This is taken from an assignment in my ethics class.
I have six central principles that have guided how I live my life. I developed them over a period of 20 years and continue to improve them over time. They are as follows in no particular order:
Respect the change we cannot control.
All should be respected but not everything should be honored.
Having a choice is not a privilege but a responsibility.
Allow others to view the world through their own eyes.
Differences do not have to lead to conflict.
We are allowed to believe in ourselves.
I will simplify these principles into simple words for convenience; change, value, choice, truth, love, and identity.
I will try to explain these in further detail briefly. The three main ones are change, value, and choice. Change is a constant battle between letting things happen and making things happen. Should we respect the forces acting on us or should we become a controlling force in our own lives. Our happiness depends on finding this balance.
Value is important in determining our priorities. We honor what we feel to be of great worth. Measuring this out requires balances unique to each situation. Who is more important in times of war, the wise man or the strong man? That depends on what you value.
Choice is tricky because it creates consequences, good or bad. By making a choice we recognize that there are sides to choose. Choosing one side places us in opposition to another. Even refusing to choose contributes to one side of an issue. I stand in awe of the power of the consequences of our choices.
The three intermediate principles are truth, love, and identity. Truth is equally as powerful as choice. The thing we have to remember about truth is that we will never have all of it. An infinite universe can only be comprehended in pieces. I view as much of it as I can and then choose to view the rest with either hope or despair. Two people could be looking in the same direction but see different things. I allow people to view the world how they wish. The only thing I won’t accept is people who twist the facts to match their view.
Love is essential to creating peace. It is a balance between accepting what is different and shunning that which we perceive as a threat. One has to admit that not all people are good and kind. Enemies do exist. Our love is made real when it is put to the test. I could have called this principle desire, but I felt the word love captured the conflict of the issue better. Conflict is created when what we want stands in opposition to what someone else wants. We all love different things. Finding peace with differences allows us to become a united people.
Finally, identity is the foundation for determining what we fight for. Who we are is what we believe ourselves to be. Am I an American? Am I a Mormon? Am I weak? We are all influenced by our culture, our religion, and our families and friends. They all have an opinion on who we are as an individual. How much do we owe them? Who gets to determine who we are? These are all questions based on doubt. No one should get to choose who I am but me. I am an American. I am a Saint. I am strong. I am Joseph Meldrum.
It’s hard to choose which principle as being the most important. I would have to say change is the most important principle to understand in our day. So many people try to control the world to make it work for them. And when someone gets circumstances to play out exactly the way they want it to, something will eventually come along to disrupt it and their peace will be destroyed. On the other hand, we all need to work at improving our lives and our circumstances. It’s tough to know when to fight against the current and when to just go with the flow. Sometimes happiness is about letting go and other times it’s about holding on. I am now at peace with the different forces at play in my life. I don’t have to be in control of every aspect of existence to be happy. I don’t have to get everything I want. Still, I will strive to change my life in a positive way.
These six principles have been my guide to understanding why people do what they do. They motivated me to enrich my life. They elaborate on the gray areas of the world. The conflict between the different principles grants me deeper insight into what it means to be human. For instance, if we have absolute truth does that mean we don’t really have a choice? Can we be ourselves if we are constantly changing? And we do not necessarily love that which we value.
I will provide an example of how love and value may not align. I highly regard Oreo cookies, but I wouldn’t put my life on the line for them. A friend may love me, but not necessarily appreciate what I do for them. I love my mother, but may not do enough to honor her. I love my church, but certainly could do much better at making it a higher priority in my life. And I value what God has done and is doing for me, but I may not open up to Him completely. Fear prevents me from loving something the way I want to. Pride keeps me from valuing something for what it is worth.
It is difficult to know which principle to rely on in different situations. All of them potentially have significance on a personal level, a social level, or even a worldwide level. Finding the balance between each has had the most positive impact on my life. The one principle I have struggled with is value. It has become my goal to better myself in this area. Part of me wants to meet the expectations of those I regard highly: my parents, my family, my friends, my church, and my God. I want all of these to value me. It’s hard to do because everyone has different expectations. They each weigh my worth with different balances. What about my expectations? Do I have a say in how much I am worth? I have decided to put myself at a high value. Some people will accuse me of being high minded, but I don’t care. If that feeling of being of worth is not coming from an outside source, then I will do what it takes to remember how much I matter. Our worth is not determined by other people. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m just grateful to be alive. Everyone else should be, too.
This may not be a perfect system, but it is my system. It’s a part of me. My goal is to be happy. All of these principles bring me closer to it. The most important part is to let people in. Sure, they make things messy. That’s part of the beauty of life. What’s the point of having morals if you can’t make the world a better place for everyone in it?