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The Relation Between Goals and the Development of Personality

That which leads man towards his sublime station and a well-developed personality is the possession of worthy goals in life. The higher these goals are, the more developed his personality will be.

Without doubt, Islam offers goals that are vast and a horizon that is wide and all-inclusive. The Muslims who grew up under the sublime teachings of the Noble Prophet of Islam, may God bless him and his Household, were able to establish a profound relationship with the Source of existence and to purify their souls. Through this means they attained to sublime and distinguished personalities. Basically, it were these worthy and invaluable goals that constantly drove them onwards.

Allport, the well-known American psychologist, writes:

Intentions, as I use the term, are complex propriate characteristics of personality. Intentional characteristics represent above all else the individual's primary modes of addressing himself to the future. As such they select stimuli, guide inhibitions and choices, and have much to do with the process of adult becoming...

Personality is not what one has, but rather the projected outcome of his growth. Similarly, Spranger views the character of an individual in terms of his approximation to an ideal type (an ultimately self-consistent value system). It is the orientation that is important. From this point of view we may modify slightly our contention that complex levels of structure influence becoming. More precisely stated, it is the unfinished structure that has this dynamic power. A finished structure is static, but a growing structure, tending toward a given direction of closure, has the capacity to subsidiate and guide conduct in conformity with its movement.... To summarise: the most comprehensive units in personality are broad intentional dispositions future pointed. These characteristics are unique for each person, and tend to attract, guide, inhibit the more elementary units to accord with the major intentions themselves...

To feel oneself meaningfully linked to the whole of Being is not possible before puberty. This fact helps to explain the one-sided emphasis we encounter in many psychological discussions of religion. Becoming has been much more thoroughly studied for the years preceding puberty than for adolescent and adult years. It is, therefore, understandable that the factor influencing the religion of childhood should loom large in our present view: familism, dependence, authority, wishful thinking and magical practice.

Since, however, the process of becoming continues throughout life, we rightly expect to find the fully developed sentiment only in the adult reaches of personality. The adult mind, provided that it is still growing, stretches its rational capacities as far as it can with the logic of induction, deduction, and a weighing of probabilities. While the intellect continues to exert itself, the individual finds that he needs to build aspiring defences against the intellect's almost certain failure. He learns that to surmount the difficulties of a truculent world he needs also faith and love. Thus religion, engaging as it does reason, faith, and love, becomes for him morally true. Most religious people claim that it is also metaphysically true because they feel that outer revelation and mystical experience have brought them supernatural assurance. Thus the warrant for certitude comes from the total orientation that the person attains in his quest for a comprehensive belief system capable of relating him to existence as a whole.... Every man whether he is religiously inclined or not, has his own ultimate presuppositions. He finds he cannot live his life without them, and for him they are true. Such suppositions, whether they be called ideologies, philosophies, notions, or merely hunches about life, exert creative pressure upon all conduct that is subsidiary to them (which is to say, upon nearly all of a man's conduct).

The error of the psychoanalytic theory of religion-to state the error in its own terminology-lies in locating religious belief exclusively in the defensive functions of the ego rather than in the core and centre and substance of the developing ego itself. While religion certainly fortifies the individual against the inroads of anxiety, doubt, and despair, it also provides the forward intention that enables him at each state of his becoming to relate himself meaningfully to the totality of Being. 25


25. Allport, Gordon Willard, Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality (New Haven & London: Yale University Press 1955), pp. 89-90, 94-96.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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