micah 6:8 (KJV)

After more than 50 years trying to understand the human mind, Dr Macnab admits that there are many aspects of the human personality that remain a mystery to him. What is the model of a good personality, for the best possible life? Scholars of the mind are prone to overlook the fact that ancient scripture contains an answer to this question, one that may be worth taking seriously.

Dr Macnab favours an alternative translation of the Bible verse quoted above (Micah 6:8): “Be just and kind, and be in harmony with the very best that you know God to be.”

In the New Testament, Jesus takes the role of carrier of “good news.” Dr Macnab asks, “What does it take to have a personality that is committed to being a carrier of good news?”

In this address before Christmas, Dr Macnab proceeds along four headings: a model of human personality; a model of spiritual development; ways to connect the two models; and finally, what is the significance of Christmas for these two models?

Model of the Human Personality
Dr Macnab lists several ingredients in the best human personality:
1. Confidence
2. Contentment
3. Control
4. Collaboration/congeniality
5. Release (from anger, past damage, blind spots)
6. Embrace of cultural enlargement/enrichment
7. Extravagant joyfulness

Model of Spiritual Development
Spiritual development involves the following features or moments:
1. An internal focus on life’s deeper meanings, moments and moods
2. A view to the larger context/a higher level of understanding and engagement with things
3. The transformation of our interactions with each other; a deepening of our sense of being a loving person and an enjoyable presence for others
4. Growing beyond the preoccupation with self to be part of a larger participation
5. Openness to a wider wisdom; an appreciation of one’s own culture and the wider human scene
6. A belief in the “extravagant gift of joy”
7. An experience of the mystery of the healing of the human spirit

Integrating the two models in the Christmas moment
This Christmas, Dr Macnab advocates a conscious integration of these two models, of healthy personality and spiritual development, enabling us to see things anew and to truly embrace the gift of life. “The word of Christmas is to be carriers of good news,” said Dr Macnab. What is the good news? It is contained in the many ways that our brains carry the energies of healing. There is good news in the ways we can discover a new meaning to life, and in how our expressions of joy can transcend our many despondencies. Though you may have long since lost connection to the traditional religious message of Christmas, hold onto this good news.

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