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Part 1: Are You Living By the Fruit of the Spirit or Fruit of the Flesh?

I attended a wonderful church service yesterday, and it made me realize how certain religious prescriptions parallel many areas of positive psychology research. For instance, the emphasis of showing kindness to others, living a joy filled life, and focusing on love and generosity all pervade Christian scripture as well as positive psychology laboratories.

There are certain attributes we can pull from both disciplines in order to begin living a life of greater happiness and fulfillment. Specifically, the emotional propositions reflected in the fruit of the Spirit offer valuable insight and overlap between the two areas.

The sermon revolved around how living based on the fruit of the Spirit, as opposed to the fruit of the flesh, provides a chance to experience true peace of mind.

The “fruits” include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All of these ideas can be applied in a psychological sense to increase well-being. To get the most from life and truly blossom and expand as a person we must live by these attributes.

For this post I will be focusing on the first 5 “fruits,” so be sure to check back for part 2 where the remaining attributes will be discussed.

Below is the dichotomy in which people can live between for love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness.

Consider where you fall on the spectrum of emotions.

Are you living by love or hate?

Do you approach yourself and others with unconditional love and a willingness to forgive? Or do you hold on to hate in your heart and have trouble overcoming bitterness? Love is one of the most powerful emotions. Having a loving heart means you can forgive the wrong doing of others as well as yourself, and continue to feel a sense of warmth and caring.

Are you living by joy or sorrow?

Do you find moments of enjoyment and happiness where you take pleasure in what you do? Or, are you often experience sorrow and gloom? Make time to do things you love to do, and really engage in life activities whether big or small. Just as you would celebrate the birth of a child, learn to find joy in the small things like a beautiful flower or sunset. Finding satisfaction and moments of gratification will increase your joy.

Are you living by peace or worry?

Living in peace comes from letting go of all those things we don’t have control over. Worry can become a habitual way of thinking that leaves us with constant distress and misery if we’re not careful. When we are always worrying and striving to be somewhere else or do something different we are unable to enjoy the moment and just be present. Have faith that you will be provided with what you need, and let the worries about things you can’t control fade away.

Are you living by patience or agitation?

Are you often hurried and jumping from one thing to the next? Do you get irritable and agitated when someone gets in your way or slows you down? If this is the case you are probably rushed and impatient during these moments. Developing patience comes from learning to be present and mindful of the moment. When we are always rushing around and focusing on the next thing it leads to stress and frustration.

Are you living by kindness or intolerance?

Making a concerted effort to show a kind gesture to others can make an incredible difference in not only their life but ours as well. According to research done by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, when we do random acts of kindness for others it actually increases our personal level of happiness. Kindness can be something as small as saying thank you and giving a compliment. Consider what kind act you can do for someone else?

Positive psychology has revealed that many of these emotional states, such as kindness, love, and joy, are a major factor in living a flourishing life. It’s funny to say, but living by the fruit of the Spirit may have some empirical validation. I say give it a try in your life and see what the results are.

Remember to check back here on Wednesday for Part 2 of this post!

Photo credit: hello-julie

Part 1: Are You Living By the Fruit of the Spirit or Fruit of the Flesh?

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2011). Part 1: Are You Living By the Fruit of the Spirit or Fruit of the Flesh?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 May 2011
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