Precepts

Our family completely enjoyed listening to the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio during our road trips recently. It is real.

It touched our hearts, made us laugh, and gave us so many things to talk about as a family: How to treat people who are different. How to deal with your own need to fit in. How to show grace and kindness to people who mistreat you. How to have courage.

It really is a magnificent read, a story told from at least five different perspectives, about a 10 year old boy with a severe facial deformity. It was powerful to listen to it together as a family; it bonded us.

Rules About Important Things

I could write about a million themes and take-aways from the book, but as a former English teacher, one of my favorite points of resonance was with Mr. Browne, the English teacher. Each month he’d share a different “precept” with the class. He defined precepts as “rules about really important things.”

He’d write the precept on the board and ask the students to copy it. During the month, they were to journal their thoughts about the precept, sifting through its meaning, truth, and relevance. By the end of the year, each student had almost a dozen precepts that they “owned” – thoughts that shaped their world-view and way of living. It was genius.

And when Mr. Browne said goodbye to them at the end of the school year, he asked them all to send him postcards with their own precepts – either copied or original. What a great way to be inspired and to keep in touch! I’m going to copy it.

I think in life there is a lot that comes at us. News, information, advertisements, events – and we have to sift through it all to assign meaning and importance. There’s also a lot swimming around inside of us and coming out of us – namely emotions, thoughts, ideas, intentions. Throughout a day or a week, it takes great effort to make sense of it all.

Some people choose to make a lot of rules for themselves in order to clarify and simplify life – everything from “no sweets ’til the weekend” to “only shop local.” But those people would admit that those aren’t rules about really important things (well, I guess it depends who you are). They are just helpful parameters to make decisions a little easier.

Make It Tangible – Write It Down

Every so often, though, we all come across a piece of wisdom or truth that is packaged so well in one sentence or phrase that we want to grab hold of it and keep it close. We want to noodle on it and figure out how it can shape, inspire, encourage, define, or clarify the things that are most important to us.

When we come across those precepts, we should write them down. Talk about them with others. Journal about them. Repeat them to ourselves. Whether it’s a quote from a book or article, something someone said, a line in a song, a verse from the Bible, or your own original, insightful thought – capture it tangibly by writing it down. Better yet, follow Mr. Browne’s advice and write it on a postcard to send to someone else and continue to spread the goodness!

What Are Your Precepts?

So, I’m just curious – what are some of those precepts that you hold dear? What principles do you choose to guide your decisions about journeying through life, raising a family, or running a business. I’d love for you to share them below or even send me on a postcard! And don’t be surprised if you receive one from me soon as well!

Oh, and by the way, for parents, I think it’s great to initiate this habit with your children, too. My kids have become attuned to finding and listening for those pieces of wisdom in what they read or hear and copying them down in a simple Mead notebook. I think they will become personal treasures as they continue to grow.

Here’s my precept for today:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

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