Sources (April 29)


“If there is but little water in the stream, it is the fault, not of the channel, but of the source” (Jerome).

OUR “SOURCES” ARE THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT DETERMINANT OF OUR LIVES. Whether we like the quality of life we have right now or not, the quality of our lives is no mere coincidence; it’s the result of a sequence of things that can be traced back to certain sources. And if there’s anything about our lives that we’d like to change, going all the way back up the line and reexamining our sources is the most productive, and responsible, thing we can do.

Although it’s true that external circumstances have a bearing on our happiness, our real quality of life is produced, not by our circumstances, but by our character. To whatever extent circumstances hurt us or help us, character hurts us or helps us even more. But our individual characters didn’t just happen to us; they’ve come, as we’ve said, from certain sources. Consider three of the most important of these.

Principles. Our principles are the ultimate sources from which our characters flow. Consider, for example, this principle: “All human beings are answerable to an objective moral law that rules the universe.” It makes a gigantic difference whether that principle is true or false. Surely all would agree that it’s important to decide whether or not a principle like that would make a good source for our thinking.

Values. Our values are the things we appreciate more than others, and here again, our decisions are important. For example, which do we like more: beauty or ugliness? Which would make a better source?

Goals. Our principles and our values usually produce some goals that we want to reach. Good lives can’t come from any source other than good goals. So it’s vital that we select goals of the highest quality.

Whatever the sources of our individual characters are, it is to be hoped that we’ve chosen these sources carefully. If we have, then these are sources, no doubt, that we believe are good. And if that’s true, then we need to value our sources and honor them. Above all, we need to live with consistent integrity to our sources — so that the excellence of “where we’re coming from” will radiate to those around us.

“. . . showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it” (Madeleine L’Engle).

Gary Henry –