One of the most common goals I’ve worked on with life coaching clients in the last decade is “to develop and nurture” their spirituality.

As one who has been on this blessed journey myself, I enjoy seeing others blossom in this area of their lives. This goal usually takes the shape of deepening the childhood religion the client learned, perhaps paying it more heed in their harried lives, or exploring other options to learn this individual’s best path to the divine.

I am not ordained nor schooled in theology. I take with me some parts of my Christian upbringing, but love to draw from Buddhism, New Thought and some modern spiritual teachers as well. As so many Americans, I feel a divine hand in all of what I do and I am ecstatic to live in a place where this opening and receiving of spirit is possible. As a coach, I particularly like that clients are not just working on career or creative goals, but becoming more well-rounded people.

To be clear, this runs the gamut from a client who wants to, in her words, fulfill the gifts the Holy Spirit has given her to another client who reads tarot cards. Very different approaches to spiritual expression, but similar in that they feel a connection to something bigger than themselves.

There is so much positive about this, so much that’s rewarding about it as an aspect of what I do, that when I see religion or spirit being used to legitimize acts of cruelty or manipulation or discrimination on the national stage it stops me cold. This should be a joyful part of us. It should be an open door to soul searching when life hands us big victories or devastating losses and all that’s in between.

It shouldn’t be wielded as a stick to bash or as a gavel to judge. It shouldn’t be imposed.

My clients want to be enriched as people. They want to give themselves permission to learn the bible more intimately or do a daily meditation from the Tao Te Ching or keep a gratitude journal. I am all too happy to shepherd this, but it certainly gets tested along the way.

In response to a recent Game Plan column, a reader wrote, “I have an issue … when people such as yourself think that one can pick and choose from religions to suit their own agendas ... I have a source that tells me that there is only one way to God.” This gentleman went on to quote the bible. I expressed my respect and admiration for his faith, but noted that I disagreed.

Every so often I receive mail like this and I welcome the diversity, but I also marvel at the arrogance. Note that this reader didn’t just share his belief, but put down mine in the process. Some of the best people I know are Christians and yet are comfortable with the idea that other faiths exist and are to be respected.

So much of this has been manifesting these days in the issue of how our country treats homosexuals, both socially and legislatively. A former colleague, a church-going Christian, recently wrote a Facebook post saying how proud he was of his soon-to-be-college student son for coming out as gay. I commented on the post that it made my day.

But how does that balance out the suicides of gay youth we seem to be reading about weekly? It doesn’t. Or the resignation of a Mitt Romney campaign staff member being allegedly muscled out by strident, well-financed Christian groups because he is openly gay? This is not, by any account, Christ-like behavior.

I like to think of using freedom of religion to uplift myself and others. It hadn’t occurred to me to bring another option to the table with my clients or to live in a way that is so morally power-centric. As a heterosexual, I can choose to get married or not. My rights will not be taken away if gay people are allowed to marry.

As one who coaches and sometimes counsels, I cannot envision that conversation with my god after I pass on from this life where I say, “Yes, I’ve carried out your will. Those gay people you created, well, I did my part to make sure they couldn’t live fulfilled lives.”

It feels simple to me. Loving my neighbor isn’t always easy. We could probably all agree on that. But my clients want to try their darnedest to embody that and I am thrilled to be along for the ride as they strive to find a spiritual center.

It’s a good goal.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.