Rules to Live by… and Ones to Let Go

Growing up I learned many things I’ve remembered—and some I need to forget. It’s like a memory buffet. I’ll take what I need and leave the rest.

These go on my plate:

  1. Be kind to people
  2. Respect your parents
  3. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain
  4. When you stay at someone’s house, leave your room as clean as you found it
  5. Say “thank you” and “please”
  6. Avoid cursing

These I’ll skip:

  1. Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel
  2. If someone gets upset, it’s probably your fault
  3. Whatever went wrong, you need to fix it
  4. If someone does you a favor, you owe them
  5. You should be thin and pretty

Number one is important. If I can remember to be kind to everyone I encounter, it sets the tone for everything else. It’s not always easy, especially when others aren’t kind in return. But Jesus didn’t say it would be easy. He said it was the second greatest command after loving Him. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these. Matthew 12:31

Ones I really want to let go are 7-9, because they work together. The implication is I’m not allowed to share my feelings or opinions. If I do so and someone doesn’t like it, it’s my fault. Even if I said it in a respectful manner, I am wrong because they are angry. I am responsible for their reaction and must apologize.

I won’t live in this prison of approval anymore. I have as much a right to express myself as anyone else if I do it politely. If the other person gets angry or walks away, so be it. I won’t try to fix something I didn’t break.

What else should I discard? Number 10—the idea that a person’s kind gesture to me has a string attached. I must pay them back (quickly!) or I won’t have “earned” my value to them. Am I saying I won’t do something for them too? No. Perhaps I will. But if I do, it’s because it occurred to me naturally—out of love—not a sense of obligation. It’s not a contest. It’s a relationship.

Now for number 11. It seems like an outlier, doesn’t it? But it’s not. What it tells me is my worth is reliant upon my appearance, of which I have little control. This is counter to my identity as a child of the Lord Jesus Christ. He made me the way I am, in His image. My value comes from Him. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29

It also ties into the other skip items on my list, because being concerned about my appearance suggests I’m seeking approval from the world and taking on its standards instead of the Lord’s.

Some of these items may have served me in the past, but not now. I don’t need them anymore. My plate is full.