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Earlier this month, I read an article written by one of my idols, Taylor Swift, in which she explained 30 things she's learned before she turns 30 later this year. After reading it, I thought of a list I have in the Notes app on my phone in which I continuously compile a list of moral life lessons I learn as I go through life.
In life, I have come across a wide variety of terrible people and it annoys me how they can casually walk through life without a care in the world for anybody or anything they affect. I decided I didn't want to live like them and so started to make a list of lessons to live by which I add to whenever I think of one (usually after some upsetting event).
I decided I wanted to share them, in case anybody else was struggling with trying to be a moral and fair person in this cruel and harsh world where it seems that acting badly leads to good results. I firmly believe that, in the end, if you at least try to act morally and live kindly, you will eventually live a better life than those who don't.
I counted how many lessons I have on my phone so far and the total was 22, which I thought was very fitting for a Taylor Swift-inspired article (and also because I turn 22 later this year). So here is my list of 22 lessons I try to live by (in the order I learned them).
1. Only lie to someone who won't believe the truth.
After reading my introduction about how I think it's important to live a moral life, the very first lesson I'm sharing is permitting lying. I can see why this is confusing and why it might make you think that the rest of this article will be full of contradictions and bad advice. But hear me out.
Lying is terrible. There are very few worse things in life than a liar and you should never, ever lie to anyone about anything. In fact, I am totally for the idea proposed by Immanuel Kant (more on him later), that if you are faced with a dilemma where telling the truth could do more harm than good, it is simply best to just not answer the question.
That being said, there are plenty of people I have come across in life that when they ask you a question, they are looking for a specific answer. Even when your answer is truthful, if it's not the one they're looking for then they will refuse to believe it. In most of these cases, the person will constantly keep asking you the same thing until you tell them what they want to hear. And so, if that is the case, the simple solution would be to tell them what they want in order to make them go away. If you don't believe it in your heart, then you won't come away feeling guilty. If you've told them the truth and they've refused to believe it, then they're the one lying to themself.
2. Times change, deal with it.
That first entry was a bit long. All the others from now on are shorter so don't worry!
The second life lesson I learned was that time is constantly changing. It doesn't help that I am one of those people who hates change. But change is inevitable. Everything changes. Just because something isn't the same as it was before, doesn't mean it's worse. Well in some cases, it can be, but in most cases, it's not. But whatever the outcome, we can't change it and so we just have to acknowledge it and get on with our lives, because spending too much time dwelling on why something is so different to how it was before can really mess with your mind.
3. A friend is someone you'd die for. Everyone else is an acquaintance.
Okay, so this one is a bit dramatic but let me explain. Growing up, my house was filled with a lot of arguments and fights so I never really understood that sense of family that I've seen a lot of other people have. I rely on my friends for that feeling of love and acceptance. But I've encountered far too many so-called "friends" who end up hurting me in various ways and this is probably why I'm so cautious when I meet new people. I wouldn't consider anyone my "friend" until I can picture myself in a situation where I would sacrifice my life for theirs. And I know this sounds dramatic, but that's the only way for me to differentiate between the people I can trust and the people I can't.
4. Do not screw over your friends.
On the topic of friendship and the "various ways" that I claimed people have hurt me in the past, I think that once you have established that someone is your friend, it's very important to try and preserve that friendship. Don't betray them, don't lie to them, don't do anything that could potentially cause you to lose that friend and hopefully they won't do anything like that to you. In fact, if they do then they are probably not your friend anyway.
5. Everything can be done in a nice and kind way; don't be a jerk.
I believe that everything can be done in a way which does not require you to turn into a mean person. Even if it's something that aggravates you, it doesn't mean you should allow yourself to turn into that type of person. If I remember correctly, the event which inspired this lesson was that I was helping someone do something (I can't remember what) and they kept getting more and more angry and frustrated with it. They took that anger out on me, even though I was there trying to help. That didn't feel nice and I wouldn't want anyone else to be in that position.
6. Respect those in your workplace with more experience.
This one's quite simple. I know the length that someone has been working somewhere does not affect their ability to do the job. But I do think, that if someone has been there longer than you, then you should at least show them some respect. You never know, if you're nice to them, they can teach you things that could help you progress towards a promotion!
7. If you start something, finish it.
This lesson might be due to the fact that I'm a bit stubborn, but I think if you're debating whether or not to start a task, you should only start it if you know you can finish it. Then when you do start it, you shouldn't give up. This applies to everything from finishing all the food on your plate to finishing a three-year degree despite the fact you hated it after the first week (both of these examples are based on actual real-life decisions).
8. Girls live a harder life than boys; respect all females.
Living life as a guy is physically quite easy. I can't imagine having to deal with periods, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, labour and whatever else and then, on top of that, having history teach you that you are the weaker sex and having society tell you that you don't deserve the same salary or even the same respect as your opposite gender. I think the fact that every woman has to put up with that on a daily basis is extraordinary. This is why it irritates me to the core when some men only talk about women as sexual objects or don't take into account their thoughts or feelings. Especially when you consider the fact that pretty much every woman has dealt with some form of sexual harassment and, no matter how big or small it was, it takes a significant toll on their mental health. Women go through so many things that men don't have to deal with, the least we could do is give them the respect they deserve.
9. Appreciate effort.
If someone is trying their best to do something but they're not quite succeeding, berating them is absolutely pointless. The only thing it achieves is that it irritates and upsets the person who is actually trying. If you ask someone to do something and what they do is not quite right, you should still be grateful that they put in the time and effort for you.
10. You don't have to "love" family.
No one should feel like they have to get along with someone just because they share the same blood. If you don't want to be around a specific person, the fact that they're related to you shouldn't change that. There are plenty of toxic people in my own family and I learned that I shouldn't have to put up with their judgemental opinions or negative way of living. Going back to lesson three, if you wouldn't die for them, they're not your friend and if they're not your friend, then they are definitely not your family.
