This is the second blog in the new miniseries on positive psychology. It deals with principles. Positive psychology is that branch of psychology that deals with the positive aspects of our lives. It is a scientific approach to studying human thoughts, feelings, and behavior, with a focus on strength instead of weakness. The purpose of this discussion is to familiarize the reader with the fundamental concepts necessary to understand higher-level issues of human nature, such as morality, character, and maturation.
Webster's Dictionary provides several definitions for principle: (i) a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right and wrong and that influences your actions; (ii) a fundamental truth or theory; (iii) an idea that forms the basis of something; (iv) a law or fact of nature that explains how something works.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Therefore, we can say that principles are fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for a belief system, behavior, or reasoning chain. Here are a few examples of such codes.
Biblical principles provide guidance that comes directly from God, and therefore are a gift from God. In the New Testament, Jesus clearly defines the two primary tenets of Christianity. The first principle reveals the very purpose of human life:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment."
The second principle teaches us to have peaceful relations with others:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31)
Principles of physical sciences are natural laws that apply to different branches of physics. For example, we know of Newton's law of gravity, the principle of mass conservation in chemistry, Kepler's laws of planetary motion in astronomy, and so forth.
Principles of life sciences are natural laws that govern biological life, such as cell and gene theory, heredity, evolution, etc.
Principles in political philosophy are timeless truths that guide human societies, such as the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness enshrined in the United States' Constitution.
Principles in economics include the three natural laws stated by Adam Smith, i.e., self-interest, the law of competition, and supply and demand law.
As expected, principles also rule human relations. They are valid everywhere and anytime, they are found almost in every culture, and they never fail. These principles are also called "first-order principles" or "primary principles" because everything else is based upon them, and they serve as signposts for societal behavior. We can, therefore, say that principles are like rays of light guiding us in life.
Below are a few examples of first-order principles in human relations:
It is not hard to see that the above principles are foundational to our Christian faith.
As the father of American cinematography, Cecil B. DeMille, observed, "It is impossible for us to break a natural law. We can only break ourselves against the law." So true! When faced with unknown situations, always ask yourself, "What guiding principle should I use here?" And, if for whatever reason you feel that the principle you've selected is not working, do not question it. Instead, ask how you have applied it. Remember, principles never fail, but the way you put them in practice may not always work.
Why are principles so important? Because if we use them as the center of our character and behavior, we know for sure that we are in good hands. They will never fail us, they will come with us wherever we go, and they will be with us as long as we live. We know this to be true because we have seen the results in our spiritual lives after we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Scriptural principles will guide us as we navigate the unknowns and uncertainties of life on this earth. They will be like lights along the pathway we are destined to travel. A principled-centered life is simply the most dependable, immovable, and unshakeable foundation you can build upon, and we all need one of those. In contrast, if your life revolves around other centers, you will soon find out how shaky and shifting those centers may be, making your life the same.
Many significant historical figures, such as Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Dr. Billy Graham, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and others, lived principled-centered lives for all to see. They are good role models for us to follow. Suppose you listen to the language of contemporary community leaders, politicians, business people, diplomats, and heads of state. In that case, you will notice they all refer to the guiding principles used to reach confident decisions or chart courses of action.
HIGH-ORDER PRINCIPLES ARE LIKE SHINING
RAYS OF LIGHT THAT GUIDE YOUR LIFE
To be continued in the next post.
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