What’s a Soul?


Hello, and welcome to Beyond the Pew! My name is Jennifer Stavinoha and today we’re going to be talking about souls. Sometimes we use this word soul in everyday conversation. Especially when we’re being dramatic, we’ll say “From the depths of my soul” or we’ll use the words “soul mates” or “soul bearing” or “soul searching”, but what is a soul? What does it mean to have a soul? Who has a soul? What are souls for?

This week we are covering some of the bigger questions about souls and how to share this information with your kids (along with why we need to share this information with them as soon as we can!).

Different Types of Souls 

First let’s start by saying that every living creature has a soul. Humans, animals, and plants all have souls. Plants have a physical kind of soul that allows them to reproduce and provides nutrients. It’s not spiritual, but only physical.

Animals too have a purely physical soul that allows them to respond to their environment, to take in clues from their environment, and run around and be crazy. I have a cat. He is animated by his physical soul.

Humans are completely different from plants and animals. We have a spiritual, rational soul. So this means that as humans we are able to choose, we can make decisions, we can be reasonable and rational. We can choose to love. We know the difference between right and wrong, we know there is a difference between right and wrong. The human soul, because it is spiritual, it is eternal. When we die, our soul doesn’t die.

I know we’ve said, humans can choose and have reason, but some of us might think, “my dog knows not to get on the counter” or “my cat knows not to get up on the couch.” Animals are able to have instincts where they can be trained, but they don’t understand the nature of justice or mercy. They act purely off of instinct. So when we talk with our kids about souls, especially when animals come up, it would be best to emphasize this is what makes humans unique and special.

We are “made in God’s image and likeness.” But what does that mean?

In Genesis, when God creates humans, it says that we were created in God’s image and likeness. What does that mean? Does it mean God created us in His physical image and that God has ten fingers, a nose, two eyes and arms and legs, does that mean that we look like God? At creation God was not yet man because Jesus hadn’t even come yet. So what does it mean to be made in God’s image and likeness if we’re not talking about His physical appearance? Genesis is telling us that it is our soul that was created to be like God. Because God is spirit, our souls are also spirit.

We’re destined to be with God forever so this is something beautiful. God, from the beginning of time, had all souls that were ever going to be created in His heart already. From the very beginning of time He knew you and He knew me. Isn’t it crazy to think that God knows your children, future children, grandchildren, and all those that will come after? He already knows those souls.

God, from the beginning of time, had all souls that were ever going to be created in His heart already.

When do we get a soul?

When does someone receive the image and likeness of God? We receive our soul the moment that we are conceived. The moment that we are alive. Every living thing has a soul, so the moment of our conception is when we have a soul. All you mothers out there that are expecting babies, your baby already has a soul no matter how far along you are. God already knows every single soul of every single person. When God created the heavens and the earth, the skies and the seas, He already knew you. Our God is so amazing!

Share this with your kids now and reap the benefits later! Why?

This would be a great time to talk about personhood with your kids! When we say that phrase “personhood” we’re talking about someone who can say “I.” All humans have a personhood because they’re made in God’s image and likeness. We receive this from God. It’s important to talk to your kids about what personhood is at an early age. When we are teaching our kids about what it means to be a person and made in the image and likeness of God, we need to tell them that everyone has dignity and worth. We are all loved by God.

Down the road, situations will come up where this will help. Bullying, leaving other people out, helping those who are having trouble in school, etc. If we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we need to treat others as such. If our kids are able to understand personhood and that we all have a soul early on, this will make later conversations much easier with our junior high and high school kids. Pornography, sex outside of marriage, and other difficult topics become easier to talk with your kids about when they understand the dignity of all people.

Pornography, sex outside of marriage, and other difficult topics become easier to talk with your kids about when they understand the dignity of all people.

What about the body?

Sometimes we’re tempted to think “our personhood is just our soul.” “What makes me who I am is just my soul.” But that’s not true. Our soul is us, but our body is also us. It’s not that the soul just animates our flesh, but our soul and body come together to compose us. We need to take care of our bodies. When we do something that harms our body, it also harms our soul. Our soul and our body are meant to be completely connected.

We will talk about death in later episodes, but this is why death is something that is innately feared by the human person. The soul and the body are meant to be together, but death rips the soul and the body apart. We know that at the resurrection, at the end of the world, our souls and our bodies will be reunited just as it was meant to be. To be able to give praise and glory to God as our full personhood.

Our soul allows us to choose for God or against God. Our soul makes that decision, which is why when we die our soul will either go to heaven or hell. Then at the end of time our soul and body will be reunited. So when we go to mass and when we pray, it is our soul that allows us to choose to worship God and choose to give ourselves to Him, to give our hearts to Him. It’s amazing because that is what will immediately be with God when we die if we’ve chosen heaven. Our soul will get to be in heaven and experience heaven for eternity, which is what we were made for!

[tweetthis]Parents, have this conversation with your children today! It can make all the difference. #catholic #parenting[/tweetthis]

I hope you’ve found these tools useful for talking to your kids about souls! Strike up a conversation by asking them what they think about the idea of souls or if they have ever thought about their own soul. If they ask a different question when it comes to this topic, let us know!

We will see you next week!

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