Personal growth may well be the only widely (and wildly) popular industry in the world with no certain, shared definition of its product.
In fact, in a search through our library of online psychological dictionaries for a sound industry definition of personal growth, the first three out of four didn’t even define the term!
One did address the topic, but only to point out the confusion that abounds around the subject:
The means to personal growth (Zen Buddhism, encounter groups, acupuncture, etc.) are of uncertain value, and the ends of personal growth are obscure and sometimes contradictory….1
To further complicate the subject, personal growth means one thing to a Buddhist, something else to an atheist or agnostic, something else still to a humanistic psychologist, and something altogether different to a Christian.
These are just a few of the reasons it would be both unfair and unwise of me to assume you and I have the same concepts and ideas in mind, and that we’re coming from the same orientation in terms of personal growth.
The means to personal growth…are of uncertain value, and the ends of personal growth are obscure and sometimes contradictory….
The Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology, 2nd ed
Many years ago (before cell phones or GPA were a thing), I needed to get to someone’s house in a small neighboring town I was unfamiliar with. At some point I got lost and couldn’t make sense of the directions in my hand. So I found a phone booth (can you believe we ever had to resort to those?!) and called to get help.
The wife answered the phone and readily gave me directions from the Kroger store that I could see from the phone booth. So I got back in the car and with renewed confidence headed in the direction she told me to go.
But before I had hardly begun again, I realized there was a problem. What she described to me and what I saw did not match up at all. So I had to return to the phone booth.
She once again reassured me that was the way to their home, using the Kroger as a reference point, and that I must have just missed a turn.
Okay. So I tried yet again, but with the same results.
Third time in the phone booth I happened to mention a drug store that I could also see. She stopped me immediately. “WAIT… no wonder you can’t find us. You’re at the wrong Kroger!”
The critical fact (that I wasn’t aware of) was that there were actually two Kroger stores on that same highway, oddly enough. The problem all along was that we were coming from completely different orientations.
Point being, at the outset it is of essential importance that you know where we’re coming from at GRO in terms of our orientation to personal growth. The last thing we want is to add to the confusion of the matter (as evidenced in the previous Macmillan quote).
One of the primary reasons we created Growth Resources Online is because we believe the personal growth industry and the world of psychology together are insufficient to answer the WHY questions of life and fill the emptiness in the human heart.
Don’t misunderstand me, psychology provides a wonderful set of tools that, when used appropriately, can truly facilitate the process of personal growth and change. But it by no means supplies us with meanings of life.
For those of us who are Christian, we look primarily to Scripture to provide the precepts – the truths we need to live by. The Bible, for us, is our manual for living.
Scripture has a great deal to say about growth (over 70 verses reference the subject), but this shouldn’t surprise us. It’s quite natural that a book that stresses the importance of a new birth would have a lot to say about the growth of that new life.
Which is why we feel so strongly about the importance of personal growth, and why we are committed to continue creating resources that aid Christians in applying the precepts of Scripture using the processes and tools of psychology.
The Bible has a great deal to say about growth, but this shouldn’t surprise us. It’s quite natural that a book that stresses the importance of a new birth would have a lot to say about the growth of that new life.
So, to state it clearly and plainly, let me close with the what, the how, and the why of personal growth for GRO.
What – Personal growth for the Christian is our individual responsibility to be ever increasing in Christlikeness . . . and thereby, becoming more fully human.
How – Through the application of biblical precepts and psychological processes that result in lasting change.
Why – Because the New Testament call to every Christian is to be ever increasing in our psychospiritual progress.
There you have the what, the how and the why of personal growth to those of us at GRO. And hopefully, this explains why this matter is of prime importance to us.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.2
1Sutherland, Stuart, The Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology, 2nd ed, digital edition.