When talking about Self-Government, there are some basic things I recognize about myself and others.
Self-government is the ability to be guided by these principles using our own choice, without compulsion. Free agency, being an agent for ourselves with the freedom to choose for ourselves, is a gift everyone has been given. The use of our free agency is what determines our greatness. People who choose to be guided by principles strengthen themselves into great and noble beings. People who choose to go against principles, or only follow their guidance when it’s easy, weaken themselves. They give in to every whim, follow every fad, and are taken in by false leaders. They may find momentary happiness, but suffer life-long misery. My choices bring my consequences and I am the only one responsible for those choices. Self-government is the ultimate tool for each of us to preserve Freedom.
Some call these principles Commandments, Natural Law, or even Karma. The foundational principle in all of them is stated well by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Following the basic principles for successful human interaction may seem difficult at times, especially when emotions are left unchecked, but going against these principles can bring lasting heartache.
For example, the Ten Commandments came about as Moses was leading millions of escaped Israelites into the dessert. They had material possessions, flocks and herds, wives and children. Even though they were descendants of Jacob the Herdsman, it had been generations since any of them had lived that lifestyle. Jacob and his sons could decide where and when to graze, how to deal with the other tribes they came into contact with, and how to deal with each other. They could choose to plan for their families and herds and they were directly responsible for the consequences of those decisions. In addition, when Jacob and sons had been herdsmen, their population was significantly smaller, at most in the hundreds. Moses’ Israelites instead had been daily toiling under the rule of the Egyptian pharaohs. While they had some autonomy, their day to day activities were governed by someone else, their food came from someone else, and many of their material blessings were the result of others.
Now, if you take a people who have been conditioned to do what they’re told under the near constant watch of an armed taskmaster and then remove that watchful eye and its accompanying force or compulsion, one of two things will happen:
There are examples of both of these personalities and the results of their choices during the Exodus. Those who followed the 10 Commandments and other laws found happiness, despite passing through trials. Those who didn’t follow them found happiness to be short-lived, and sometimes even they were short-lived!
Another example is Karma. Karma is the idea of a universal law by which every act of good or evil is rewarded or punished in this life, or in some later incarnation of the soul. Good actions create positive energy and are rewarded: we hold a door for someone, they share a smile with someone else who in turn lets someone in line later in the day. Eventually those good turns come back to us when someone pays a kindness forward. Bad or evil actions create negative energy and are punished: A dad comes home from work in a foul mood and is cross with his wife. She in turn scolds the children who fight and quarrel, and one of them kicks the family dog. What could have been a return to his refuge for the father was spoiled by the negative energy he brought. He made a choice to bring the bad energy along instead of taking the time and effort to exchange it for something positive.
Self-government is our choosing to live by our core values, our foundational principles that guide our actions, even when there is no task-master present. The path to greatness, to finding and fulfilling our mission, even simply to true happiness, lies in self-government. Knowing that we have free agency and that we are responsible to behave in a certain way towards others is only the beginning. I feel that where self-government really comes into play, where it really makes a difference, is how we govern ourselves, in how we develop ourselves to find and follow our mission.
Our mission is the thing we are to do on this earth. It’s the thing that, if left undone by us, won’t be done by anyone else. Each of us has a piece of genius in us, whether it’s something we do, words we speak or a song we sing, kindness given, or something we create.
Developing that genius is a lot of work. People who love to run still have to work to do it. People who love to sing still spend hours a day perfecting their voice. Even though you love to do something, you have to work hard to find the time to do it. This is where self-government really comes in. Using our free agency to say no to things that we enjoy so that we can take the time to do things that are hard is the ultimate reward. After all, was painting the Sistene Chapel easy for Michelangelo? It made the world a better place and inspired millions, but it was hard work! How about writing the Constitution of the United States? The Framers would have been more comfortable in their homes, at least for a while, but they chose to do the hard work, the debate, the presentations, the argumentation it took to write a document that would last over 200 years to govern the largest nation in the free world.
Where can self-government lead you?
What are the foundational principles you subscribe to? Are you living them fully? Take time to ponder these questions. Read the books that have meaning for you as you do this. Talk to the people in your life you admire. Write down your foundational principles, they are your personal guidelines. Even if they are found elsewhere, the act of writing them down makes them yours. Only write down the things that you believe are foundational principles.
Where are you on the path of fulfilling your
mission? Do you feel drawn to making a
difference? What way of helping your
fellow man calls to you? Write down your
ideas and then share them with a trusted individual. Think about how you can follow that mission
and discuss it with them. Make a plan to
act on your ideas.
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