Your Spirituality – Take a Look

by David Tillman – July 20, 2020

During the first few weeks of my chaplain residency at Mercy Hospital, I shadowed Kevin, one of the hospital chaplains. Before we went to visit with a patient who had attempted suicide, he suggested I read about Paul Pruyser’s Seven Diagnostic Variables. This is what I found on a internet search:

Paul Pruyser’s Seven Diagnostic Variable’s: 2

  1. Awareness of the Holy. What fills me with awe? What would I sacrifice myself for?
  2. Providence. What is the divine purpose toward me?
  3. Faith. Do I embrace life or shrink from it?
  4. Grace or gratefulness. Where is kindness in my life? Where is forgiveness? Is there a gracious spirit in my living?
  5. Repenting. What do I regret? How do I want to change?
  6. Communion. Am I embedded with others, or estranged from them?
  7. Vocation. What is my life’s purpose in my remaining years?” 1

An online article by Chris about Pruyser’s seven diagnostic variables addressed to ministers said: “It’s not a matter of asking directly, “Tell me about your awareness of the Holy.” It’s more the art of having these ideas in mind as you go about your pastoral work and letting them shape your thinking about people’s lives, as well as your own life. I find these seven ideas very useful to have in mind, and it’s been good to refresh my memory of them. ” 1

As Kevin and I met with this patient and they began to share, I was able to watch Kevin weave into the conversation some of these variables. I could see that their conversation brought comfort and support to the patient at a very difficult time in their life.

Later, Kevin had shared with me that being aware of these seven variables allows for a more open conversation to learn about how the patient sees the world. These seven variables lift up spiritual principles in our lives which include, yet go beyond, religious beliefs and traditions.

Kevin’s suggestion and learning about the Seven Diagnostic Variables has been very helpful to me as a chaplain. It helps me to be more open to visit with a person from where they are on their life’s journey. As a patient shares with me, I often can hear in their story a relationship with one or more of the seven variables. When I rephrase what they have shared, in light of one of the sevens variables, often it has created many insightful and healing conversations.

I have seen real healing comes from a person sharing to a person they trust. Often, just in the process of the person sharing (verbalizing and emotional expression), they figure out, sort out, or get more clarity about their concern or issue.

I would encourage you to write, or journal, about how you understand and experience each of these seven variables. Or sit down with a friend and share with them your thoughts about some, or all, of the seven variables. Why wait until a minister or chaplain weaves these into a conversation you are having with them. Do this now. I hope you will find this healing and insightful.

1 – (accessed September 26, 2014). Update: site no longer available as of July 20, 2020.
2 – Paul W. Pruyser, The Minister as Diagnostician, (The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1976).

© David Tillman, July 2020, all rights reserved.

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