Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Importance of Principles In The Life Of A Mature Person
[Today's column is given over to one of my favorite, but now defunct publications--The Royal Bank Letter--for a few thoughts about the importance of "principles." Enjoy!]
The mature person need not be a confirmed conformist. He may be a rugged individualist, but he will be as rugged in his adherence to basic principles as he is in self-reliance. He will recognize, but he will not be afraid of, the fact that there are three great questions in life which he must answer over and over again: is it right or wrong? is it true or false? is it beautiful or ugly?
In answering these questions a man will find principles of far more value to him than a library of books, or a den decorated with diplomas. The principles contribute to his maturity by enlarging his thinking, by helping him to avoid confusion, by rescuing him from prolonged debate. They give him a base for decision and action. They are like the north star, the compass and the lighthouse to a sailor: they keep him on his course despite winds and current and weather.
Some people confuse principles with rules. A principle is something inside one; a rule is an outward restriction. To obey a principle you have to use your mental and moral powers; to obey a rule you have only to do what the rule says. Dr. Frank Crane pointed the difference neatly: "A rule supports us by the arm-pits over life's mountain passes; a principle makes us surefooted."
“On Being a Mature Person,” Royal Bank Letter, 37, no. 12 (December 1956), p. 3.