‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’ is a very common aphorism. This aphorism suggests that being clean and tidy is the next best thing to being morally good. The aphorism can also be used to signify the fact that cleanliness and Godliness are very similar.
What is cleanliness? Cleanliness can mean being hygienic, neat and tidy. But, it can also signify a spiritual or mental cleanliness: freedom from evil thoughts, words and deeds.
What is Godliness? Godliness refers to the state of being akin to God. Someone who is Godly usually is peaceful and calm, with a sense of serenity, goodness, kindness and spiritual poise about them.
5 Reasons Why Cleanliness is ‘Next to Godliness’
1. Positivity. Keeping things clean and in order gives you and others a happy feeling, and so does being good and peaceful. Taking positive action to clear up the environment, or just to spring clean our cupboards feels great. Taking positive action to be kind to others and do good deeds also feels wonderful. These feelings of positivity are not so different from each other: here, cleanliness and Godliness are very similar in terms of the effects they have on our minds.
2. Spiritual advancement. Cleanliness is all about taking care of yourself and your surroundings, and getting rid of anything dirty. This is similar to spiritual advancement, where we care about our spiritual health and rid ourselves of negative, unkind or evil thoughts and deeds.
3. Health: physical, mental and spiritual. Staying hygienic and ridding our surroundings of germs is good for our health. Keeping our minds ‘clean’ is also good for our spiritual health. Scientists have found that mental and physical health are not strictly separated: if we have healthy bodies, this helps our minds to stay positive and happy too, and vice versa. Here, again, looking after our body and looking after our mind become two very closely linked activities: cleanliness is very much next to Godliness.
4. A sense of beauty. There is a real beauty in a sparkling clean house, a tidy and well cared for garden and also in the human body when we look after ourselves and allow our inner beauty to shine through. A Godly person also has beauty in their actions, words and thoughts.
5. Motivation. Working to keep things clean and neat brings joy and a sense of satisfaction. Working on the physical cleanliness of ourselves and our surroundings motivates us to do good in the spiritual aspects of our lives too. If we get into good habits when it comes to cleanliness, we will tend to find that we have the strength of mind, discipline and determination that we need to get into good habits of morality as well.
Conclusion. Cleanliness is next to Godliness in a metaphorical sense: a clean body and home is like a mind that is free of unclean thoughts. However, cleanliness can also quite literally inspire us to be Godly, thanks to the joy and motivation that cleanliness brings to our lives. Both cleanliness and Godliness are about taking positive action to get rid of bad things and to make the world a nicer place for ourselves and for others.