Matters of Principle

This afternoon, my daughter commented how much she can see the difference between herself and many of her peers, now that she is a senior in high school with only a couple months left until graduation. She has always been a hard-working student and although she’s tired of school, sick of the work involved, and ready to move on, she is still plugging away, even when others aren’t. Yes, “senioritis” is in full-swing and it’s so hard not to give in! She is and always has been the type of person who, regardless of the circumstances, words or actions of people around her, has chosen to take the high road.

She also told me about a recent incident where a teacher incorrectly graded something on a test she’d taken and she went to her and reported it. One of her classmates asked why would she do that and lose the extra points. She told him, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” He then admitted, somewhat begrudgingly, that she was right. I told her that hearing her say that makes me so proud I almost want to cry. I commented that she is a young woman of principle, having a strong moral compass that points to God and what is right. She told me part of why she is like that. In third grade, she had a teacher that incorrectly marked as correct several answers on a test. She went to the teacher and pointed out the grading errors and because she was honest, her teacher rewarded her by not reducing her grade. She said that lesson stuck with her and even though she has had incorrectly graded schoolwork grades lowered due to her honesty in bringing the error to the attention of the teacher, she felt it was the right thing to do and did it, regardless of whether the benefit she had from the false, higher grade would be taken away. Being honest, regardless of consequences: it’s a matter of principle.

If only more people would do things out of principle, rather than popularity or selfishness. Imagine what our world (and government!) could be like. A principle is not a selfish, wishy-washy, feel-good, heat-of-the-moment thing that an action or statement is based on. It is this: [a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. “the basic principles of Christianity”]

Being honest is a matter of principle. Keeping your word, something that was once considered trustworthy based simply on a verbal agreement and maybe a handshake, is a matter of principle. Helping others who need it, regardless of whether you like them or not, is a matter of principle. Realizing you’ve not been charged for something or incorrectly charged, going back into the store, and telling them, is a matter of principle. (I’ve actually had people profusely thank me for my honesty, perhaps because their mistake could have caused a problem with their job.) Not being wasteful, even though you may have an abundance of something, is a matter of principle. Treating someone with dignity and respect, regardless of how they treat you, is a matter of principle. Continuing to do your job to the best of your ability even though you have given your notice, is a matter of principle. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

We brought our children up as best we could, attempting to instill in them good values, a good work ethic, to do and say what is right, no matter what the situation, surroundings, or consequences might be, and to love and honor God. I reminded my daughter, today, that I used to tell her and her brother that it’s what you do when no one is watching that matters most and is a true reflection of your character. Even though no one may witness it or care about it, God sees it and, I said to her today, was probably smiling down on her at that moment. I only hope that more people in our world, as screwed up as we have made it, will have the blessings of smiles from God because they’ve done the right thing, out of principle. What it boils down to is this: loving others more than ourselves and honoring God with our words and actions. If we do that, what a better place our world will be.

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”  Thomas Jefferson


About rebelwife

New England wife of a Southern man relocated back to Alabama.
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