Principle-led Living


Principles help us navigate and make decisions.

“In Atlanta, Georgia, traffic is always an issue but rarely an excuse.”

“People resist when you want something from them but they’re open when you want something for them.”

“The one human quality you can always depend on is selfish interest.”

These are principles. I collect them… from sermons or friends or books. A few I actually made up….

“Participation without involvement breeds cynicism.”

“Whenever you find yourself arguing with the most emotion, you’re probably least convinced.”

“Intentionality, over time, leads to isolation.”

These are principles. They aren’t laws… they aren’t ALWAYS true like the law of gravity. But they’re generally true. We get them from our parents, teachers, preachers, and from ‘the street.’ We all have them, and like it or not, they’re how we navigate life.

Principles are different from values. Values are things we hold sacred… honesty for example. If one of our values is honesty, we’ll tell the truth even if it hurts us. Values aren’t situational, they’re foundational. They’re what we attach our conscience to. Values are what we stand for.

Principles are more like wisdom for living….“filters” to sift decisions through. They can predict outcomes, not without absolute certainty but with good odds over time.

Principles help us navigate life between the “do/do not” and the “do whatever.” Living like the Pharisees, totally ‘ruled by the rules’ doesn’t work. And it takes all the joy out of life. Jesus came to free us up from that. On the other hand, nihilism or anarchy or whatever you’d call living without rules doesn’t work either… for society or individuals. You end up in jail, or on the street, or as a useless blob sitting in the dark in front of a video game.

Around church people, you’ll hear about Biblical principles. Some of those come from the words of Jesus. A lot come from Proverbs, like “Kind words heal and help: cutting words wound and maim” (Prov.15:4 The Message) and “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). The Bible is a great place to find principles to live by.

What are the ‘top five’ principles that guide your life? Principles you’ve learned and live by.

Have you thought about it?

Probably should. Because you could have bought into principles that are unwise or even dangerous. For example, a lot of people believe…

“You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt me.”


“He who dies with the most toys wins.”

or even….

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”

These are principles, just selfish, lazy, short-sighted and potentially deadly ones.

So here’s our homework assignment. Come up with your “top five” principles. What principles guide you every day? Don’t clean ‘em up. Don’t lie to yourself. Just write them down. It’s easy to do, I promise.

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