I am nothing if not a creature of passion. I am passionate about my beliefs and causes, my family and friends, and I am passionate about anything that captures my interest for longer than five minutes. The euphoria of discovering new ideas, forming new connections, and sharing them with others is a high that I am all too prone to chase.
“Never put passion before principle. Even if win, you lose.” – Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid II
I watched this movie for what I am beginning to suspect was the first time Monday night, and as soon as the words left Mr. Miyagi’s mouth, I felt a moment of profound understanding.
Profound understanding? Karate Kid? Somebody was smoking something….
The simple truth is, I mistake passion for principle quite frequently. My logic goes something like this: I have principles. Principles are important. I am passionate about my principles. I am passionate about what’s important. Ergo, my passion embodies my principles.
Seeing it written down, it’s clear how IL-logical that argument is, but in my head when I’m seeing red because some bigot is spewing bullsh*t it makes perfect sense. I flex my fingers and prepare to skewer the perp with my high ideals as I drag him or her through their own pile of crap. I am in the right! My actions are just!
But are they principled?
Short answer: NO!
Long answer: While certain actions such as standing for what I believe in and defending the people and causes I care about are “good”, my principles define the way that I go about them. If I don’t act in accordance with my principles, I gain no ground with either myself or the person with whom I am interacting.
So what is a principle if not a belief? A principle is a Truth, or a Law. It is the foundation on which we build our beliefs. Many of us adhere to the principles of our religion, our culture, or our community while others adhere to principles that they have formed on their own. Some of us, most of us I would suspect, follow our own unique composition of religious, cultural, communal, and personal principles which we likely interpret in very different ways.
I confess that I hadn’t given much thought to what my principles were until I started writing this post. I had always swung by the seat of my pants and what felt right at the time, though there have been many times where even though I stood up for and defended what I believed, I later felt as though I had handled the situation wrong. On some level I knew that it was the way that I reacted, but surely the ends justified the means? I hadn’t done anything illegal or manipulative, so why did I feel guilty? Which voice was I hearing?
Hence the moment of profound understanding. . . I realized that the times when I felt guilty must have been the times that my behavior did not uphold my principles. So what are my principles?
- Do not do unto others as you would not have them do to you – I hate being treated with disrespect. To treat another like that would go against this principle, even if it were cloaked as righteous indignation. For clarification, disrespect for me involves being talked down to, being discriminated against, being lied to, and being taken advantage of.
- There are multiple sides to every story and each side must be sought out – my side, your side, Jane’s side, John’s side, etc. I will never be able to fully see another’s side, but if I don’t attempt to then I am knowingly and willingly blinding myself to Truth.
- All knowledge is worthwhile – even faulty knowledge is worthy of consideration. The more I can understand about how and why something is incorrect, the better able I am to identify it in the future.
- To love is to live, to live is to love – without love, everything is meaningless. If I don’t have the ability to do something with love, then I shouldn’t be doing it. I know that statement reeks of self-importance and false humility but I hold to it to the best of my ability. It helps that by love, I mean being able to accept that we are only human regardless of how accomplished or down-trodden we are. If I can accept myself despite my many faults, I can extend the same courtesy to others.
As I’ve already admitted, I do not always follow my principles. I get so wrapped up in defending my beliefs that I lose sight of why my beliefs exist. But when I “win” by putting passion before principle, by forgetting why my beliefs are important to me and worthy of the passion they inspire, I lose a part of myself. And I’ve spent too long finding myself to throw away pieces every other day.
Make no mistake however, when someone chooses to wage war against me and my principles, I will arm up and wage it right back. I am no martyr, to turn my other cheek. I will protect and defend with everything I have, and I won’t do it by your principles, or America’s principles, or Christianity’s principles, or feminism’s principles, but by mine.
Whose principles will you uphold?