Something I think a lot about is becoming the kind of person I want to be. A lot of people spend time thinking about regret- what they could have or should have or wish they had known. But while they spend time stewing over the past, they do nothing to prevent repeating the same mistakes in the future. Thus begins a cycle of anger, resentment, embarrassment, guilt, and an echoing cry of, “why do these things always happen to poor little old me?”
Boohoo! What a terrible way to live, I have no patience for it!
No one is perfect all of the time (did I mention I sometimes lose patience?), but I try in earnest to address my faults and examine situations that go awry for potential missteps on my part. I try to be a person who is quick to understand and slow to anger, I strive to forgive and apologize without arrogance. This life is about constant change and unpredictability, the only part we can control is how we react to it in our words, actions, thoughts, and attitudes.
A few years ago I decided that I wanted to have a personal moral code that I would always measure myself against. I relate to emotion primarily through language, I love to read and write. I wanted to create a sentence or two that would encompass the basic ideals I want to live my life by. It turned out to be pretty easy for me. I often find myself thinking it in times where I am unsure of what to do, and it works equally well for minor issues as it does for major issues. I simply take a second, and think:
“If everyone in the world acted the way that you are acting in this situation, would the world be a better place or a worse place?”
I think it helps remind me that I always want to be on the side of making the world a better place. I can do that. I find watching the news on television to be depressing and intolerable. It’s filled with horrible things that are happening all over the world, all of which I have absolutely no control or influence over. Yet day after day people love to watch it, get wrapped up in the issues, and rail against whichever platform they disagree with (ditto for political blogs, tumblrs, etc.). It’s divisive, and destructive, and gets almost nothing accomplished.
No one wants to watch a news show that tells them to simply work on themselves (if everyone did that, though, I think the world would most definitely be a better place). It’s easier to feel justified about one point of view and enraged by the opposite- it is the easy way out, and unless you are a person with a huge amount of political influence, it is a total waste of time.
I don’t think the general quality of the world is actually tied up in these large sweeping political issues, I think it’s tied up in the day to day way that people relate to each other. It’s tied up in how we really live, how we treat each other, and happily that is something we can all address in ourselves!
Do we gossip? Are we judgmental, prideful, fearful, bitter, hot tempered, weak, self-absorbed, unforgiving, arrogant, or greedy? I think these human weaknesses are the root of nearly all suffering in the world.
War does not happen without pride, arrogance, and fear. Crime is frequently accompanied by greed and arrogance, and cattiness is usually an outlet for bitterness and self-absorption.
I think working backwards (not starting with the issues, but starting with ourselves) could actually change the world. I use my moral code strictly, and I apply it to nearly everything I do. Sometimes I have to stop and catch myself, one such thing happened the other day. I was chewing gum and had nowhere to throw the wrapper, there was no garbage can to be found. I briefly considered just throwing it on the ground.
Is littering a gum wrapper an “evil” act? No. But what if everyone littered when they couldn’t find a garbage can? The world would get pretty gross pretty fast. I stuck the wrapper in my pocket and moved on.
I don’t think you have to assign an actual morality to every act, in fact I try not to because I believe judging some acts as righteous and others as evil usually leads to judging people. Instead, by imagining the cumulative effect of my actions on a larger scale- I can see which choice is the better choice for me to make, regardless of what other people are saying or doing. The greatest side effect of this (when I do manage to do it successfully), is that it makes it easier and easier to not worry about other people or events beyond my control. Something about knowing that I’m doing the best I can do every day really lifts the weight off my soul.
What do you think? Do you have a moral code, a mantra, or even a set of rules you live by?
Share them in the comments!