The Transformative Power of the Sacred: Social, Personality, and Religious/Spiritual Antecedents and Consequents of Sacred Moments During a Religious/Spiritual Struggle

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The time periods or experiences during which people believe that they encountered the sacred may be referred to as sacred moments. Such experiences might serve as transformative influences, potentially revealing fundamental truths that help to organize the ways that people view themselves, others, and the world in more coherent and adaptive ways. We hypothesized that sacred moments might therefore be beneficial during religious/spiritual (R/S) struggles, when one is experiencing stress and strain around matters of ultimate concern. In a 6-month, longitudinal study of people experiencing R/S struggles (N = 2,890, 58% women), we first aimed to identify predictors of sacred moments. We examined R/S predictors (religious belief salience, supernatural beliefs, perceived communication with God), and we also hypothesized that forming close connections with others and trait openness to experience would predict sacred moments. Second, we examined R/S and struggle-related outcomes associated with sacred moments. Latent curve growth analyses revealed that, in decreasing magnitude of effect size, perceived communication with God, openness, religious belief salience, secure attachment, and supernatural beliefs predicted sacred moments. Between- and within-person correlations showed that sacred moments were related to beneficial adaptations to struggles and spiritual growth. These findings attest to the dynamic nature of spirituality, in which periods of difficulty can be marked by transformative, spiritual high points. Because R/S struggles are common concerns in counseling settings, providers (e.g., clinicians, counselors, clergy) might want to help people experiencing struggles cultivate the sacred in their lives.

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