By RICHARD BROOKS, Oakmont Presbyterian Church
Once a year we pause to celebrate our fathers. It is a time to remember the character and virtues that formed our fathers’ lives and the example they set for us to emulate.
Although our celebration is a one–day-a-year event, the people we celebrate spent a lifetime of commitment and courage to make these accolades authentic. My father’s life of hard work and honest devotion to family led him to offer this advice:
There is a long list of things to do, and that should be done for every life. In fact, most people will at times grow weary of the list. Especially burdensome are those lists imposed upon us by others. But there is really only one principle that must be remembered.
As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: “Above all else, to thine own self be true.” Above both immediate and strategic goals in life, be true to yourself. This is a simple yet complex principle to maintain. The reward for allegiance to this motto will be a fulfilling and meaningful life.
This begins with understanding who you are. A good life begins with self-examination. What has God given you? In time, talents, and opportunities, what does God offer the world through your existence?
It is equally important to know your own limitations. Assess realistically your characteristics that might be negative and offensive. These are areas where you will want to improve. You should not necessarily avoid these. Rather, know your limitations when working in these areas of life.
Self-examination naturally evolves into the question of what kind of person you want to become, and which values will take you there. Think about the characteristics you admire in others and the traits you want to emulate. Take time to list these characteristics and prioritize them by importance. This diligence will set you apart and count you among the few who examine life thoroughly and make life worth living.
The Greek philosopher Socrates pointed out, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” It is only when we grapple with the issues of life and struggle to understand it that life’s fullest meaning and definition takes shape.
Lifestyles and life values are inherited from family and culture. They are also taught by social and institutional traditions. You need not be captive to that which is given you by inheritance and tradition. Neither should you reject outright the mores passed down. However, it is incumbent upon you to evaluate those offered and decide which you accept as valid.
After years of thoughtful reflection and correction, my guideposts for worthy living have become to live a life of of health, to live life deliberately, to live a life of truth and to live a life of love.
Keep things in their proper order. You are a human-being, not a human-doing. Therefore, remember that your first priority is to “Know yourself, be yourself, and fear not.”