I came across this poem, which is attributed to Pythagoras. (And I just thought he was the mathematical genius who contrived the Pythagorean Theorem!) Here is the version I found:
What have I learnt where’ere I’ve been,
From all I’ve heard, from all I’ve seen?
What know I more that’s worth the knowing?
What have I done that’s worth the doing?
What have I sought that I should shun?
What duties have I left undone?
The little verse struck me as being worth both pondering and applying as sort of a self-assessment. We Americans are all about evaluation and continuous improvement, right? Just consider that we get links to complete satisfaction surveys at the bottom of all fast food receipts, as well as department and discount store receipts. The Chevy place that sold us our cars sends e-mail surveys after every service encounter. (And, when I don’t complete them, they call on the phone!) Hospitals devote money and manpower to tracking and trying to improve patient and family satisfaction.
So, I am setting out to evaluate myself according to Pythagoras’ model.
1. What have I learned? I have learned that God is good, all the time, and He has gifted us with a beautiful world to enjoy. I have learned to look for the best in people. I have learned to pursue my dreams. I have learned to take heed and act when some small voice nudges my heart to write a note or make a call or invite someone’s participation in a project. I have learned that being faithful as a Christian requires perseverance and deliberate effort, and that, even with my best efforts, I will slip and fall and have to climb back onto the pathway that is the Christian walk. I have learned that a loving husband can make this life unbelievably joyful. And, I have learned so much more. Trying to wrap my head around all the possible answers to this question overwhelms me. What would be your answer(s)?
2. What do I know that’s worth the knowing? Knowing Jesus in a saving relationship is valuable beyond measure. Knowing how to manage money, keep a neat and clean living space, be dependable at work, do my job to the best of my ability (that includes my nursing skill, I think)–these are critical to just surviving, right? Knowing how to get along with people–that’s a big one–and work in a group to accomplish goals. Knowing just how much I DON’T know–there’s the heart of knowledge and wisdom, I think. Your answer?
3. What have I done that’s worth the doing? Giving my heart and life to my Lord, Jesus Christ. Completing my education as a nurse. Teaching a Sunday School class. Raising a family. Marrying the love of my life. Loving and watching after my parents. Meeting my brother Robby after a lifetime apart and becoming the best of friends (there’s quite a story there) and the blessing of having his family as my family now in his absence. Being a superior chooser of children’s books and gifting them to friends and family (she said rather sheepishly!) I’m sure you all have many worthwhile accomplishments. Pat yourselves on the back. Now!
In case you haven’t noticed by now, this self-examination thing can be difficult (when it comes to actually acknowledging the good) and painful (regarding the next two questions, which I face with trepidation).
4. What have I sought that I should have shunned? The fast and easy road to anything that is good. And other things that I’m certainly not confessing to strangers! I am, however, acknowledging certain ugly attitudes and critical thoughts and negative motives that have sometimes characterized my words and actions. I will not press you to answer this one. It hurts.
5. What duties have I left undone? This is a good one, because, although I feel guilty about my times of procrastination or laziness or neglect of the “next best thing” upon which to focus my attention, this one can, in some regard, be rectified. Again, I won’t bore you with the details of my omissions–just be aware that I recognize them. Maybe we can all resolve to do better in this regard!
Life after all is about learning, wherever we go, whatever we hear and see. Life choices and experiences all impact the worth of what we know and the value of deeds done. Human nature drives us to seek what we should shun and leads us to omit duties that should be done. Thank you for bearing with me in my time of self-assessment. May you be blessed by your consideration of this glimpse into Pythagorean philosophy. It spoke to me.