11. Deontology works (in most cases).
Deontology is the ethical system that classes importance on the action rather than the consequence of the action. It says that whether an action is right or wrong is dependent on the action itself and not what becomes of it. I do believe that this makes sense because I am firmly of the opinion that if something is bad or immoral, you shouldn't do it, regardless of whether it's for "the greater good" or not.
My favourite form of Deontological Ethics is by a philosopher called Immanuel Kant. It would take far too long to explain all his thoughts on the matter but I highly recommend looking up his Categorical Imperative as those are three rules in which I think everyone should live by.
Obviously in some cases, you have to take into account the consequences of your actions. But I do believe that, in most cases, thinking with a deontological mind always works out in the end.
12. Only apologise to someone if they would apologise to you.
Apologies are an iffy subject for me. It would make more sense if I started with the next lesson instead of this one, but I wanted to order these lessons in the order I learned them in life. I wrote down this one first so here it is.
Basically, I don't think apologies make much sense (see lesson 13), but if you are in a situation where you do have to apologise, you should only do so if the other person would apologise to you if you switched shoes. In addition, if they have never apologised to you about anything, you have no right to apologise to them for anything either.
13. Apologies are for mistakes, not regrets.
This might be the most controversial lesson on this list. It is my opinion that people always mean the things they do—whether it's in the moment or not—otherwise, they wouldn't have done them. Therefore, most apologies don't actually mean anything and thus are unnecessary and invalid. Most apologies are said when someone does something and then regrets it and so they apologise, but, to me, if they were truly sorry, they wouldn't have done it in the first place.
I think the only time you should apologise is when you do something and you have absolutely no way of knowing that your actions have negatively affected someone else (or will negatively affect someone else). For example, if you open a door and didn't realise there was someone standing on the other side of it, then you should apologise. However, if someone punches you because they're angry and then feels bad about it so apologises to you later, I wouldn't see that as a legitimate apology because otherwise they wouldn't have punched you. I understand this might be confusing but I hope you understand where I'm coming from.
14. Always try to remain calm.
I completely understand that a lot of upsetting and horrible things can happen in life which can cause you to lose control. But it's always important to remain calm. I've recently discovered that the cliché thing of taking three deep breaths when I feel my emotions rising actually works, so I'd definitely recommend trying that whenever you feel you're about to lose it next. Just remember, your feelings will pass, but what you do when you're angry and out of control can have a lasting effect.
15. Never assume someone is okay with doing something before asking them.
This one is just for those annoying people who never ask you if you're okay with doing something before expecting you to do it. Most of the time, it's because they're lazy and don't want to do it themselves. On another note, if someone doesn't feel comfortable doing something, you shouldn't force them to do it.
16. If you are angry about something, do not project that anger upon people who have nothing to do with it.
I absolutely hate it when I encounter someone and they immediately snap at me because of something that has angered them earlier. When I go through my day and something upsets me, yes I will be angry on the inside but if I see someone later who has absolutely no involvement in the reason I'm angry, and who probably doesn't even know that I am, then I'm not going to snap at them or project any hostility towards them because they have done nothing to deserve it.
17. Everything you do must have a point.
I think anything anyone ever does should have a point. It must have a purpose; for example, it must change something. If it doesn't change anything significant then it doesn't have a point. In other words, if you can live well without doing it then it doesn't have a point. Things which don't have a point are pointless and shouldn't be done because it doesn't benefit anybody to do them.
18. Never tell someone how to act.
You should never directly tell someone how to act. This ruins their self-esteem. If you try and change the way someone acts, that can really damage them mentally because then they think they're not good enough. Everyone has a right to live their own life.
However, there is a loophole in this lesson. I never liked the phrase "Be Yourself" because what if "yourself" is a pedophile or a murderer. Then you most definitely should not be yourself. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but the truth is this lesson works for most people. But if you do come across a pedophile or murderer, you should definitely try to change the way they act. Or report them to the police. Whichever one works for you.
19. Have role models.
Growing up, I didn't have a lot of friends. I spent most of my free time reading football magazines or watching TV. Over time, I learned more and more about the lives of celebrities and people in the public eye. Maybe I became slightly more obsessed with some of them than others. But the ones I warmed to and loved learning about were the ones who always encouraged kindness. The ones who looked after their fans and didn't just treat them as a money source. I think it's important to have someone who you can aspire to be like and someone who you can model the way you live your life on. To be fair, the person doesn't even have to be a celebrity, just someone you admire. Because then if you come to a moral dilemma, you can always think, "What would [your role model] do?"
20. It's okay to block out toxic people.
This is a very important one. You should never, ever feel bad for blocking out the people who make you feel worthless. It's not mean to just stop talking to them if it makes you feel happier. And I don't mean just blocking them on social media. If they are constantly making you unhappy, then stop talking to them in real life as well. You don't deserve to be made unhappy by someone who doesn't see you for who you are. You are a star, don't forget it.
21. Bad people don't deserve good things to happen to them.
This one isn't really a lesson but more of a statement. There will always be bad and immoral people in the world. And it can seem that because they act the way they do, they always get what they want. And it sucks. These types of people are usually good at finding short-term happiness, but in the long-term they have nothing. It's hard not to feel jealous when you see all these good things happening to them and nothing good is happening to you. But just know that what they're getting is totally undeserved and karma will come around to bite them in the end.
22. Have faith in something... anything!
I think this is the most important lesson of them all. It is incredibly important to have faith in something, whether it's a god, a person, an idea, anything! If you have faith, that means you keep believing and that will always keep you in a positive frame of mind. Belief is the key to happiness. If you take anything away from this article, it's please, please, please have faith!