Monday, February 3, 2014
Pastorgraphs: “The Principle of The Thing”
February 3, 2014
[Pastorgraphs now online at ChristSD.com]
Pastorgraphs: “The Principle of The Thing”
“Listen carefully to my wisdom;
take to heart what I can teach you.
You’ll treasure its sweetness deep within;
you’ll give it bold expression in your speech.
To make sure your foundation is trust in God,
I’m laying it all out right now just for you.
I’m giving you thirty sterling principles —
tested guidelines to live by.
Believe me —
these are truths that work.”
(Proverbs 22:17-21) The Message Translation
Last night, Seattle won the Super Bowl and the coveted Lombardi Trophy. That trophy is the goal of every team, the dream of almost every boy. Having lived in Green Bay, pastor of a church one block from Lambeau Field, I know how important Vince Lombardi’s influence was on that city, the Packers, the NFL in general, and upon much of our society.
One of Coach Lombardi’s most famous principles was, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I understand locker room motivational talk. But unfortunately, many in our society have adopted the “winning-is-the-only-thing” principle. Actually, it should be called the un-principle, because when winning-at-all-costs is the guiding force in life, all other principles die.
You may have noticed a pattern in my recent Pastorgraphs. I am sharing what I believe to be the stepping stones to a life of wisdom, ethics, success and true happiness. There is a progression here you must follow. Think of it as a baseball diamond. You cannot run straight to third base without reaching first and second base.
· First base (Beliefs) is “getting your head screwed on right”. That is, getting your thinking (beliefs) straightened out.
· Second Base (Values) is ordering your beliefs into values.
· Third Base (Principles) is determining from your values the principles by which you live your life.
· (What about Home Base? More to follow. Stay tuned.)
As you work through this process, the numbers get smaller. You have fewer values than beliefs, and you have fewer principles than values. The whole process is a way of refining your ethics.
So what are principles? Why are they important? And how do you go about determining the principles by which you will live your life? I offer the following:
Six Relationships between Values and Principles
1. Principles grow out of values. Values grow out of beliefs. Principles are fundamental truths derived from your values that shape your moral framework or code of conduct. Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics said, “We translate values into principles so they can guide and motivate ethical conduct. Ethical principles are the rules of conduct that derive from ethical values.”
2. Principles are finite, fewer in number than values. Principles are more universal and may cover multiple values and beliefs. When you implement principles in your life, you extract rules of conduct from your values. Doing so enables you to become principled; an individual who habitually bases actions on principles.
3. Principles are objective. Values are subjective. A value is only as significant as the importance you place upon it. But a principle is indispensable, even if you try to ignore its existence. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said values govern people’s behavior, but principles ultimately determine the consequences.
4. Principles are external. Values are internal. Beliefs and values are internal and subjective components of ethics. Principles are external natural laws of ethics. Character ethics assume there are principles that exist in all people. Principles have universal applications, and are different from practices, which are for specific situations.
5. Principles do not change. Values sometimes do. Principles are self-evident, self-validating natural laws. They don’t change or shift. They provide ‘true north’ direction to your life when navigating the ocean of life. When there are contradictions in your beliefs and principles, there is discord and no possibility of integrity.
6. Principles are eternal. Values may be temporal. Principles apply at all time in all places. Ignoring principles has consequences. Stephen Covey’s “character ethic” aligns personal values with “universal and timeless” principles. Individuals do not create principles. They are external natural laws you discover as you go through life. In other words, principles exist whether you follow them or not. Failure to follow principles comes with consequences.
Principles are important; significant because they provide the means to clarify how your beliefs and values relate to your actions. Red Skelton said, “Our principles are the springs of our actions. Our actions are the springs of our happiness or misery. Too much care, therefore, cannot be taken in forming our principles.”
If that all sounds a bit academic, here are the practical Principles by which I strive to live my life:
· The Principle of Gratitude. I will never forget life is a gift from God, and will be grateful for it each and every day. I will demonstrate by how I live my life that I am grateful to God for my life, family, friends, possessions, and health. I will value the loving relationships and things that are genuine, especially my faith in God and love for my family and friends. I will not waste a single day, for each moment is extremely precious.
· The Principle of Caring. I will be kind and caring to others, especially those in need, with agape love. I will live by the Golden Rule, treating others as I would have them treat me. There is never a good reason to be unkind, even when I disagree with someone.
· The Principle of Fairness. My thoughts and actions will always be based upon justice, truth, and what ought to be. I will honor the dignity, rights and freedoms of all humans. That demands I must be honest, trustworthy and disciplined in all my dealings.
· The Principle of Balance. I will live a balanced life with appropriate attention to work, play and rest. I will be neither a workaholic nor lazy. I commit myself to a life of wholeness, completeness, and true happiness. I realize that happiness is not a destination, but comes from the journey to integrity.
· The Principle of Service. I pledge to live my life with moral fiber and courage of character. I will faithfully serve my God, my family and friends, and my community with humility, trust and dependability. I will not be idle in thought or late in acting.
· The Principle of Authenticity. I will be the genuine me with pure motives and good habits. I will be true to myself and others by being truthful, dependable, and self-controlled. I accept responsibility and accountability for my actions and life. I seek to live a principled life without excuses, blaming others for my mistakes, or cutting corners.
· The Principle of Goodness. I believe in and will do what I know in my heart is right, just and good. I will be optimistic and positive as much as is reasonable. I will pursue and achieve noble ideals and goals with excellence. The “north star” of principles will guide me. I will not be veered off course by “shiny objects” or temptations. I will stay upon the course of my principles.
Stephen L. Carter of Yale says that when we understand our principles, “We can tell each other what we most fundamentally believe, what settled ground guides our conduct.”
May God grant you much “settled ground” in your principled living.
Devotedly yours, Bill Jenkins
From the Quote Garden:
“When you clarify the principles that will govern your life and the ends that you will seek, you give purpose to your daily decisions. A personal creed gives you a point of reference for navigating the sometimes stormy seas of organizational life. Without a set of such beliefs, your life has no rudder, and you’re easily blown about by the winds of fashion. A credo to guide you prevents confusion on the journey. The internal resolution of competing beliefs also leads to personal integrity, which is essential to believability. A leader with integrity has one self, at home and at work, with family and colleagues. Such a leader has a unifying set of values that guide choices of action regardless of the situation.”
~ James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge ~
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