The importance of living by principles

Imagine if there were no accepted principles of conduct. Just everyone walking in his own way. What would happen to our way of life? To our children? How do we both learn and teach correct principles, and then use them to make our lives better?

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  • Have you ever heard someone say something such as, "I have the right to do what I want?" Or, "I don't have to live my life based on what society thinks I should do." Or, "As long as she never finds out, what's the harm?" There are consequences to adhering to that kind of thinking, rather than acting in accordance with laws and correct spiritual principles.

  • For the purposes of this article, let's define a principle as a code of conduct based on some kind of law. Just as there are physical principles that govern our lives, such as the law of gravity, there are also spiritual laws or principles that govern our lives. The violation of those principles can be devastating. So we should lean on correct principles to help us govern our behavior. (I am someone who learned this lesson the hard way, so trust me on this one. But that's a story for another day.)

  • Defying morals

  • Defying the law of gravity comes with consequences. If we jump off of a 50-story building, it might take a few moments to realize the consequences of our decision. But we will still hit the ground. Defying spiritual laws also comes with often unintended consequences, such as broken homes or ruined lives or damaged children.

  • Ashley (names have been changed) had been married to Matt for four years. Matt was a good guy, who loved her and shared her values. Ashley had always been overweight and did not feel good about who she was. So she started going to the gym, watched what she ate and eventually dropped over 50 pounds. She looked and felt great! So far, so good. Adhering to correct physical principles allowed Ashley to improve her health.

  • But that wasn't enough for Ashley. Now that she thought she looked hot, she started flirting with men at the gym. In the beginning it seemed harmless enough. Eventually, though, she had an affair and left Matt, thinking she could do much better. Twenty years later, Matt has remarried and has a decent life and children.

  • Ashley is going on 45 now, she never married again, and she regrets not having children. She told her mother that she was afraid she'd thrown away a perfectly good husband. She's probably right.

  • Growing up, Ashley learned correct principles. But she did not choose to let those correct principles guide the way she governed her own behavior.

  • Teaching our children correct principles

  • The goal is to teach our children correct principles, not to force and control them. And just as we teach them physical principles, such as the value of not touching a hot stove, we must also teach correct spiritual principles, such as the importance of treating our neighbors the way we wish to be treated, or being loyal to our mates, or being accountable for honest behavior at work. This kind of teaching stands in marked contrast to placing the right of an individual to act in any way he wants, above the common good.

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  • Think of your home as a learning lab

  • Teaching correct principles to our children and then letting them govern themselves according to those principles, produces independent, self reliant and strong children. It can be scary sometimes, because our children will not always make the right choices.

  • But hovering over them and ensuring that they do the right thing, cripples them and makes them dependent. Try thinking of your home as a learning lab, where mistakes can be made under parental guidance. Then teach and reteach correct principles as needed, before your children leave home. Then pray that you have taught them well, so that they will correctly govern themselves.

  • Obedience to spiritual principles

  • While obedience to spiritual principles reportedly makes some people feel confined, it sure beats touching a hot stove and getting your hand burned. Rather, we should learn correct principles and wisely use them to govern our own behavior.

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Read about the power of families to seek after the one in Susan's book: Coming Home: A Mormon's Return to Faith.


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