Our schools don't teach this devotion. Most
parents haven't thought deeply about who they are and who they
wish to become, so they can't pass on ideas and ideals about this
to their kids. But it should be obvious that we can't
develop into the people we wish to be if we don't put thought and
effort into the development.
I try to keep in mind always that my self is composed
of many different aspects, and that if i truly wish to develop my
self, it's important that I pay attention to all aspects of who I
So I give you a few of the ruling ideas in my life,
ideas and ideals that I've embraced and continually try to
develop, based on who I want to be. Yours won't be the same,
of course, but until you actually put thought into who you are and
who you wish to be, you can't simply expect yourself to go through
a metamorphosis and become the person you wish to become.
1. Other people's suffering isn't humorous, and I
won't joke about it. I put this first because I recently
heard an awful joke, made as an off-hand comment, that made me
sick inside. I was in an Internet bar in Spain when an
American, about 18 years old, who was sitting near me, commented
to a friend about Eurocup soccer scores. He mentioned
Yugoslavia, then said that "there was some ethnic cleansing
during the game." The friend he was speaking to was
taken aback. "What kind of comment is that?" he
The scope of the comment is astonishing when you
think of how many people have lost children, wives, husbands,
parents, friends, and other relatives and acquaintances due to
horrible campaigns such as "ethnic cleansing." The
survivors of these campaigns will live the rest of their lives
with horrible memories. There is nothing humorous about what
happened in Bosnia, what has happened in several African nations,
what happened in Cambodia and Germany and many other countries,
and the fact that an 18-year-old American college student can find
humor in such a comment should scare us all.
I refuse to joke about shooting someone if they do
something wrong, about cutting off someone's hand if they steal
cookies, about running someone over if they're in the middle of
the street. These things simply aren't funny, and there are
plenty of humorous things in the world if we'd but look for them.
I admire Bill Cosby's position on humor. I read
in an article once that each script for The Cosby Show was
carefully reviewed to ensure that none of the humor resulted from
insulting others, putting others down, or other negative
sources. It's a model I believe we all should follow if we
wish to make the world a kinder place.
2. My body is a gift, and I need to take care of it.
Keeping the body healthy is one of the most important things we
can do for ourselves, and we should take it very seriously.
I want to use my body whenever possible, making sure that the
muscles don't suffer from lack of use, and that the heart and
lungs don't grow weak from stagnation, pollutants, and
smoke. I also want to get the rest and sleep that my body
needs, when it needs it. My biggest problem is my love of
sweets, especially chocolate, which I consider to be among the
major food groups. I always have to burn off the extra sugar
soon after eating it, but I don't always do so. Often I have
to turn down sweets, though I find it easier to take them and
promise myself to exercise more later, which I don't always do.
I try to find an ideal weight range and stay within
it. If I'm too thin, my body suffers. If I weigh too
much, my body suffers. It's up to me to find an ideal range
and maintain it.
Staying within this range also helps me in another
want to use all the resources available to me in the most
responsible way possible. I have almost unlimited amounts of
food available to me--I want to use it responsibly, and not
overindulge, eating "my share"--what I need to be
healthy and nothing more. In doing so, and in responsibly
taking care of my body, I'll never need to replace my clothing
just because clothes don't fit any more. I want my clothing
to be comfortable and I want none of my clothing decisions to be
based on fashion, but on price (paying what it's worth, not for
any brand names) and my personal likes and dislikes. I want
to drive a car that gets decent mileage (but that's also safe),
and I want to conserve energy in my home as much as possible.
want to obey the laws of my country, out of respect to the other
people who share the country with me. This isn't a matter of
degree--once I decide to obey the laws, I can't decide arbitrarily
which laws should apply to me and which laws shouldn't. I
need to be consistent, true to myself and to my decision.
Socrates argued this point well with Crito; Paul talks
about it in Romans 13.
