Reverence is the spiritual path of radical respect, courtesy, civility, manners, awe, and amazement. It arises from a grand mystery: The sacred is in, with, above, and under the ten thousand things of our everyday world.
In Spirituality & Practice's Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy, reverence stands alongside Attention (mindfulness), Compassion, Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Love as a key focus of all the religious and spiritual traditions. We offer a section of curated content on reverence as one of 37 essential spiritual practices in the Alphabet.
But this Project goes further. Reverence, we've discovered, overlaps and encompasses many of the other Alphabet practices. Take a look below at the many definitions that came up when we started with the phrase "Reverence is . . . " (We will be happy to add your definitions to this list.)
Reverence is a way of seeing, being, and acting in life. It was lauded in the ancient cultures of Greece and China, and it remains a central value in indigenous communities everywhere. The religious traditions call for reverence when they affirm that everywhere you turn you see the face of God.
In the twentieth century, Albert Schweitzer made "Reverence for Life" the foundation of his ethics. As "respect," it is a needed virtue in interpersonal relationships, politics, public service, journalism, education, health care, psychology, and business. As "awe," it inspires artists and gives impetus to efforts to protect and preserve the Earth. Reverence is the place where religion and science meet. It directly addresses many of the public and private concerns and crises of our times.
In short, reverence is a transformational practice both for individuals and societies. It is a building block for human rights, animal welfare, environmental activism, peacemaking, and more. Reverence can change the world in ways that profoundly benefit all of us.
In The Reverence Project, we are exploring the many facets of reverence in order to identify how we can make it a core value for families, congregations, organizations, businesses, public institutions, and professions such as law, journalism, and health care. We give you access to resources we've found in S&P's own content and on the Internet about what happens when reverence is applied to a wide variety of situations. We have found illustrations of reverence — and irreverence — in films, books, articles, and video clips. For your writing and speaking about reverence, we provide quotations, teaching stories, and excerpts from books. As we go along, we will be putting together discussion guides, program plans, and packets for your own reverence programs. We even have reverence-themed memes for sharing on social media. Click on the icons at the top of the right column of the Project's pages to access links to all this content. Visit the What's New page for the latest content.
A major focus of The Reverence Project is on spiritual practices — how you can practice reverence in your everyday life and use it to catalyze changes for the common good in your communities. We have collected practices from books we've reviewed, and we have asked the Living Spiritual Teachers profiled on this website to contribute more from their traditions. We invite you to send us your practices to add to the collection.
To spark your creativity, here, as promised above, is our brainstorm on the many meanings and applications of reverence.
"The challenge of the saints of the twenty-first century is to begin to comprehend the sacred in the ten thousand things of our world; to reverence what we have come to view as ordinary and devoid of spirit."
— Edward Hays
- Reverence deepens our sense of the sacred all around us, bringing us into the presence of God, however we define God.
- Reverence challenges us to see the face of God in all persons and to treat them with the love and respect they deserve; this begins with families but goes beyond them to include strangers and even enemies.
- Reverence is the matrix of everyday spirituality where there is no ground that is not holy ground.
- Reverence is a salute to the soul that engenders respect for the body and encourages us to exercise, eat right, and take good care of ourselves.
- Reverence opens us to the beauties and the bounties of the natural world and moves us to do what we can to mend the Earth rather than continue to dominate her.
- Reverence makes us allies and defenders of animals who are our companions on this earthly journey.
- Reverence is a way of living which enables us to take the side of inanimate objects which need our care and attention from an old clock that can be repaired rather than discarded to a historic building in need of restoration or protection.
- Reverence is a mood, an aesthetic emotion that lifts our spirits and gives us goose bumps when we witness the heroic activities of selfless individuals, hear a stirring rendition of a piece of music, notice the pine-scented aroma of the air near a mountain peak, or see the turquoise color of the ocean in the Caribbean.
- Reverence encourages us to step back from the hustle and bustle of life and make a larger space and place in our days for solitude and silence.
- Reverence is a form of wisdom that generates civility and good manners. It vastly improves our interactions with others by advancing the causes of real presence, deep listening, and openness to human differences.
- Reverence offers a firewall against cynicism, contempt for life, hatred, and anarchy.
- Reverence gives rise to rituals and worship that remind us of our closeness to God and our dependence on divine grace.
- Reverence celebrates differences and diversity.
- Reverence is a sensation that even young children can feel and a spiritual practice that can be done by young and old alike in a variety of settings.
- Reverence enhances our appreciation of beauty in people, nature, place, animals, and things.
- Reverence is supported by creativity and curiosity and is vividly expressed in imagination.
- Reverence helps to elicit our wonder from the miraculous vastness of the universe down to the elegance of a wildflower blooming in a quiet corner of a forest.
- Reverence sets the stage so that at any time and in any place, we can experience mystical moments of oneness with God and the whole of creation.
- Reverence is a vision and an attitude of the mind that rejects separation from others and opens the doors to collaboration and community.
- Reverence catalyzes other spiritual practices such as Compassion, Devotion, Gratitude, Justice, Meaning, Nurturing, Wonder, Unity, and X-The Mystery.
- Reverence is . . . (email us your definitions)
Yours in reverence,
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Co-Directors, Spirituality & Practice
We are grateful to the Fetzer Institute for their interest in this focus and their support of The Reverence Project.