Many of us are dissatisfied with our lives at times. As we grow and get older and – hopefully – wiser, however, we might strive for a simpler, more spiritual life. In many ways, the world puts a lot of pressure on us, especially once we reach our 20s and 30s. These pressures and the noise of everyday distractions can be overwhelming at times, causing us to lose sight of what’s truly important.
Luckily a wide range of people, some religious and some secular, have learned to purge themselves of all of these daily distractions by turning inward and nurturing their spiritual self. When a person does this, it’s not uncommon for them to lose interest in the acquisition of wealth and material things, and become more centered on things like helping others, serving God, and being humble.
In multiple faiths, living this way is known as living a “Godly Life.” As we’ll see, this term, while not precisely used in every religion in the world, has been a central theme of many religious and philosophical texts for thousands of years. In the following article, we’re going to take a closer look at this topic and provide some direct advice on how to live a Godly life.
What is a Godly Life?
Without offending anyone of any faith (including the faithless), it’s important to clarify what we mean when we say “Godly life.” As the title of this article, it’s crucial to understand it, because it’s going to appear a lot in the article below.
For the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as well as faiths like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, the term “God” can refer to one singular being or just a type of being, yet there are many differences as well. For instance, in Christianity, God is synonymous with perfection. In an older faith like Odinism, this perfection does not exist, and “gods” are just as prone to folly as humans.
When the topic of living a “Godly life” comes up, however, generally, people are talking about living in a way that is benevolent, kind, generous, and loving. In most cases, even those faiths with many gods generally have a figure that represents these qualities. Be it Jesus or Buddha or the “Earth Mother,” these beings exhibit moral and ethical superiority of some sort and show affection for others.
Now, it would be impossible to dig through every major and minor faith to come up with a concise and all-encompassing definition for “Godly.” We can, however, narrow down a few specific qualities that most cultures and faiths associate with the term. These include:
One of the main characteristics associated with “Godliness” is humility. People who are considered to be Godly or “doing God’s work” are almost always not looking for recognition. Instead, these men and women feel that the thanks they get for the deeds they do are recognition enough. Humble people are also less judgmental of others, and far less boastful of their own accomplishments.
Someone like Jesus is an excellent example of humility in the form of a divine being. A central figure in multiple faiths, Jesus ministered to the poor and sick and extolled the virtues of those who are generous and loving. Siddhartha Buddha is another great example, as he was a firm believer in mindfulness, self-understanding, and not harming others.
Generosity can take many forms, many of which have nothing to do with simply giving money to another person. In the “Godly” sense, generosity means giving of yourself to others, especially those that are in deep need or are otherwise shunned by society. This point usually refers to the poor, but it could also be the elderly, the sick, or the injured.
While generosity in some form or another is quite common in the world today, what makes giving to others a Godly act is the person not expecting recognition or repayment. Sure, it’s all well and good to make a big tax-deductible donation at a charity event, but donating your time or even a kind ear to a stranger in need is a better example of this quality.
Faithfulness is an adherence to the teachings of your specific religion or moral code. It is an overarching fidelity and commitment to living a certain type of life and being a certain type of person (no matter how hard it can sometimes be). Faithfulness and fidelity are central themes in almost all major religions and are directly associated with truly Godly people.
No matter what type of life you’re currently leading, it’s almost always possible to become more faithful, more trusting, and more confident in yourself and others. In the secular world, we would refer to this as a relinquishing of control and an acknowledgement that you are not the center of the world.
Particularly in religions like Christianity, forgiveness is a central theme. That said, it is one of the hardest Godly qualities for a person to put into practice. In many people’s moral code, it is perfectly fine to hold a grudge or exact revenge on someone who has done you wrong. This belief is further supported by the criminal justice system of most countries, which operates similarly.
Because forgiving those who have wronged you is so difficult, it is truly a Godly quality. However, there is lots of scientific evidence that forgiving others can be a huge boon for our physical and mental health. Grudges and anger are stressors, after all, and holding in stress can impact how we feel in a lot of ways.
In almost all major religions, those who we deem “Godly” are not the warmongers or the soldiers, but the peacemakers. Being peaceful in the face of those who want to harm you can be extremely difficult. This fact is why we tend to hold those who display this quality in such high esteem. Of course, what is meant by “peace” can vary depending on where you live in the world.
For instance, in Eastern cultures, inner peace and self-understanding are considered a major attribute that one should cultivate in earnest. Many people achieve this understanding through meditation and selfless, devotional acts. In the West, peace is more outward prospect, with men and women actively attempting to curb violence and manifest understanding between others.
The Protestant interpretation of the Christian Bible resulted in a huge appreciation for a hard day’s work, and a day’s pay earned. That said, you can see examples of hard work associated with a “Godly” life in faiths from all over the world. In parables and other stories, hard work is often thought of as an alternative to sin or wrongdoing and is often associated with generosity as well.