Of course, saying this leaves me open to charges of
hypocrisy, because if I find myself faced with a red light at a
crosswalk and there are no cars to be seen anywhere, I will cross
the street. How can I justify this seeming contradiction?
Actually, it's no contradiction at all, if I make
sure that I'm fully aware of the purposes of such laws. The
light is there for our protection as pedestrians and to regulate
traffic, and once there's no threat at all to our safety and
there's no way that I can disrupt traffic, the law becomes a moot
point. The same principal is widely accepted as a
defense when a person injures or kills another in self-defense.
Such a principal can never be applied to laws
concerning taxes, taking other people's property, driving in an
unsafe manner on public streets, etc. And it's up to me to
know the laws and to be responsible in keeping them. If I
don't like the laws of my country or state, I can try to change
them, or I can leave.
want to make my faith an integral part of my life, and not a vague
ideal to which I pay lip service. The rules and laws of my
faith should contribute greatly to the way I act each day, to the
way I treat other people.
I must also respect the religious beliefs (or lack of
same) of other people. The most effective way of sharing my
faith is living a life that reflects the basic tenets of that
faith, not threatening others with hell or telling them how wrong
or how ignorant they are. Since my faith is a great help and
comfort to me in troubled times, I want to offer it to others as a
source of help and comfort, not as a last-chance grasp at avoiding
hell, whatever hell may be.
want my life to be dedicated to helping others in the ways that
I'm best suited to help. I won't compare myself to others
who serve people in ways that are suited to them, but I will keep
track of how well I do, and always seek to improve my service.
don't want to judge others based on looks, actions, lack of
action, whatever I may see. I want to withhold judgment and
learn more about the person and the basic causes of whatever
actions I may see. Most negative actions are the result of a
troubled heart or soul, and any judgment without background
knowledge is harsh and unfair by nature.
want to focus on the positive and beautiful things that life
offers, without ignoring the negative, painful, and harmful
aspects of life. Much of my attitude towards life depends on
my perspective: what I see and how I see it. If I
focus on the negative, allowing it to be the dominant influence in
my mind, then my life definitely will take on a negative
slant. I want my focus to be on those things that help us to
get through life, such as trees and great people and education and
really good movies and songs.
I can't, however, ignore the negative and
harmful. In ignoring the bad, we allow it to continue, to
perpetuate itself. If I try to pretend it's not there, I'll
allow it to hurt people close to me, and that's not something I
can do with a clear conscience. I may not be able to stop or
change the negative, but unless I'm aware of it and have studied
it an know it, I won't be able to help others to deal with it
effectively when it affects them.
And if I focus on the negative things in my life, I
use up a lot of energy and time looking at problems with money,
other people, work, etc., and that energy has no effect at all on
the problems. I want to focus on finding solutions, and then
on trying to make those solutions work.
It's important to me that I make it clear that living by these
rules is rather simple. I don't obsess about them, and my
mind isn't always filled with rules and regulations. I don't
even think about these rules during most of my daily life.
But I know that if I want these rules of action to be an integral
part of who I am, I have to think about them and work on
them. But I make a great effort to enjoy life fully and make
my life a positive experience. I don't want to look back on
my life and say "Look how well I followed rules," but I
believe that by setting rules such as these and trying to follow
them, I'll be able to look back and and say that I got a lot out
of my years here--that I enjoyed the enjoyable, that I was
awe-stricken at the awesome, that I cared for and helped other
people, that I met challenges and strived to do my best, and that
I learned as much as I could about our world and the people in it.
We have many decisions to make every day, and these
rules help me a great deal in making them. If I have no set
rules on matters that I consider to be important, decisions become
much more difficult, and it becomes much easier to rationalize
decisions that may not be for the best.
And no, I don't follow all these rules all the
time. I wish I did, but I don't. But I also don't beat
myself up for the occasional slip here and there. I try my
best, but I don't always do my best. But at least I try, and
at least I'm conscious of the fact that I'm working on what I see
to be an extremely important part of who I am.