I write and reflect at times on “being assertive” and “finding one’s voice” – in the workplace, in the community, etc. I have written a series of articles on these topics: Agents of Success.
I recently came upon new insight on this topic in a book on the psychology of faith development – James Fowler’s Stages of Faith. I encourage people interested in assertiveness and/or “finding one’s voice” to consider reading this useful book. It provides universal insightful for both Westerners who are religiously active as well for those who are not as it describes stages of development that impact us – I think – whether or not we participate actively in religion.
In Stages of Faith, Fowler describes six psychology stages through which people of western faith styles transition as we move through live. According to Fowler, most adults spend some or all of their adult years in what he insightfully describes as faith stages three, four, and/or five (with stage six only being reached by the likes of Ghandi or Mother Teresa). While it’s not uncommon for some adults to stay in stage three of faith development, this is a stage that starts in adolescence and through which a mature adult will transition into stage four or beyond. Adult maturity in a number of spheres – and levels – occurs meaningfully when we move through the transition from Fowler’s stage three to stage four. Included in this stage three – stage four transition is “critical reflection” through which “the late adolescent or adult must begin to take seriously the burden of responsibility for his or her own commitments, lifestyle, beliefs and attitudes (page 182).”
Through this transition from stage three to stage four, Fowler writes of risks associated with not achieving a new phase of personal development – associated with stage four – in which we developmentally learn to to assume deep responsibility for our own life views…..in a manner in which people around us take us seriously as adults who display a personal sense of authority.
This sense of being able to display a sense of personal authority, I believe, relates meaningfully to our ability to be effectively assertive and to “find out voice.”
Stages of Faith is an important contribution to the understanding of human development.