(Note: you can receive anything that I post here in your email inbox by subscribing to “RfMemo,” my bi-weekly newsletter. If you go down to “Meta” on the right margin and click on “Register,” you can sign up to get that.)
Somebody on Quora asked me what my personal morals were for 2019, and the question intrigued me. Naturally, my personal morals are the same for 2019 as they were for 2018, 2017, 2005, 1994, and so forth. They don’t change much. Morality is universal; it arises from the character of God, which fills our universe and all universes. I just add things as I learn them, but they’re things that should have been on the list all along.
I was actually reflecting on this a few weeks ago. I’ve been walking with God for 46 years, and after all that time and all I’ve experienced, what it’s come down to is this: God expects only two things from us. The whole exercise is “Love God, and don’t be a jerk.” That’s it. There really isn’t anything else that we have to do.
Of course, I’ve just stated in my own words the same thing that Jesus said about the greatest commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (see Luke 10:25-28 and Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus echoed the words of a great Rabbi named Hillel who said, “All the rest of the laws simply explain this. Go and learn them.” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 31a.)
Just so you know: the two commands originate in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.
However, I thought it would be useful to spell out some of the explanatory details of “Don’t be a jerk,” since that’s not very specific. Also, seeing my list might help you all reflect on your own lists of important dos and don’ts, which are worth examining from time to time. I wouldn’t mind hearing from some of you regarding what you might add or take away from this list. Please feel free to send me email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So here it is: my personal moral precepts for 2019 (and 2005 and 1993, etc.) with some additional bits of wisdom for living added on. Enjoy.
(1) Don’t murder. Also, try not to hate anybody, as this leads to wanting to beat them up, which in turn leads to murder. Ask for help when you encounter people whom you really detest, even if you have good reasons to detest them.
(2) Don’t commit adultery. Also, try not to lust after anybody, as this leads to flirting, which leads to adultery. Other people are not just bodies, and their bodies are not your playground. They’re people. Treat them with respect.
(3) Don’t steal. Also, don’t covet what other people have, so you’ll never be tempted to steal. And be responsible with spending, so you won’t get into financial trouble and be tempted to steal. Be content with what you have until you’re actually able to have more.
(4) Don’t lie, shade the truth, or obscure the truth by weasel-words, ESPECIALLY when talking to yourself. Make every effort to speak the unvarnished truth, even if it’s embarrassing and reveals personal weakness. (This does not excuse unkind truths to vulnerable people; you can avoid the truth for them, if necessary. Sometimes kindness should trump truthfulness.)
(5) Keep your commitments. If you said you’d pay, pay. If you said you’d attend, attend. If you said you’d forsake all others, forsake all others. And if you can’t deliver, don’t pretend like you can; don’t make commitments you can’t keep.
(6) Be generous with the good things God gave you. They’re not just for you, they’re for everybody. That includes all your abilities and time as well as your material goods.
(7) Be considerate of the needs of others in every situation. Your own desires are not the universal good; in this world, a lot of people have to share the same space, which is easier if we aim at taking care of each other instead of just feeding our own faces.
(8) Let people be who they are, even if they’re broken somehow. Everybody has a tough life. You can suggest improvements but people don’t usually appreciate such suggestions; be sparing with advice. You can help them change if they ask for help to change.
(9) While you’re letting people be who they are, don’t control or manipulate them. Manipulation is cruel, and it’s arrogant, too. You’re not God. You have no right to control others.
(10) In fact, don’t ever be cruel, try to be kind—to humans first, but also to animals.
(11) Leave judging peoples’ final destinations to God. Be grateful that it’s not your decision.
(12) Examine first the ways that you caused the problem (whatever the problem is). That’s where you’ll find things that you can actually change. Only consider what others have done to cause the problem afterward, if at all.
(13) If you’re flopping back and forth between “is this right, or is it wrong?”, it’s wrong, and you know it. Every time. So don’t do it.
(14) Never stop learning. Seek out knowledge.
(15) Ask for help when you need help. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s stupid not to.
(16) Nobody on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at the office. Everybody wishes they’d spent more time loving people who were important to them. Take a lesson.
(17) There’s nothing wrong with doing things to benefit yourself. Just balance that with all the other stuff in this list. We all have to live.
There ya go. I’m looking forward to hearing what else you all put on your lists.
Go love God and love people, and I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the stuff I actually intended to write this week.