Shared Spiritual or Philosophical Perspective

Additional Information for Chapter 2, page 20

The spiritual or philosophical perspective you hold represents essentially the foundation on which you live your life. It is important that a couple share similar perspectives. For example, one person may believe:

“If I have the ability I should make as much money as I possibly can.”

Contrast this with someone who says:
“life is all about self denial, giving away that which you do have, devoting your life to the betterment of the unfortunate, and living in poverty.”

A marriage between two such people would be disastrous.

The only way the marriage of the two people described above could work is if they find a deeper perspective that allows them to live in harmony. If, for instance the money maker wants to generate wealth to benefit many worthy causes, and the poverty-mind-set person decides that it is OK to be comfortable financially and that more money can benefit more people, then it may work.

Most frequently the shared foundation is associated with one’s spirituality.

Research has found that:

  • Those higher in spirituality have more successful marriages
  • Those who share a similar spiritual perspective have more successful marriages
  • Those who belong to the same denomination have more successful marriages

Typically people who come from a well-defined spiritual or religious background have a more clearly articulated philosophy of life-based on their spiritual beliefs. Those who are atheist, agnostic or for whom religion plays only a peripheral role usually have a more poorly defined philosophical perspective.

If you are serious about determining spiritual or philosophical compatibility there are 3 levels of exploration:

  • Look for the obvious
  • Explore well-established perspectives
  • Create your mission and governing values

Look for Obvious Mismatches

Look for the obvious. Let’s put in a plug for Hollywood. The 1985 film Witness (starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis) portrays an intense emotional reaction between the police captain John Book (Ford) and an Amish widow (McGillis). The film got it right. Both realize that there was no way the two can bridge the cultural gap that exist between them and chose to not consider a relationship.

The obvious would be things like:

Devout Christian Atheist
Hindu Jew
Muslim Christian
Catholic Unitarian
Fundamentalist Christian Mormon
Entrepreneurial wealth seeker Celebrates poverty
Self-gratification, hedonist Devoted to the benifit of those less fortunate
High level fitness enthusiast Has no interest in fitness
Constant and never-ending improvement (CANI) content with the status quo
Chairperson of the stop smoking efforts A tobacco farm owner
Seeker of Wisdom Seeker of Stimulation
Maintains Scrupulous integrity Morally flexible
Celebrates the arts has no interest in the art

Examine Well-Established Perspectives

Explore well know or established perspectives. This is usually most straight forward in a religious or spiritual context. Individuals in particular denominations often have a clearly defined set of values. Because they are clearly defined, they can be assessed more directly and compared item by item.

In this comparison you can determine two things:
a. is there a contrast in perspective?
b. how important is that contrast?

No set of rules can govern how the discussion may go but here is an example.

Someone who belongs to the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America-the conservative branch of the Presbyterian Church) is in a relationship with someone who is a Baptist. Both individuals are devout Christians and want to determine whether the PCA-Baptist match can work.

First off the church doctrines match on many points: the Trinity, creation, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, the redemptive death of Jesus, and many more. They differ in at least two areas:

  • PCA performs a sprinkling baptism of infants, Baptist perform baptism by immersion usually for people age 12 or older.
  • PCA does not allow women elders, deacons, or pastors; Baptists allow all three

The discussion would revolve around how critical the differences are and what influence they would have on a life together. If there are intense feelings about these differences and angst about which church the children would go to, then it might break the deal. There are many who, in light of the foundational similarities the denominations share, would find the differences not at all troubling.

The outcome of the discussion is not as important as the fact that the discussion takes place.

Outside the denominational perspective, for the non-religious or those for whom religion plays a less central role, there is rarely a nicely defined set of beliefs to compare and contrast. As such, these people would need to go to define their personal mission, governing values, and goals. As a matter of fact it would be beneficial for EVERYONE to take this step.

Mission Governing Values and Goals

Mission, Governing Values, Goals: It is the tiny minority of people who have written out their life mission, their governing values and their important goals. In the context of marital compatibility it is a useful procedure for two reasons:

a. It provides clarity about who you are and the standards by which you run your life
b. It provides a set of items that be compared and contrasted with a potential partner.

