Practices From the Inside Out: Our Spiritual Life Costumes

Practices From the Inside Out: Our Spiritual Life Costumes October 25, 2018

Choosing Our Spiritual Life Costumes

Our attention right now may be focused on choosing our costumes for next week.

We may be hosting a party or giving out treats and we want to look just right. Some of us have spent months discerning what costumes we will wear and how we want to look. We may have invested time and effort into designing and constructing our costumes, making sure they are exactly right.

Many of us are not only choosing our costumes for next week.

We carefully define our style and select our wardrobe every day. The messages what we wear sends about us are important to us. Some of us have work clothes and other clothes for working out or for relaxing. We may have a casual style most of the time but fancy costumes for special occasions.

How do we dress for spiritual life? Do we have spiritual life costumes? What do they look like?

Some of us believe people who are seriously spiritual wear particular costumes. They may have robes and vestments or suits and ties.

As a boy I was convinced spiritual life costumes were intentionally uncomfortable.

We may believe spiritual life costumes need to be formal and serious or allow us to move and be flexible. The costumes we think we need depend on how we experience spiritual life.

Some of us may even believe our spiritual life costumes need to be invisible. We may not see ourselves with them on very often, or hope other people cannot see us when we are wearing them.

People may want other people to see them wearing their spiritual life costumes. They tend to stand out in a crowd and want others to recognize spiritual life in them.

They are not dressing up, but showing themselves.

Wearing the Spiritual Life Costumes We Have Chosen

Yes, there are treats and tricks. Yes, we wear masks and costumes. The truths are even deeper than that.

Halloween has strong cultural, historic, and commercial roots entwined with some of our deepest fears. When I was a child, I knew Halloween was a day for collecting candy. As I grew older I focused more on deciding what costume to wear and how best to celebrate. Some years there were parties, and some years I went to see scary movies.

One year I shaved off my beard for Halloween.

None of these were the essence of Halloween. I was still missing the point.

Halloween is a day about darkness and death. It marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of the darkest part of the year. Halloween is a day to remember the people who have gone before us, laying the foundation for our lives.

Halloween is about spiritual life.

Many people get caught up in the parts of spiritual life which are easy to see. Some of us believe spiritual life requires us to dress and act in certain ways. We assume spiritual life is about receiving treats, and sometimes it can get tricky. It is easy to spend our time and effort focused on the thin crust of spiritual life on the surface. We get carried away with shallow spiritual life and trust what the books and movies tell us about it.

It can be as easy for us to miss the point of spiritual life as it is to misunderstand Halloween.

Spiritual life is not about costumes, tricks, and treats. There is a depth and meaning to spiritual life we each discover in our own way.

Exploring spiritual life inspires us to remove our masks and reveal the fire burning within us.

Why We Choose Our Spiritual Life Costumes

I have chosen to wear a variety of spiritual life costumes over time.

One of my favorites has been dressing up as a perfectionist. It is a costume which goes well with many different sets of accessories. I have been both an Evangelical perfectionist and a more Mainline perfectionist. Sometimes I have worn the costume of a rebellious perfectionist.

There are still times when I find some of my old perfectionist spiritual life costumes in the back of a closet. I find myself appreciating those costumes less than I have in the past.

Spiritual life costumes and masks and makeup attract me because I want people to see me in certain ways. Dressing up and portraying ourselves in particular ways allows us to try those qualities on for a little while.

What is important about our spiritual life costumes is how and why we choose them. We can try things on to see how they look as long as we do not fool ourselves into thinking they are real.

We are not the costumes we wear, no matter how intentionally we have chosen them.

Are we freeing ourselves by trying on something new or locking ourselves into being seen in a certain way?

Beyond Our Spiritual Life Costumes

The spiritual life costumes we choose reveal quite a bit about who we are and how we see ourselves.

Every Halloween we arrive at the point where our costumes feel too restrictive and we become ourselves again. None of us stay in costume forever.

The spiritual life costumes we wear work the same way. No matter how they look some of us can hardly wait to remove them and show people who we really are.

Many of us find it challenging to take off our spiritual life costumes and show ourselves. We may enjoy dressing up and find it hard to let go of seeing ourselves in certain ways.

Some of us want other people to see us how we see ourselves.

No matter which spiritual life costumes we choose to wear there comes a time when we take them off. Our costumes are helpful only in the ways they show us who we truly can become.

What spiritual life costumes are we wearing this week?

How do our spiritual life costumes shape how we see ourselves and how other people see us?

[Image by amanderson2]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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