10 Commandments for a Good Life?

I’ve been pondering the ten suggestions I recently came across on www.marcandangel.com (sorry Marc, I can’t think of them as ten commandments on the basis that someone else got there first1).

1: “I am not perfect and I will not try to be”
For me this is one end of a see-saw; half of the balance I’m constantly trying to establish and maintain between not driving myself towards perfectionism on the one hand and not settling for something that just isn’t good enough on the other.

2: “I cannot, and will not try, to please everyone”
I wrote a post back in November last year that relates to this (and the previous point) reflecting on the culturally driven temptation to expect our leaders (and, in consequence, each other) to be perfect. If we depend on each other for our sense of significance then we will constantly be driving ourselves to try to please everyone else – and you only have to try to do that for a while before you begin to realise how impossible that is!

3: “I will take part in something I believe in”
If you believe life is just a random chance then it’s so easy to give in and drift but I believe it’s a precious gift and that it’s worth investing some of it in something that makes a positive difference; there’s so much more to our time here on earth than simply waiting for it to run out.

4: “I will prioritize my obligations and do important things first”
As I sit here writing this it’s one of a number of activities on my to-do-list today.. I enjoy doing it but it’s a discipline to sit and write and I’m working my way through a series of activities that, together, will contribute in making the up-coming weekend a more relaxed time to spend with Helen… so I’d better crack on!

5: “I will choose my friends wisely”
I love the idea of this, but in reality I’ve never found making friends terribly easy.. I’ve had lots of good friends, but not very many deep friends… it’s part of the joy of my life that I can honestly say that Helen, is not only my dear wife, but also my best friend.

6: “I will help others when I am able”
I love the film Pay It Forward, and the idea that we should try to do something for someone that they cannot do for themselves on the understanding that they, in turn, will do something for someone else.
Where it falls down for me in practice is that actually I can make a whole lot of people’s days just a little bit better by doing little things for them that don’t cost me very much… like letting in someone who’s waiting to join my traffic queue, or letting someone go in front of me at the checkout. Trouble is – that requires a little less self-absorption and is completely ruined if they don’t notice my little gesture of kindness and I say, “thank you” for them.

7: “I will focus on the positive”
There is a lot of focus on negativity in the culture around us but I’ve realised that it isn’t going to be changed by focussing on it…
You can’t make a room lighter by taking away some of the darkness – you can only make it lighter by introducing some light! In the same way, I think it’s pointless trying to be less negative about things otherwise you’re only ever focussing on being negative (albeit in an effort to do it less often). I like the idea of positive pressure – the idea that you increase the pressure in a contained environment so that, should any leak occur, it is a leak of something out of that contained environment rather than a leak into it of something outside. So I’m going to try to be more positive about things so that, if there is a ‘leak’ I infect the culture around me with positivity, rather than be infected by negativity.

8: “I can only be me”
The vicar of the church where I work, (Eric Delve) likes to say that when God made each on of us He took one look at us and, declaring, “One of them is enough,” threw away the ‘mould.’
I happen to believe that each one of us has the potential to uniquely reflect a distinct aspect of the character and personality of God – but even if you find that thought laughable it seems fairly clear that each one of us is so busy trying to live our own lives we have no time or inclination to be copies of each other.
It seems part of our nature to want to cluster together with people who look and think like we do and as a musician I often observe other musicians trying very hard to sound like their heroes. When a child first learns to speak it seems to be by trying to imitate the noises made around it – however it would be a very dull world indeed if we all stopped at the point where we were able to repeat what someone else just said and never made our own, personal contribution to the conversation.
Just being you is not a compromise!

9: “I will be here now”
There’s a story Jesus told reported in the Bible (Luke 12:18-21) about a rich man who decided to tear down all his barns and build bigger ones so he could gather together all his goods and then retire and enjoy life. In the story God says that this is a waste of time because, though he doesn’t know it, the rich man doesn’t have very long left in which to enjoy his worldly goods.
We need to plan for the future but also be careful not to invest so many thoughts and dreams in it that we don’t enjoy what life has to offer us today.

10: “Life never gets any better, only my perception of it does”
I actually think life does get better but I do have to agree that the way we look at it changes as we mature too – and we get to view things that used to ‘matter’ and spoil our day so much when we are younger as nothing more than minor annoyances – part of life’s ups-and-downs.

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  1. Image courtesy of www.freechristimages.org