Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
Sunday, April 16, 2000

Ten important principles for living

The US Army has made popular the slogan, "Be the best that you can be." In that spirit I want to propose ten principles, not commandments, that can help any of us become the best that we can be. Some of these principles may already be operational in your life. So I shall be pleased if you find one or two which could become helpful in your thinking and your living.

One, live your life in chapters. The rings in a tree tell us the story of that tree. Each ring is a chapter of sorts. In reading a book I often look ahead to find out the length of the chapter I am reading. In life we all have times of transition, pain, and change. We cannot always choose the circumstances of our lives, but we can choose to put down a period and conclude some experience. We can put an end to one thing and begin something new. We may have a chapter of discouragement, but we can decide that it is over and begin a new chapter of celebration.

Two, make progress, not perfection, your goal. Refuse to burden yourself with the demand for perfection in everything. Instead, aim to make a little progress each day, and be at peace about your imperfections. Living as a "perfectionist" is not good for yourself, your family, or your friends.

Three, learn to celebrate "excellent" mistakes. You will make mistakes; we all do. But when you make one, especially a big one, recognize it as being so excellent that you want to remember not to make it again. To celebrate it means to inject a little humor into your guilt so that you can laugh at yourself and invite others involved to laugh with you. Such celebration helps you emerge as the victor instead of the victim.

Four, eliminate "if only" from your vocabulary. When we indulge in the use of "if onlys," we are simply trying to dodge our responsibility for a problem. Decide never again to begin a sentence with "if only." Substitute the word, "because." Hereís an example:

"Because I am in charge of my life, I will not allow this problem to throw me."

Five, refuse to blame other people for your problems. How you react to what other people do and say is more important than what they do and say. You cannot control what other people do; you can decide how you will respond to their behavior. Accept the fact that sometimes you are your own biggest problem, so give other people a break and work on yourself.

Six, accept the imperfections of other people. Doing this will help you not to blame them when things go wrong. Take for granted what is obvious. Because other people are like you and me, then will sometimes say things that are insensitive and stupid. Do others the same favor you do for yourself: accept the fact that we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. When others do not measure up to your expectations, remember this and relax. It is perfectly alright to be wrong sometimes.

Seven, live no day without laughter. Humor is so important that we must look for it constantly. If you are having a really bad day, find something funny you can share with others to get a good laugh. Wait until next week to unload your troubles on those around you. Here is an example of what I mean:

A grandmother was sick and in bed. Her five-year-old grandson fixed her a cup of coffee. It tasted awful but she forced it down because she loved the boy. As she was sipping the last of the cup, she noticed two little green plastic soldiers in the bottom of her cup. "Why on earth are these things in my coffee," she asked with exasperation. "You know, grandmother," he said, "itís like on TV -- Ďthe best part of waking up is soldiers in your cupí!"

Eight, smile and move on when people rain on your parade. There is always somebody around who feels compelled to put a damper on anything you say. Explain that you bought something at a bargain and someone will say that you paid far too much for it. In this situation your best response is a smile. Move on and forget it. Donít let the "wet blanket" crowd spoil your fun -- or your attitude.

Nine, if you are prone to fuss a lot, stop complaining. It is a choice you can make so do it. Think about this: nobody ever wakes up in the morning and says, "Boy, I sure hope I run into somebody today who is complaining." Instead people would rather not run into you if you are constantly fussing about something. So do yourself a big favor and stop fussing so much.

Ten, when the bottom falls out of your life, pray for spring. Remember that winter doesnít last forever. Bad times, winter times, come to us all. But things have a way of changing, like the seasons of the year. When it is wintertime in your life, hang on, for spring will come!

So there you have it -- ten principles that can help you be the best that you can be. They are not easy principles to live by, but I know they can help because daily they are helping me.