Your Choice of Principles
ARE you a person of principle? Or do you consider ethics to be a bit old-fashioned? The fact is, everyone is guided by principles of some sort, which he or she believes are important. According to The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, a principle can be defined as “a personal code of right action.” Principles influence our decisions and determine the direction we take in life. Principles can act like a compass.
For instance, Jesus urged his followers to keep the Golden Rule, found at Matthew 7:12: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” Followers of Confucius observe the principles of li and jen, which address such qualities as kindness, humility, respect, and loyalty. Even people who are not religious have some priorities or guidelines that determine their conduct.
Principles of What Sort?
We do well to bear in mind, however, that principles may be either good or bad. For example, an increasing number of people are motivated by what, for the last decade or so, has been identified as me-ism. Though many may not know the term or may feel that it does not apply to them, me-ism is a principle by default, that is, a code of conduct that many resort to as they abandon high standards of behavior. Whether identified by that term or not, me-ism is a manifestation of selfishness, often accompanied by mindless materialism. “We have just two principles,” claimed a TV executive in China. “One is satisfying demand. The other is making money.”
Me-ism can act like a magnet. And how does a magnet affect a compass? When the two are side by side, the compass needle gets misdirected. In the same way, me-ism can throw a person’s moral compass, or code of right behavior, into confusion by making everything subordinate to the desires of the person.
Would it surprise you to learn that me-ism is not a modern phenomenon? This approach to life found its origin in the garden of Eden when our first parents abandoned the standard of behavior laid down by our Creator. That altered their moral compass. As descendants of Adam and Eve, humans are troubled with the same approach to life, more recently labeled “me-ism.”—Genesis 3:6-8, 12.
The spread of that attitude is particularly observable during what Bible prophecy calls “the last days,” marked by “critical times hard to deal with.” Many people are “lovers of themselves.” Small wonder that we find ourselves under pressure to copy the me-first approach.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Perhaps you find yourself agreeing with a youth named Olaf who wrote to a European branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “It is very hard to remain morally upright, especially for us young ones. Please keep reminding us of the necessity to stick to Bible principles.”
Olaf reflected a perceptive view. Godly principles can help us—young or old—to keep to high standards of behavior. They can also enable us to resist me-ism, whether labeled that or not. If you would like to learn more about how Bible principles can really help you, kindly consider the next article.
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Many people today show no regard for the needs of others