Provision #660: Eleven Commandments

Laser Provision

After four months of comparing and contrasting seven different sets of Ten Commandments, it’s time to bring this series to a close. So today I present my top Eleven Commandments or Guidelines for Living, one right after another. If you’ve been reading along, then these will be familiar to you. If you are joining us now, for the first time, then you will get four months of Provisions in one single dose. Either way, I hope you will find this summary to be both helpful and inspirational. I even add a few new pieces that haven’t come before. Enjoy!

LifeTrek Provision

We’ve taken four months to review Guidelines for Living based upon seven different sets of Ten Commandments. These sets range from the most ancient, dating back almost 3,500 years to the time of the Hebrew prophet Moses, to the most modern generated by thinkers and polls in the past decade. Notwithstanding the wide divergence of history and culture, we found many commonalities of perspective and concern.

Although we have certainly not exhausted what these various lists have to teach us, I want to bring this series to a close with a summary of the Eleven Commandments that we have covered so far. Eleven Commandments is a little like a Baker’s Dozen • you get an extra commandment at no extra charge. How good is that! I present them here in a slightly different order and with slightly different headings than when I wrote about them in the first place, divided between the things we are called to nurture and the things we are called to be. I hope you will appreciate the final arrangement.

  1. Nurture Life. The original Ten Commandments puts this quite simply: “Do not kill.” What a different world this would be if everyone were to observe this fundamental commandment from the cradle to the grave. Vegans would extend this commandment all the way to animals, which would probably be better for the planet in the long run. One doesn’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian, however, to imagine what life might be like if people were to just stop killing other people. Life would change radically for the better. Military spending could be redirected to human needs. Negotiation would take the place of violation for resolving human conflicts. I know this sounds unrealistic and utopian, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. In so far as it is in your capacity to do so, nurture life.
  2. Nurture Children. Nurturing life starts with the most vulnerable, especially children. Unless children are loved and cared for unconditionally, they will grow into the spiral violence that we see all around us. What people experience in our lives as children effects and often finds its way into our lives as adults. Apart from loving homes that nurture the needs of children, parents, and all significant others, apart from homes that are free from coercion, abuse, exploitation, and violence, we can hardly hope to create a better world together.
  3. Nurture Well Being. Nurturing life also means taking care of our own health and well being. It’s not selfish to keep ourselves fit. It’s what enables us to keep up our energy so that we can do for ourselves and for others. To paraphrase the airlines, nurturing our well being is like putting on our own oxygen mask before assisting others to put on theirs. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we may not be much good for anyone else. So what goes into well being? You know the drill if you’ve been reading Provisions for any length of time: healthy eating, exercise, and recovery regimens, along with a sense of purpose, point us in the right direction. For more info, visit
  4. Nurture Ownership. An early mentor in my life, the Rev. Glenn “Tex” Evans, used to say that people need only four things: to be loved, to belong, to contribute, and to own something. To illustrate the importance of ownership, he told a personal story about growing up poor, such that everything he owned could be put in a shoebox. They were simple things, like a photograph and a set of jacks. But that box meant the world to him, and when someone got into it, he was devastated. That story has always stayed with me. All people, no matter how poor, need to own things and the rest of us need to respect those things. “Do not steal,” is one way to express that sentiment. Nurture ownership takes it one step further.
  5. Nurture Planet Earth. Although some may understand ownership in terms of entitlement, but I prefer to understand it in terms of stewardship. As temporary residents, our job is to care for planet earth and to leave the place better than we found it. Just as we are not to commit acts of violence against children or other people, we are also not to commit acts of violence against the environment. Spaceship earth is, after all, the only one we’ve got and it’s up to us to keep it in good working order. Yet our planet is straining under the weight of over-consumption and over-production due both to individual decisions and global policies. It is not too late to turn things around, but we must rapidly do more than we have been when it comes to green practices on every level.
  6. Be Fair. Glenn Beck made the news this past week when he slammed Christian leaders, churches, and denominations over their promotion of “social justice” and “economic justice.” According to Beck, such words are code words for communism and fascism. “Look for those words on your church website,” he said, “and if you find them, run as fast as you can.” I beg to differ. Such words are essential guidelines for living, as we seek to be fair in our dealings with others. Fairness does not mean that everyone will own no more than anyone else (communism) and they do not mean that the government will decide who gets what (fascism). It rather means that all people will have their basic needs met as well as the opportunity to satisfy all their other needs as well. It’s important for us to be fair.
  7. Be Honest. It’s also important for us to be honest, in at least two senses: avoid lying and speak truthfully. Lying contributes to all manner of conflict and consternation, as people seek to cover their tracks and the tracks of others. When communications lack integrity, trust and civility are breached. Looking the other way compounds the problem. Sometimes we don’t have to say anything in order to compromise the truth. Speaking up and speaking out, with honest observations as to what is going on, contributes to a sense of shared reality and invites people to work through their perceptions and understandings.
  8. Be Empathetic. Empathy is not the same thing as pity or sympathy. Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone or sharing their emotion. Empathy is a respectful understanding of someone’s experience (including our own). Until and unless we come to appreciate the underlying needs that are motivating human behavior, there’s no way to avoid being critical, judgmental, condescending, or antagonistic. In other words, without empathy we are contributing to the violence of the world. With empathy, we are cultivating and contributing compassion. Being empathetic means that we give people the benefit of the doubt as we seek to “walk in their shoes.” When we see as they see we all see better together.
  9. Be Forgiving. Sometimes, even with empathy, we bump into people and situations that disappoint us. These are the times when our needs are not being fully met by whatever is happening. As a result, we may be tempted to ridicule, condemn, grasp, or carry a grudge. It’s easy to roll our eyes and adopt a “holier-than-thou” attitude. But it’s more life-serving to be forgiving. No one does everything right all the time. The talking heads on television may enjoy the “gotcha game,” they may even attract large followings with their flamboyance and hyperbole, but playing that game does not contribute to a better world. We need to be fair, but we also need to be forgiving if we hope to make life work.
  10. Be Respectful. I don’t know about you, but when those talking heads adopt a shrill quality with exaggerated antagonism or even defamation of character, I find myself longing for the civility of more innocent times. That goes for everyday interactions as well. According to theCivility Project at Johns Hopkins University, we are at an all time low when it comes to being civil and caring what others think of our actions. So what’s wrong with that? They note that quality of life deteriorates as disrespect escalates. The two go hand in hand. Respect is not just about being deferential or giving way; it is also about listening carefully, deliberating thoughtfully, and finding as many areas of agreement as possible.
  11. Be Responsible. In the end, there may be no more important guideline for living than to take appropriate responsibility for our own thoughts, words, and deeds. Indeed, M. Scott Peck long ago noted that most psychological problems are disorders of responsibility: neuroses develop when we take too much responsibility; character disorders develop when we take too little. When we take just the right amount of responsibility, though the power of vision and the consistent application of joyful practices, we stand the best chance of enhancing life’s vitality and wonder. That’s always there to be discovered and realized; it’s really up to us to make it so.

Coaching Inquiries: What are your guidelines for living? How do they manifest in your life? Which of the above guidelines make the most sense to you? Which ones challenge the way you go about living and organizing your life? Who embodies these guidelines and could serve as role models for you? How could you get closer to them in life and work?

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

The Evocative Coaching model you have developed should be a part of every school’s way of communication for celebrating and learning from each other. I am excited about getting started with the training. It is a very exciting and challenging time to be in education. I will be listening on Sunday to the Blog Talk Radio interview. 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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