The spiritual life requires practice. “I’m spiritual, not religious,” is a toothless assertion that often describes a knee-jerk rejection of religion, and with a possible inclination toward happy thoughts.
But like any quality, whether it’s fitness, healthy eating or intellectual growth, the quality doesn’t improve without practice. For everyone, good habits wax and wane.
Below, I have listed 10 New Year’s resolutions for nurturing spiritual growth and inner peace in every day life.
1) I Will Not Murder
Pope Francis recently cautioned, “Gossip always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip.” Gossip is to speak ill of someone who is not present.
Proverbs 18:8 warns, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”
St. James taught in James 3:8 that the tongue is full of restless evil and deadly poison. I will refrain from spreading poison.
2) Thank-You Notes
The antidote to the poison of gossip is gratitude. Thank-you notes we write keep us from living in a state of entitlement and indifference. Notes we receive prevent us from moving through the world unacknowledged. Each note is a tiny reprieve from isolation and loneliness.
“This is a weird tradition no one else practices,” my teenage daughter said last night, when faced with five thank-you notes to write.
I argue that this dying tradition is sacred. A thank-you note acknowledges and affirms kindness. A handwritten note in the mail is a token of humanity. With a few scribbles on paper, we affirm one another’s existence, one another’s efforts to be kind.
In 2016, thank-you notes will fly like blessings from my mailbox.
In “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the title character is enslaved in a Stalinist labor camp. He is treated like an animal. His dignity is stripped. Still, he removes his cap and bows his head before every meager meal — a lump of oatmeal, a bowl of boiled grass, a watery soup.
Ivan Denisovich says grace as an act of defiance, a bold display of humanity and gratitude in unbearable circumstances.