Principle is Not Bound by Precedent

I have been reading a very old book titled “The Creative Process in the Individual” by Thomas Troward who lived from 1847 – 1916. In the book, he drives home the point that “principle is not bound by precedent.” In other words, the past is not always the best guide for present action and/or thought.

I think this is extremely important to understand for the following reasons:

1. Just because our mothers, fathers, and grandparents participated in a behavior that caused them pain, doesn’t mean that the cycle has to be continued. One of my pet peeves is listening to a person define their present activities and blame it on someone else. “My mother taught me to be passive-aggressive…so I am too.”  ” My parents fed me the wrong things when I was a kid and now I can’t get healthy.” “My dad was a failure and I am too.” On and on the blame game goes. “The government doesn’t allow me to do x,y,z…so I’m just stuck.” Don’t get me wrong, I have done this in my past…but one day I decided that I was sick of the blame game. Mine use to be…”my dad died when I was a kid…so I’m a feeble little thing.” To be honest, I got tired of that story and decided to move on. Action can be taken at any moment and old stories put to rest.

2. Our government did it this way in the past, so we should continue. That’s the way our forefathers wanted it. I’m not going to dive into politics, but I will say that if logic tells us that we are treating others inhumanely (even if actions were justified in the past) doesn’t mean that it is OK today. The world needs to move beyond an eye-for-an-eye mentality. On every side. At what point does humanity decide to put down their weapons, look each other in the eye and see that we are brothers and sisters and then work to create a unity?

I come from a country that prides itself on fact that it is “the best”….”the strongest”…”the boldest.” I love my country, but after traveling many places and working to understand others…I am convinced that it’s not about being “the best.” Quality of life takes many forms – there is more than one way. And our past actions as a country don’t mean that our current choices are justified. We should constantly evaluate our motives and question our tactics. Some charge that by questioning authority, this makes one a bad citizen. I and many others beg to differ.

If anyone suggests that someone is a bad citizen for being an individual…or questioning…they are using a time-old control mechanism called peer pressure/bullying. How is it that so many adults fall for a childhood trick? And isn’t a “democracy” supposed to be based on free-thought anyway?

3. One group of people is superior to another because my mommy and daddy said so. I really don’t have to say much here beyond – Thank goodness for those who fight every day for civil rights. Thank goodness there is no slavery – that women have the right to vote – and that many are waking up to the fact that gay men and women are simply people trying to do their best.

I have never been disappointed when I’ve challenged myself to talk to someone that I don’t quite understand. I once made friends with a heroine addict living on the streets of Miami. Prior to getting to know him, I had a sort of anger toward homeless people. I wondered why they would give up. I thought it weak. One day, I decided to challenge my assumptions. I saw him sitting on a lawn chair, while the other homeless folks sat on the ground. He looked up and smiled. I asked how he was doing. “I’m great,” he responded. He was an African American man in his 40s, and appeared pretty well-kept as compared to the others. Something in both of us compelled us to connect, so we started talking and he invited me to sit down next to him. I did. We then went on to enjoy two plus hours of conversation. He told me about his daughter who he hadn’t seen in years, about his life before becoming an addict, and more. At one point, both he and I began sobbing. It started when I asked him if he wanted to sing a song with me and he suggested an old church hymn that we both new from our childhoods. It was about love. I held his hand as he rocked back and forth sobbing with all of his being. As dusk set in, I knew that I had to get a move on and he began to shake a bit as he anticipated his next fix. We both said goodbye and he gave me a huge embrace. “Thank you Jennifer…thank you,” he said. And that was it. I went back to my life and he back to his. I have never looked at homeless people again the same way. Now I feel for them. I understand that they’ve fallen and don’t quite know how to get back up. I saw my own vulnerabilities in him – and he say himself in me.

Regardless of class, religion, race, country, and more…we are all just trying our best.

Thank you for reading my super long post. I believe that being bold means challenging assumptions. That just because a doctor hands us a cure-all pill, doesn’t mean it is good for us all. Or just because we were taught to believe one way, it is the end-all be-all. There is so much more than meets the eye. Just maybe it begins in the heart.

– Jen Engevik

-Project BE Bold

 

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