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Life Statement

How we live our lives makes a statement about who we are and who we aspire to be. It is a statement of what our values are and what we really believe is important. Think about the preceding!  Who are you really?  What you say is irrelevant, as is the church you attend, the clubs you belong to, etc.  How do you currently live your life? What really matters to you are those things which you are doing right now, not the things that you plan to do some day, or the person you plan to be some day.

  Of course what you are doing right now may be part of a long term plan to achieve your goals, but how much of what you do is really focused on those goals rather than just maintaining your current day-to-day life style?

The statement your life makes applies to every aspect of life large or small, whether it is giving your dog the care, attention and training it needs, or taking the time to learn the issues behind a war in order to work towards ending it. Over the years I have met many people who appear to believe that what they say is all that matters and how they live is irrelevant, even though, like most of us, they (correctly) judge the character and beliefs of others based on their actions, not their words. One person even tried to argue the point with me claiming I should believe what they said, regardless of how they acted, though they couldn't actually tell me why I should believe what they said when their actions said something entirely different. Far too many of us claim to believe one thing or another, but then live a life that contradicts those claims. Whether you claim to be a "Christian" while demanding that we execute murderers, "enemy" soldiers, child molesters, etc. (do the words "thou shalt not kill" ring a bell?), or an environmentalist who drives alone in a monster size SUV to a meeting to save spotted owls. There are a couple of words commonly used to describe these behaviors: liar and hypocrite.  There will always be cases where some of our contradictory claims and behaviors are probably justified, and we all make compromises when our different beliefs come into conflict; however, if there are too many contradictions in our lives, how can we claim to actually believe in anything? Of course others do not know all of our particular circumstances and may pass judgment on us (justified or not) based on what they see. More importantly, in my personal experience, the further a person's life and behaviors are from their actual beliefs, the more stressed out and unhappy they are. A large part of the problem comes about when we hold one or more strong beliefs that collide with other strong beliefs. An example of this would be if you were to make a promise to one friend and at a later date realize that keeping this promise will require you to break a promise to another friend. If keeping your word is a significant part of who you are, then you are in trouble at this point.  Another example is believing that we need to take much better care of the planet while being married to someone who doesn't.  Do you give up your marriage or the planet?

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Mahatma Gandhi
Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 - 1948)

Dealing with these issues can be difficult, possibly leading to sleepless nights, ulcers, weight gain, ruined relationships, etc. The best course of action I have found to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place is:

  • Don't make promises (some people say don't make promises you can't keep, but how can you be sure?), instead indicate your intention to perform some action and do your best to live up to the intention. 
  • Don't make compromises on anything that really matters to you.  Many people will probably object to this one, but the fact is that compromise requires hypocrisy.  If someone wanted to kill 100 babies, would you compromise by allowing them to kill 50?
  • Before taking any significant action, ask yourself if this is something you might be ashamed for friends or relatives to know about.

Ultimately, it comes down to living as who you really are, don't pretend to be someone else and do your best to prevent your values from ever coming into conflict. Do these two things and you will likely have a much happier, saner life, and in my view, equally importantly, your "Life Statement" will actually mean something.