Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Journeys toward Spiritual Maturity among Korean Immigrant Women in Midlife

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Journeys toward Spiritual Maturity among Korean Immigrant Women in Midlife

Article excerpt

This study examined the experience of five Korean immigrant women in midlife, specifically the cultural influences on their psychological and spiritual changes in the process of integrating two different cultures. A case-study method utilizing narrative analysis was chosen to describe and explore this unique and complex process. According to the analysis of data, each participant's spiritual path and God's image evolved as a result of multiple factors. These include early parent-child relationships, gender socialization, marital relationships, adaptation to the cultural norms of the immigrant society, and their stage of life. Initially, the participants focused on communal spirituality as influenced by their previous collectivistic culture, and then progressed towards private spirituality as they adopted the individualistic host culture. As the participants integrated two different cultural views of spiritual maturity, they obtained a holistic understanding of the true meaning of loving God and others in the Bible beyond what each culture could suggest separately. Limitations and implications in working with this population in both clinical and church settings are also discussed.

As one of the essential elements of the human experience, spirituality has received much attention in academic circles, particularly in the last decade. Despite the universality of spiritual practice, the definition of spiritual maturity varies widely among different social and cultural contexts, even within the broad spectrum of Christian practice. However, academic studies of Christian spiritual maturity have often drawn attention to the relational nature of God, and have further pointed to the relational aspects of Christian spiritual practice. Benner (1989) defined Christianity as the human response to God's gracious invitation to a relationship with himself. Moberg (2001) extends this understanding to an individual's relationships with fellow Christians in a spiritual community that "shapes personal spirituality that nurture one's relation with God" (p. 86).

A theoretical definition of Christian spiritual maturity then, might include some qualitative understanding of interpersonal relationships as well as the perceived relationship between the individual and God. Shults and Sandage (2006) suggest that spiritual maturity is the result of spiritual transformation towards qualitatively more complex relationships with self, others, and God. This definition of spiritual transformation does not "mean merely gaining more knowledge about spiritual issues, or even adding to our repertoire of practices, but developing qualitatively more complex ways of holding and being held in relation to others and the Other" (p. 18). Shults and Sandage's definition also corresponds to biblical passages indicating loving God and others is the ultimate goal of Christians, as these are the two greatest commandments (Deut. 6:4; Luke 2:52). For this study, Christian spiritual maturity indicates growth in developing intimate relationships with self, others and God.

Previous research has examined the intricate connection between individuals' relationship with God and their relationships with others (Benner, 1989; Conn, 1989; Ciarrochi, Dy-Liacco, Piedmont, & Williams, 2009; Dy-Liacco, Piedmont, Murray-Swank, Rodgerson & Sherman, 2009). Furthermore, some researchers have attempted to develop a cohesive theoretical framework to determine the link between psychological maturity and spiritual maturity (Allport, 1950; Hall, 1996; Kirkpatrick, 1995). In particular, recent relational theories, such as Object Relations Theory and Attachment Theory, have contributed greatly to understanding this link (Hall, 1996; Kirkpatrick, 1995) by building on the distinctions between intrinsic and extrinsic frameworks (Allport, 1950). However, they were developed in an individualistic culture such as the United States, and their application to Christians in a collectivistic culture such as Korea appeared to have limitations (Choi, Kim, Lee, & Lee, 2002). …

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