It’s less important what work you do and more important that you perform that work well, with passion, and with no expectation of return. While it’s ok to expect wages for your labor, most faiths warn against being covetous when it comes to money, power, or position.
If you could roll all of these qualities up into a ball and put a label on it, the most accurate title would be “selflessness.” At its core, selflessness is the altruistic concern with others’ needs rather than one’s own. These people have a strong sense of self and self-understanding, but choose to use that enlightenment to assist others, spread joy, and instill love in the world.
There are very few cultures that do not place a significant value on selflessness in some way. While the paths to becoming a selfless person may differ, the spiritual health that comes with focusing on others without concern for recognition is present in almost every major religion.
How to Live a Godly Life
Now that we have an idea what sort of qualities are generally associated with Godly people, we can take a closer look at what steps we can take to live a Godly life. These tips and suggestions have been taken from a variety of sources and will have equal significance for people of all faiths and backgrounds.
Spend a Lot of Time Reflecting
If there is one thing the modern world has all but eliminated from our daily lives, it is the ability to sit quietly and reflect on who we are and who we want to be. Call it meditation, call it prayer – call it whatever you want. This time spent inward, searching your soul, is incredibly valuable and essential to cultivating a more Godly way of life.
Those of you who are believers should begin your meditations with prayer, talking to God, and asking Him for forgiveness, strength, and inspiration to be your best self. You should also spend time reflecting on both who you have been so far in your life and who you want to be. As you get used to spending more time with yourself, the answers you seek will become clearer.
Those of you who have no specific faith may not prefer to pray outwardly but to instead search inwardly for the strength and inspiration to do what is right. By meditating, we can become more in-tune with our bodies, our wants, and our desires. When this happens, we are in a much better position to purge harmful feelings and cultivate those that benefit us.
Give Away More Than You Keep
Real generosity is not just about giving to others. Generosity also requires a distinct lack of concern for earthly possessions, money, and other material things. For many of us, especially Westerners, this can be a tough pill to swallow. Indeed, even the most generous of us would rather keep the things that we hold dear and give away the things we no longer need.
Unfortunately, generosity doesn’t work like that. Remember, the qualities of a Godly person also include humility and selflessness. Combined with generosity, these terms imply that we need to all but banish our lust for material possessions, live as simply and as humbly as possible, and give without concern for ourselves.
While no one is saying that you need to give your house to a needy family and go live in a cave, we are saying that your attachment to material things is likely hurting your life. Begin the process of purging those attachments by giving away something dear to you. How does it make you feel to part with it? How does it make you feel to know someone else can enjoy it?
Expect Nothing in Return for Being Good
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they commit to living a more Godly life is to assume that doing so will eliminate all their problems, worries, and fears. Unfortunately, the mere expectation of getting something in return for your altruism is what prevents it from happening. In other words: If you’re not giving selflessly, you can’t expect the same benefits as someone who is.
It is a big part of human nature to assume that everything has value and should cost money. Our time, effort, and even our emotions have value to us, and it’s part of being human to expect to be compensated for them. We’re not talking about being human, however. We’re talking about being Godly.
If you want to know how to live a Godly life in one easy step, learn to expect nothing in return for the good deeds you do. It may take a while, but once you can truly allow goodness to be its own reward, you will see dramatic changes in the way you approach your life and how you define happiness.
Find Work that Benefits Others
Just because you’re a good person doesn’t mean you all of a sudden don’t have to earn a living. Even if you factor out sleep, you’ll still be spending the majority of your days at your job, which can make it hard to focus on some of the other things on this list. To make matters worse, many jobs accomplish the opposite of the qualities associated with Godliness, and can wreak spiritual havoc on a person attempting to better themselves.
There are ways that you can alter your profession to be more conducive to the Godly life you’re pursuing, however. Doing this could include switching out your job at a for-profit company to a well-rated non-profit or changing your career entirely to something that’s more in line with your new values. If your life precludes you from such an extreme decision, just volunteering in your free time can be enough.
Trust Others and Trust Yourself
Faith is, quite obviously, one of the pillars of being a religious person. But what is faith at its core? In essence, faith is trust. Whether this is trust in a deity or trust in karma or trust in the goodness and generosity of others – faith is the acknowledgment that there are things bigger than you. If you want to live a Godly life, the realization that you are not the most important thing in the world is essential.
Trust allows us to do a variety of things in our daily lives. What it signifies the most, however, is the letting go of control. Without constantly vying for command of the world around us and the people in it, we can often find a more peaceful approach to the things we do every day. So learn to let go, trust yourself, and trust others – even when people let you down.
Fight Injustice (Peacefully)
It’s a sad fact of society, but there have always been (and probably always will be) those who have power and those who do not have power. Whether the power comes from financial means or the color of a person’s skin, it is all too common wielded in the best interest of the person blessed with it. This fact lies at the core of injustice.
