Being a Good Spiritual Accountant

April 23, 2015

As a Hospice Spiritual Care Director, I was privileged to companion people as they were dying. Many did a "life review", looking back, sifting through the details of their lives. They rarely talked about the things they owned or the money they made. They spoke of love, relationships, the need for forgiveness, and ways they had been of service. They talked about beauty they had seen in nature or created in words, design, music or dance. In that final hour, they tried to see how well they had spent their swiftly vanishing time on earth. I remember one man who had lived what others would consider a poor, meager existence. He was dying of AIDS. He told me that his favorite job was as an undertaker's assistant. "What made it your favorite?" I asked, trying not to crack a smile. "I got to take care of the street people, the ones no one else took care of." My heart opened to him in that moment and a powerful bond of love connected us for the rest of his short life.

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." It is so easy to let ourselves drift into a habit or a relationship without really choosing it, to do a job half-heartedly rather than with full enthusiasm (a virtue that means "God within"). All religions ask us to examine ourselves honestly on a regular basis. Second Corinthians 13:5 says, "Examine yourselves to know if you are in the faith. Test yourselves." How faithful are we to our beliefs? How well are we translating our faith into action?

Reviewing our lives daily is an important spiritual practice, helping us to receive our life lessons and make the best use of our time.  Here are five questions to ask ourselves every day:

  1. What did I learn today? Did I learn anything new, or improve in a skill? What can I do better tomorrow? Do I have the humility to learn from my teachable moments? Mistakes can be our best teachers, if we learn and grow as a result.
  2. What am I grateful for? A sign outside a church said "Too blessed to be stressed." Counting our blessings by keeping a gratitude journal is a natural mood elevator and is one of the best stress relievers. And it's free!
  3. Have I helped anyone today? His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism says, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." Whenever we do something to make life easier or happier for another person, our own quality of life improves. Instead of growling or criticizing family members, speak kindly. Each day, we can all give a smile, a hug, a listening ear, a conversation.
  4. Did I give my best? The Baha'i Faith teaches, "Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship." We can change a diaper, clean a sink, cook a meal, write an email, or rake our rubbish as a boring job to get over with, or we can do it with whole hearted excellence and love. Excellence makes a world of difference.
  5. What brought me joy? What made me smile? Did I do something I enjoy? Did I pause for applause after a job well done? Take a break to read a good book, take a swim, or just sit and look at the beauty around you. Give yourself the gift of a sacred moment or two.

Being a good accountant in our own life isn't only about adding up our debts or sins – the times we are off the mark. It is also about the positive side, the things to which we gave our full, loving attention. Examining our lives each day helps us to treasure each and every one.


Author photo
Linda Kavelin-Popov

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