Many of you know that I am a person of deep faith, identifying myself as a “follower of Christ”, rather than with modern American Christianity which I believe to be substantially tainted by selfishness, greed, self-righteousness and unscriptural political views. My convictions and belief system has been the primary driver of my life for well over five decades, and has served as one of the primary influences in my creation and oversight of the Family Care Network. That being the case, I would like to share my personal Guidelines for Living.
First and foremost, I believe each of us is created with unique skills, characteristics, talents and gifts that enable us to help others and to make life better for everyone. Each of us has a special purpose which is important and valuable for the greater good. Some people’s gifts are much more overt and grandiose, others unseen and subtle, but all equally important in the grand scheme of life. The key to successful living is how we apply and direct our unique talents. If directed towards self-aggrandizement, there will never be genuine satisfaction or joy; only an insatiable emptiness. But, if our focus is on benefiting others, there is never ending exhilaration and satisfaction!
My Second axiom for life is really an extension of the first – respect everyone’s uniqueness and differences. How incredibly boring life would be if we all acted the same, looked the same and thought the same? And doesn’t that contradicts life itself which is characterized by multi-dimensions of diversity? I mean, if no two snowflakes are the same, or dog, tree or grain of sand… why would we expect humans to be?! Unfortunately, the ignorant demand for “sameness” causes nothing but conflict, fear, strife, disrespect, hatred and violence. Xenophobia, racism, misogyny, fear mongering and discrimination are an absolute curse on the human condition, corrupting societal peace, tranquility and safety, and destroying civility. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way; these outcomes are preventable by embracing the truth that life is diverse and everyone is “wonderfully and perfectly made” for a distinct purpose.
To no one’s surprise, my Third Guideline for Living is simply this, treat others as you would like to be treated! I believe this is probably a universally known and understood maxim, but not practiced! Humans, by nature, are self-centered and “me-oriented.” Some of us might remember the ridiculous “best-selling” book of the mid-eighties, Looking Out for #1; or what I like to refer to as the narcissist’ bible. Looking out for “number one” is so contrary to what’s good for society at large. The premise of this thinking is that you take care of yourself and your interests, rather than those of other people. But, when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, for themselves, the result is chaos and anarchy!
By contrast, if we all really lived by the “Golden Rule,” we would transform our culture. Let’s put this in some what-ifs. What if you were really sick; wouldn’t you want someone to care for and visit you? What if you had no place to live; wouldn’t you want someone to invite you in or help you find housing? What if you were hungry, wouldn’t you want somebody to give you a meal and help you to become self-sufficient? What if you were poor, wouldn’t you want somebody to help you out of poverty? What if you were brokenhearted or discouraged, wouldn’t you want somebody to be an encourager, and show you compassion and empathy? I think you get the point!
Fourth, it is important to have the right priorities guiding and directing what we do. Each of us really is an open book, easily seen and read by everyone around us. I don’t like the cliché “talk is cheap–walk your talk,” but it is quite true. Our activities, deportment and attitude are a manifestation of our priorities; our internal thought engine that powers our external persona. If the priority of our “Heart” is to live by the Golden Rule, and seek for the good, wellbeing and best interest of others, that will play itself out in our lifestyle. By contrast, we dwell within a culture substantially driven by “Greed!” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a person obsessed and controlled by greed, produces no real good. I am a firm believer that the “love of money is the root of all evil!”
I’ve always enjoyed the research that shows that folks of little means give a much greater percentage of their income and time than people of great means. This generosity is a reflection of values, priority and heart. Standing at the door of my seventh decade of life, I am completely convinced that when your priorities are right, everything else falls into place. A generous person will never be lacking, while a greedy person will always be wanting!
My Fifth Guideline for Living, and quite honestly, the one I personally struggle with the most, is this: let everything you say be beneficial and edifying to everyone who hears your conversations. Whew...it is easy to believe this and yet, at times, it is so difficult to do it. We really do have to battle with our own nature and our culture on this front. By and large, the human tendency is to think we are “right” in our own eyes; arrogance and haughtiness is the rule not the exception. Humility, grace and patience are rarely promoted, being seen as weakness and not strength. Selfishness, narcissism, rudeness and bombast rules of the tongue, ruins the environment, destroys peace and hurts hearts.
I am always mindful of the precepts, the tongue is such a small flame which can set in motion the largest of fires, or it is a small rudder that sets the direction of a large vessel! If we are honest, every one of us has said things that we have regretted and wish that we could take back. Negative words spoken are like casting feathers into the wind, impossible to recapture! “Let your speech be seasoned with grace…,” we need to discipline ourselves, take control of our tongue and use it as an envoy of encouragement and edification!
Embracing the intangible is my Sixth principal. Having vision and hope, transcending the here and now through imagination and creativity, and seeing things as they could be is vital to successful living. In other words: Have Faith! It is the evidence of things not seen and the substance of things hoped for. Too often, the circumstances of life become a bog in which we become mired and handcuffed to inactivity, discouragement and complacency. But, that doesn’t need to be the case. I absolutely believe that everyone has the capacity to overcome challenges and find a path to a new, better place. The ingredients are in there, we just need to learn to mix them together, one step at a time, and be amazed where this will take us.
Finally, my Seventh Guideline for Living is simply understanding the Power of Love. Culturally, we have a rather jaded, errant understanding of love; heavily favoring the superficial, selfish or erotic concepts of the word. This view is unfortunate, and cheats us out of an incredible opportunity for abundant, joyful living. Seriously! Genuine Love, in its purest form, is the summation of everything I have stated above.
Love is: patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with goodness and the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails!
These are awesome words to ponder, and to ruminate on over and over. They are informative, transformative and substantive. One will never lose out or be dissatisfied by choosing to live under the Power of Love.
Now, you have seen a snapshot of the values and thinking that have guided me throughout my entire adult life. Do I follow these Guidelines for Living perfectly, no way; but passionately–YES! I have no regrets, embarrassments or uncertainty about my beliefs, just tremendous appreciation for the many folks who graciously and lovingly instilled these into my framework. I only hope that I have ample opportunity to do likewise with others!