Religions from Christianity to Buddhism have always placed significant importance on fighting injustice. In the modern world, as people have more access to information, the injustices that we all need to overcome have become more and more clear. A Godly person is someone who learns to recognize these injustices and does what he or she can to help rectify them.
Fighting injustice, however, should almost never include any actual fighting. After all, one of the primary attributes of a Godly person is being peaceful. There are a lot of ways to defend people who need help, and very few of them rely on violence. In most cases, merely standing up for what is right and encouraging others to do the same is enough.
Be Prepared to Forgive Everyone
No matter how much love we put into the world, there will always be those who will do the opposite. As we just mentioned with injustice, there will almost certainly come a time when someone does an injustice to you. When this happens, you must be prepared to forgive the person who did you wrong and allow yourself to move on.
Forgiveness, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the most important, yet challenging aspect of living a Godly life. However, we have no chance of accomplishing any of the other steps on this list if we are constantly holding onto grudges and allowing bitterness to settle in our souls. Though it may take a while to master, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to brush things off once you do so.
Find Your Convictions and Act on Them
The most basic moral code in the world is the so-called “Golden Rule.” Simply stated, following this rule means doing unto others only as you would like others to do to you. You see versions of this principle in Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Paganism, as well as hundreds of smaller religions, philosophies, and faiths.
Aside from this guiding principle, however, everyone is more or less free to determine their own moral code. Depending on one’s life experiences, a person might have very strong feelings or opinions about what constitutes right or wrong, or what issues are more important than others. These form our convictions, and they are often unique from person to person.
Once you live a Godly life for a while, your convictions should become more or less apparent to you. At this point, your task is to act on those convictions whenever the opportunity presents itself. In a world where people are inconsistent and unreliable, a Godly person will always stand by the things in which they believe.
Resist Earthly Temptations
This point goes back to our discussion about possessions and generosity but is different in a few notable ways. Rather than talking merely about things when we say to resist Earthly temptations, we’re talking about allowing yourself to ignore all aspects of life that might keep you from living in a more Godly manner.
As humans, we take joy in many things and often seek out joy wherever we can find it. Doing this is not only natural but not inherently wrong at all. The problem is that we tend to overindulge in things that make us happy, be it traveling or food or even a favorite television show. This overindulgence can cause us to lose sight of more important things and prevent us from doing other tasks on this list.
A Godly person learns to identify indulgences and finds a way to resist them. Perhaps you could turn your travel addiction into a chance to volunteer with the needy abroad? Perhaps your love of food could translate into you working at a soup kitchen or shelter? Maybe your favorite television show is something you could watch with someone who lives alone? The answers are there if you look for them.
Be Humble Whenever Possible
It should come as no surprise that the concept of humility will make an appearance on this list again. The main reason? Because sometimes, the success and inspiration of living a more Godly life can go to our heads, and allow us to convince ourselves that we, because of our deeds, are better than other people.
As we’ve mentioned time and time again, you cannot live a Godly life with pride weighing you down. Even when people are applauding you for doing the right thing, you need to remind them that you’re not doing it for the applause. Humility is a difficult concept because the very act of being humble often comes with such praise. If you practice, however, you can keep your heart and deeds in the right place.
Pass it On
It’s one thing to set an excellent example. It’s another to actively attempt to pass on what you’ve learned to others. Spreading the word, so to speak, is an essential part of how faiths and religions pass from place to place and person to person. If you’re living a Godly life and enjoying all the benefits of doing so, it would be a great gift to the world for you to pass on what you’ve learned.
Now, we’re not saying that you need to proselytize in the streets or open up your own place of worship – far from it. Doing either of these things would only make it harder for you to remain humble and to resist the temptations of pride. However, when you come across someone that is struggling with the same problems you faced, it would be a great thing to pass along your story to them.
Never Stop Improving
Nobody is perfect, and no matter how Godly your life becomes, you won’t be perfect either. Acknowledging this is not to be viewed as a failure, however, but as a challenge that you need to face every day. Be more humble than yesterday, more generous than yesterday, and more reflective than yesterday. Constantly try to improve yourself and never assume you are the best you can be.
The key to keeping yourself on a path to spiritual enlightenment (however you define it) is to remind yourself that there can never be too much good in the world. Once you imagine yourself as an instrument of altruism, you’ll be able to spend more time meditating on what needs to be done to make the world a better place.
Though the parameters for living a so-called “Godly” life are quite simple to learn, actually doing so is anything but easy. Living in a more Godly way will require sacrifice, discipline, and a very high degree of self-awareness. The rewards, however, are immeasurable. Once you begin to let go of the things you once found important, you will reach a more reflective, enlightened state of mind.
Regardless of your spiritual condition or your faith, I think we can all agree that there is inherent goodness in living a Godly life. Seek God in your ways and be fulfilled.