Recently I have run across a number of sources providing “ethics for living.” They offer different numbers and slightly different suggestions but all are basically the same. William Arthur Ward, one of America’s most quoted writers of inspirational maxims, offers six.

Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “a set of moral principles.” Among those principles that provide good guidance are the following.

  • LISTEN before you speak

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It has been said that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is to remind us that listening is more important than speaking. Jane Blaufus, author, speaker and Catalyst for Courageous Conversations, says being “polished, poised, well spoken, or practiced” is important if a person is to be a successful public speaker. However, she says “one of the key skills I believe speakers need to master in order to be successful is to know how to listen effectively.”

The Bible offers this advice: “It is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry” (James 1;19 TLB).  I have often heard the suggestion that when you listen, you earn the right to speak and be heard.

  •  EARN before you spend

Human beings are hardwired to want things and to want them now! This desire (demand) to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment is powerful. Neil Patel, entrepreneur and online reminds us that “the ‘pleasure principle’ is basically the driving force that compels human beings to gratify their needs, wants, and urges. When we don’t get fulfillment, our psychological response is anxiety or tension.”

The desire to fulfill basic needs to breathe, eat, or drink can be essential and beneficial. But when the “need” is the latest gadget or some other cool new product, the result can be detrimental, not only emotionally but also financial.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson advised “Never spend money before you earn it.”

Staffan Jacobs, writing in Catholic Stand, states, “Debt is the single biggest form of instant gratification in our society today. (And) the problem isn’t stagnant income, nor is it inflation and the rising cost of living. The problem is instant gratification and the attitude that ‘I can just pay for it later,’ which is basically the same as ‘I’d rather pay more than its actual value because I want it now and I don’t have the cash to pay for it now’.”

  • THINK before you act

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Everyone has heard that it is wise to “look before you leap.” Spontaneity is a good thing but acting without thinking it through first can sometimes lead to unpleasant results. Jens Ludwig and Anuj Shah, University of Chicago: “Research has shown that most human behavior occurs intuitively and automatically, with little deliberate thought or consideration for long-term consequences or benefits.” 

Author Kamand Kojouri suggests that you should always ask yourself, “What will happen if I say nothing?” Or do nothing? John Wesley, a religious reformer of the 18th century and the founder of the Methodist movement, provided three simple rules to guide the lives of his followers. The first of these was: Do No Harm. Whether acting or refraining from action, it is wise to think first.

  • TRY before you quit

Nothing Is Over Until You Stop Trying

It has been said, “Think you can; think you can’t. Either way you will probably be right.” I think it is true quitters never win and winners never quit.

Recently I was visiting a 95 year-old woman in a rehab facility where she was recovering from a fall. She had been away from home and her normal routine for several weeks and the physical therapists were working her hard every day. I asked how she was responding to all of this and she said, “You have to keep on keeping on.”

  • BELIEVE before you pray

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Jesus said, “When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for” (Mark 11:24). One writer says that “believing takes the emphasis off of prayer itself, and puts the emphasis entirely on God Himself. It is all about God and God’s faithfulness. The Bible does not teach is to rely on prayer alone. It teaches us to rely on God.”

  • LIVE before you die

A couple of weeks ago I talked with my cousin, Carlton. He and his wife had just returned from a several months around the world cruise. He mentioned a friend who often was among those who travel with them.  He related how this friend recently told him of his travel plans for next year. And the next. And 2020. Oh, did I tell you- the friend is 101 years-old.

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Frank Sinatra sang, “I’m gonna live till I die! I’m gonna laugh ‘stead of cry. I’m gonna take the town and turn it upside down. I’m gonna live, live, live until I die.”

Jesus said, I came so that you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of” (John 10:10).

There is no simple formula for rich and full living but these six principles are a good start.

Jamie Jenkins