The idea of governing values may have originated with Ben Franklin. He came up with a celebrated set of values that he spent his entire life developing and refining. Here they are:

Ben Franklin’s 12 (13) Governing Values


Value Description
Temperance eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation
Silence Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
Order Let all things have their places. Let each part of your buisness have it’s time.
Resolution Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
Frugality Make no expence but to do good to others or yourself, e.g., wast nothing.
Industry Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unecessary actions
Sincerity Use no hurtful decet. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Justice Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benifits that are your duty.
Moderation Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Cleanliness Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothing, or habitation
Tranquility Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Chastity Rarely use venery [sexual activity] but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Humility Imitate Jesus and Socrates

Now if Ben were considering marriage to someone who was gluttonous, noisy and abrasive, messy and chaotic, irresponsible, a spend thrift, terminally lazy, hurtfully deceitful, violated principles of justice, did everything in excess, dirty, agitated, and a sex maniac, plus proud and egotistical; how likely is it that Ben in his wisdom would marry such a person-regardless of how alluring and persuasive?

You can quickly see that a set of governing values provides a valuable (and documented) resource to determining compatibility in the area of philosophical perspective.

The mission statement is a broader statement of your reason for being in the world, whereas the governing values (Ben Franklins are listed above) identifies the rules-of-the-game, so to speak, as you work toward fulfilling your mission. Individuals who take the time to create a mission statement and identify governing values have valuable resources not only for a meaningful life but for determining the compatibility of a philosophical perspective.

Below I list my (Darren) mission statement and governing values. Experts would say that my mission statement is too long (most peoples’ are shorter) but the governing values illustrate well both the value and a brief clarifying statement.

My Mission Statement

Mission Statement
As a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven, in gratitude to my Savior and with unselfish love and ultimate respect to my fellow heirs, I choose to live my life boldly with compassionate wisdom and uncompromising integrity. I seek in all areas of my life to live proactively, to aspire to excellence and professionalism, to keep clear vision and vivid goals consistently before me, to achieve a level of prosperity that extends well beyond personal and family needs for the benefit of others, to keep my body at a keen level of fitness, to have relationships with colleagues, students, associates, and friends that parallel those enjoyed by George Kelly, so that in witnessing my contribution others will be inspired and empowered to do the same.

My Values

Spirituality I seek to daily know God aand incorperate Jesus’ qualities into my life by spending time in reading, prayer, fellowship, sharing, and submitting myself to Him.
Integrity I seek daily to be scrupulously honest with others and myself that all my actions, great or small, may be above reproach.
Love/understanding I respond to each person I meet as a unique and precious child of God. I focus my attention on getting to know and understand them. In each encounter I seek to help them feel valued and valuable.
Empowerment I respond to each person I interact with in a way that empowers them to accomplish their goals and live life to the fullest.
Family I seek daily to be the best husband and father I am capable of being—to practice the give-give qualities in my marriage and to nurture my children to be productive, successful, happy Christians.
Growth/excellence I practice daily the Kaisen (or CANI) attitude, ever seeking to improve in all importent persuits and qualities. I perform planned activities with energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, and competence yet without undue tension.
Perseverence I not only strive with undying courage to acheive in goals deemed worthy but will but will organize my time to triumph over chaos and acheive productive accomplishment.
Purposefulness My life is characterized by purpose, vision, and razor sharp goals. Like Gershwin, I may be distracted but will never lose sight of the larger picture.
Decisiveness I plan thoroughly then move decisively.
In the Present I seek to live in the present; to have my mind fully focused on accomplishing the task at hand and not be disquieted by distractions.
Gratitude I give thatnks daily for the tremendous benefits I experience and seek to find the good in every significant event and build others by expressing gratitude with them.
Prosperity I untiringly seek to pay off all debt, develop a realistic budget that I live within, develop income to invest, and earn enough that there is plenty for the support of myself, my family, and the benifit of many others.

It is clear that if both of you have thoughtfully completed a mission and values that you have specific items to compare and discuss as you consider the compatibility of your foundational perspective.

For additional material on mission, governing values and goals we refer you to the Franklin Covey Organization who have built to a fine art the creation of missions, values and goals.

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