Principle Vs Practice

“Dallas Willard says we always live what we believe, we just don’t always live what we profess we believe.”

From The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Authenticity matters to me, and I believe that being true to who we are and what we believe is our calling. We do that by connecting who we are with how we live. In my work as a speaker, writer, and coach, that is what I endeavor to help others do, and in my own life that is what I strive to do as well. It’s good work. It is also, however, hard work. Very hard work.

You would think that a dog wouldn’t be able to assist us in learning to be true to who we are and what we believe, but once again, Gracie-the-chocolate-labradoodle has proven her Yoda-like ability to uncover our blind spots and areas still in need of work. In helping her become her best and truest curly haired, four legged girl, we wanted to teach her good canine etiquette when walking across any kind of threshold. Bottom line? The human always goes first. Always. This isn’t just about teaching her good manners, it is also about keeping us two-legged types safe. Whether walking through a doorway or gate, getting out of a car or going down the stairs, if she bolts ahead, the human in the equation is at risk. Think broken hip, twisted ankle, sprained knee, dislocated shoulder, or concussion. We have concrete floors in our home, and just one fall could change the course of someone’s health history, so we committed to being consistent in how we approached any threshold. If she got ahead of us, back she would come, and we’d try it again.

We’ve decided that I’m the Alpha of the pack, which means that I do the majority of the training, and this particular issue has always been front and center on my radar screen. It didn’t, however, always seem to be front and center for Tom, as he would often not notice when she would barge ahead of him down the stairs or through a door. When I (less than gently) pointed this out to him, he replied that he agreed with the idea in principle, but didn’t always remember (aka choose) to put it into practice. The thing is, Gracie’s a dog, and as smart as she is, principles don’t matter to her. The only way she knows who we are (the ones in charge) and what we believe (the human always goes first) is by what we practice. 

I’ve promised Tom that I will only throw him under the bus if I am willing to crawl under there with him. Front and center on Tom’s radar screen is the commitment to the principle of not letting food spoil. In practice that means always putting ice in the cooler when bringing groceries home from the store, and always putting the food out on the counter back in the refrigerator promptly. He not only preaches it (gently), he practices it. Me? I think it’s a great idea, and I agree with it in principle, but don’t always remember (aka choose) to put it into practice, but like Gracie, the leftover pork loin or package of chicken thighs don’t care about the principle, only the practice.

In truth, we humans are no different. Whether as parents, partners, politicians, pastors, colleagues, managers,  or friends, people know who we are and what we believe not by what we profess, but only by what we practice.

One of the principles Tom and I share is that we are one another’s priorities, and so, he is being diligent to go ahead of Gracie, and I am being diligent to keep our food from spoiling. In other words, we’re practicing putting our money where our bark is.