Encouraging Spiritual Growth

A favourite author, Tim Winton, has written recently in his book Island Home about his family’s move when he was 13 or 14 to the whaling town of Albany in Western Australia, where his reverence for the natural world began.

While swimming and surfing he felt himself part of a larger process, though a tiny part. Paying attention to the natural world allowed him to see his true position in the scheme of things.

Dominated by the ocean, he became calm, for this domination was without malice and its inhuman scale taught him humility. ‘In the face of grandeur we silently acknowledge our smallness, our bit-part in majesty… the dirt beneath our feet is sacred’ (p. 233). That line can’t help but remind us of the Aboriginal connection to land, marked in our former school name, Terra Sancta – Holy Land.


Anyone who’s been outside the city and seen the brilliance of the stars at night knows something similar about our place in the universe. Winton points out that we’re used to seeing ourselves as the pinnacle of reality. We make things happen. We ‘drive change’. But no job ad lists humility as a key attribute.


He observes that age 13 or 14 is a tough time to be humbled, when kids may already feel ‘reduced and traduced at every turn’, utterly resistant and ‘fending away for dear life.’

Yet as he experienced himself, rage dissipated and calm emerged.


Of all the growing that teenagers do – physical, intellectual, emotional, social, relational, sexual – the area given least attention in our culture is the spiritual. Not that kids aren’t having spiritual experiences, or asking the big questions. It’s just that there are few places where those experiences and questions can be acknowledged and validated.


The insight of spirituality is that the mysterious ‘bigger–than-me’ is not malicious or empty or absurd; by contrast, it is gracious.


Parents/carers who can encourage spiritual growth in their children are helping something precious to develop, and are also helping protect them from harm, as a future Counsellor’s Corner will explain.

Information about counselling both in and out of school is found at the beginning of the Counsellor's Corner Blog page.

Martin Graham

School Counsellor