Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
My friend and mentor Steve Goodier has a weekly newsletter called “Life Support System” that I subscribe to and receive by email each week. The purpose of this weekly newsletter is to provide some positive food for thought and encouragement in our daily lives. This week with his permission, I would like to share with you Steve’s article dated Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014.
“Are you using it?
It’s said that your greatest power is your power to choose. Do you use that power?
Benjamin Franklin, one of the great Founding Fathers of the United States, did something quite remarkable early in his adult life. At age 20, he was keenly aware of so-called character defects that hindered him. Franklin noticed that he had difficulty getting along with people. He tended to argue too much. He had trouble making and keeping friends. The list continued.
Franklin wanted to do something about it. So he made a choice. He chose to examine his own personality and make a list of what he considered undesirable personality traits. Then he chose 13 virtues he wanted to enhance in his life, each one designed to help him become a better person. They were:
—To be temperate, especially in the consumption of food and alcohol.
—To practice silence and to speak only words that benefit others.
—To live an orderly life.
—To resolutely do what ought to be done.
—To practice frugality.
—To work diligently and manage time well.
—To be sincere and honest.
—To do what is right and just.
—To be moderate in all things.
—To practice cleanliness.
—To remain tranquil and calm, particularly in situations that cannot be avoided.
—To practice sexual constraint.
—To learn humility by imitating the figures of Jesus and Socrates.
(He added that last one at the suggestion of a friend who noted that he might be too conceited.)
It was New Year’s Day. Franklin finished his list and determined to work on each virtue for a week. He did this for an entire year, spending four weeks total on each, until he developed new habits.
Franklin was known for one of the finest personalities in America. People looked up to him and admired him. Later in his life, when the colonies needed help from France, they sent Franklin. The French liked him and gave him what he wanted. And it all began with his deciding to use his greatest power — his power to choose. When he chose to make needed life changes, everything was different.”
By Steve Goodier -http://www.LifeSupportSystem.com
I have been reading a lot of poetry the last few weeks. Music and poetry seem to help center me when I find myself off balance.
There is a poem by Taylor Mali that has become one of my favorites about the power of choice. It’s titled “Like Lilly Like Wilson,” and it contains several lines that highlight the importance of choice — even if it means to change one’s perspective:
…Changing your mind is one of the best ways
of finding out whether or not you still have one.
Or even that minds are like parachutes,
that it doesn’t matter what you pack
them with, so long as they open
at the right time.
The Psalms are also a good place to find both poetry and music. Psalm 133 has been buzzing around in my head for the last few days. It’s a song David wrote about living in harmony.
In Psalm 133 the Psalmist David summarizes the power of choice, whether you are an eighth grader or the president of the United States:
How good and pleasant it is
when brothers and sisters (choose) live together in harmony!
It is like fine oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down Aaron’s beard
onto his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon[a]
falling on the mountains of Zion.
For there the LORD has appointed the blessing-
life forevermore. Psalm 133
Will you choose to use your greatest power? Whether or not you change history, you will certainly change your future.
Rev. Paulsen is pastor at Tooele United Methodist Church.