• Cecil Lewis Jr.

The Personal Principle Factor

Updated: Jan 3

There are many types of principles in our lives; legal, business, scientific, family, moral, personal, etc. Today I am writing about our personal principles. This is what I call the Personal Principle Factor (PPF). Personal principles are defined as fundamental truths that serve as the foundation for our system of belief, which influences our behavior and our chain of reasoning (Wikipedia). “Cecil-pedia” definition; our values and beliefs about what is fair and right as it relates to how we act and interact with people and situations in our life.

A person’s principles evolve over time. This starts from our childhood through our socialization in society, as we begin to form our sense of right and wrong which evolves into our value system. There are many external factors that influence the development of one’s personal principles. Your parents’ principles, your religious values, the laws of your land and your close relationships, are all examples of external influences that become a part of the development of your personal principles.

I often find myself saying, “it’s the principle”. This is a simple way of saying, this is my position or my response to a situation that is either in line with or out of line with one of my principles. A lot of the time my personal principles are related to what I consider to be fair or about respect. The personal principle factor often comes into play when there is a situation in which something just simply feels wrong to us. It may be the way our employer is treating us or how someone’s behavior has an effect on us or a situation that simply goes against our personal set of values.

You may have heard someone say or even have said yourself; “it’s not the point, it’s the principle”, “it’s not about the money, it’s the principle” or “it’s the principle of the matter” when reacting to a situation. What is complex about personal principles is that not everyone has the same set of principles. This is due to the factors I mentioned previously that influence the development of each individuals’ principles.

Over the years I have found that most of the people who you would consider to be a part of your inner circle (family and close friends) generally share a similar set of values and principles. I am not sure how this occurs. I suppose it is because we are more comfortable and drawn to people who share similar beliefs and convictions. I doubt the pastor of your church has a criminal as a best friend. Moreover, I doubt that someone who is a known liar or con artist is hanging out with a person who values honesty and integrity. We seemingly gravitate to people with similar values.

What kind of person do you consider yourself to be? Answering this requires a bit of self-examination and honesty. I think most people would consider themselves good people (especially if you are reading this blog). Not many people would answer this question by saying, I am an evil person that enjoys treating others badly or unfairly unless you are Charles Manson or some other total whack job.

I will answer my own question:

I feel that I am generally a nice and friendly guy. I am a good friend. I treat others in a way I would like to be treated. I consider myself to be generous to those I love. I try to operate my life based on being fair and respectful and “doing the right thing”. (Some say WWJD? – What would Jesus do? - I kind of go with WWED? What would Elvis do? I am not sure how this is working out, I will come back to you that)

I come with a laundry list of hang-ups and issues, but I do work on these areas of my life striving to be a little better every day. Generally, I think a lot of people would answer this question similarly (except the Elvis part) and most people try to be good, fair and respectful. We are not perfect, but at the very least we have the desire to have a good set of personal principles.

I wish I had understood the personal principle more when I was younger. There are a couple of my personality traits that tie into this topic, that have hurt me over the years. You see, I am a person who tries to avoid or minimize conflict and I “used” to operate on the premise that people are generally honest and mean well.

Unfortunately, the combination of these traits is not always good. First, it is impossible to completely avoid conflict in life and in the end whatever we are avoiding will come out at some point (and possibly not in a good way). Additionally, when trying to avoid conflict or being put in an uncomfortable situation, you can fall into the ‘let’s keep everybody happy syndrome”. Living your life in this manner can put you in a situation of disregarding your personal principles in exchange for conflict avoidance. Secondly, people in your life that know you operate from a point of trust and that you like to avoid conflict can easily put you in a place of being taken advantage of.

There are many situations that I can recall in the past and even in the present that have infringed on my personal principle factor. My choice to not speak up or not to change the situation left me feeling bad and taken advantage by friends, family, colleagues, employers and the like. Over time feeling taken advantage of can lead you to a place that you trust no one (I’m still working on that one). Has this ever happened to you?

Standing up for your personal principles does not have to be done in conflict or anger. You must approach the situation to first accept that these are "YOUR" personal principles. The persons or the situation that is challenging or infringing on your personal principles may not be aware of your principles and most likely do not share the same personal principles.

I know we would like to think that our personal principles are completely right, and we cannot understand why the rest of the world has not reached our level of understanding about what is right and what is fair, (I will pray for you to find my way). In all seriousness, people who do not share our same values are not wrong, bad or insensitive. You simply need to understand that what might be important to you, is not important to them. KEY POINT: in the case that someone is fully aware of your personal principles and they choose not to respect them; you need to choose how much influence or how much involvement they have in your life (if any).

Believe me, there are a lot of “takers” out there. “Life Is Full of Takers” (this is a forthcoming blog, stay tuned). These are the people who have no value for your principles and often have no principles of their own. They operate under the premise that the world is all about them, the world is there to serve them and take only what is in it for them and give little to nothing back. When you find these people (RUN), do NOT play into their hand. You may get burned a couple of times, but if you continue to be burned, that is 100% your own fault or stupidity. Like a child putting his hand on a hot stove, the pain experienced that one time is typically the assurance he will not do it again.

You may want to give the Personal Principle Factor a try. Stand for, voice, share and uphold your principles on the things that matter to you. Keep in mind, no one must agree with your values or personal principles, they only need to respect them and not take advantage of them. In turn, you must respect their principles just the same.

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