WHAT IS JOURNALING?
Journaling is a practice that has a long history. Some call it keeping a diary, either a personal diary or a spiritual diary. People from generations ago wrote down daily happenings or their developing thoughts about things over time. That is why today we have books about the experiences of historical kings and queens, government leaders, saints of the Church, many important inventors and scientists, gold miners in Alaska and California, explorers of many parts of the world, missionaries, the men and women who traveled in wagon trains to settle the western parts of the United States, etc. The keeping of a daily diary or personal journal by our ancestors has helped us learn about our roots, our heritage and the caliber of people from whom we descended.
In present times, keeping a personal diary is the practice of writing down the main things that happened to us in our day. That includes both work-related experiences and personal experiences. Sometimes it brings pleasure to look back on past times and remember good things, or relive in memory important events, or see how our lives have changed. We can go back and review problems and figure out what mistakes not to make again, or what to do to succeed in something again. This ageless activity is pursued by young and old alike.
Journaling is a different activity than is keeping a personal diary. It is, rather, the keeping of a spiritual diary. Whereas a personal diary records events and our feelings about them, journaling is done to help us gain insight into ourselves so that we can grow as persons. In the 1980's, a distinguished scholar, Ira Progoff, developed a step-by-step procedure for journaling so that one could get in touch with his/her inner person. Better self-knowledge, it is believed, can help one discover and overcome anxieties and misperceptions about oneself and/or life. This, in turn, can help one improve satisfaction with life, inter-personal relationships, and one's ability to function in his/her everyday life.
Journaling as an aid to spiritual growth goes one step farther. Here one writes down one's experiences and feelings, doing one's best to get in touch with inner feelings and impulses. Then one looks to see where God was in the experiences, and what He might be saying through them and in one's thoughts and feelings about them. One asks the help of the Holy Spirit in looking for God and in getting in touch with his/her true inner self, which only God knows. Keeping track of things in this way, one can begin to see how God is working in one's life, and how God is leading one through the events and the people of his/her everyday experiences.
A person can also write down questions he/she has of God, and, through daily journaling, eventually see how God answered them. Then one can keep record of what the answers are. One can use the journal as a place to write sincere and intimate letters to God, saying exactly what is on one's mind to the God who wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us. We can express our love, our anger, our doubts, our confusions, our fears, our worries, our joys, our dreams, our accomplishments, and know that a loving God is listening, cares about what we are experiencing, and, if we let Him, will help us learn to live in His ways so that we can find His truth in all things. As Scripture tells us, "If you live according to My [Jesus'] teaching, you are truly My disciples; then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).