Spirituality and Beliefs in My Family


Spiritual beliefs, practices, and values are often handed down in families from generation to generation.  Gaining an understanding of spirituality in past generations can provide insight for an individual’s experience of spirituality.  In some families, there’s a pattern of consistent traditions and practices from one generation to the next; in other families, there are clear changes which occur or breaks with the past.

In medicine and mental health, a kind of family tree called a genogram is used to trace patterns within families.  The genogram maps at least three generations in a family and identifies how a particular issue was part of the family over those generations.  A medical example will make this much clearer.  After drawing the family map for a genogram, someone may begin identifying the prevalence of a particular disease like cancer or diabetes within the family.  This technique has been used to help identify those at risk for such diseases.

In terms of spirituality, a genogram can be used to identify patterns, beliefs, and values held across multiple generations.  For instance, a person from Garison Keeler’s mythic town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota may create a genogram and discover that while all the women in the family were active in the Lutheran church, the men all valued solitary activities, like ice fishing in the winter and wilderness camping in the summer.  That could provide insight as to why solitude and meditation as well as ritualized prayer are important to the person.  Seeing what’s happened in one’s family history provides insight for how an individual developed patterns in her or his own life.

To create a genogram, first write down what you know about the spiritual or religious practices, values, and beliefs of each of your family members.  Include those in your generation, your parents, and grandparents.  If you can go further back, that’s great.


Then visit Genopro.  Genopro is a company that has created software for making genograms.  There’s a free template available which can be printed and used.  Explanations of symbols for various relationships in the family are also available.

After completing the genogram, you’ll discover that there are aspects of your spirituality and values which have been inherited.  While there are changes in all families over time, there are also themes which continue to be part of your life.  The more we know about ourselves, the more we understand the role spirituality plays in our lives.

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