The relationship between ‘principle’ and ‘ideal’ can tell us a great deal about ourselves. For starters, it can tell us whether or not we truly value the things we claim to value. If our actions are in line with our stated values, then there is a good chance that we actually believe in them. However, if our actions are not in line with our stated values, then there is a good chance that we do not really believe the things we say. In this case, if there is a pattern or consistency in our actions, that may actually tell us what we truly do believe in or value. What’s more, when we understand this relationship between ‘principle’ and ‘ideal,’ it helps us determine whether or not others believe what they say, whether they may be confused about something, or whether they actually do not believe the things they claim to believe (i.e., it will help us distinguish true hypocrisy from honest misunderstanding). This is why we should all understand the relationship between ‘principle’ and ‘ideal.’
I understand that it is not something most people enjoy doing, but, before we have a discussion about ideas, we should start by looking at the definition of the words we will be using — just to make sure we have the proper understanding of what those words are supposed to mean, so we can be sure to use them properly:
1 : existing as an archetypal idea
2 a : existing as a mental image or in fancy or imagination only; broadly : lacking practicality b : relating to or constituting mental images, ideas, or conceptions
4 : of or relating to philosophical idealism
In other words, an ‘ideal’ is the model of perfection: the ‘perfect’ scenario or model of whatever we are discussing. In this sense, an ‘ideal’ answers the question(s) ‘what?‘ and ‘why?‘ In the case of a direction, North might be the ‘ideal,’ especially in terms of navigation. In the case of morality, the ultimate ideal might be ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’ In the case of America, our ideal is found in The Declaration of Independence.
1 a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (1) : a rule or code of conduct (2) : habitual devotion to right principles <a man of principle> c : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device
2 : a primary source : origin
4 capitalized Christian Science : a divine principle : god
In other words, a ‘principle’ is the system of per-determined rule by which we make our daily decisions to assure we stay on the path that leads to our stated ‘ideal.’ In this sense, a ‘principle’ answers the question ‘how?‘ In the case of direction, a compass could be our ‘how?‘ In the case of morality, the Ten Commandments would be our ‘how?‘ And, in the case of the American ‘ideal,’ our how is found in the Constitution.
So, to put it in the simplest terms, an ideal is the destination (ex. the Declaration of Independence); while a principle is a per-determined rule intended to help you stay on the correct path to that destination (ex. the U.S. Constitution).
But this is just the understanding of the proper relationship between ‘ideal’ and ‘principle.’ That understanding only comes into full use when we actually apply it examining our own actions. Only when we do this — and do it honestly — can we know what things we truly value. For example:
Suppose I claim to value the ‘ideals’ set forth in the Declaration of Independence, but I support abortion, ‘equality’ laws and social security. What do my actions tell me about my stated beliefs? Well, since the Declaration states that life is among our primary rights, that it is granted by our Creator, and that all our rights belong to us from the moment of creation, then my support for abortion tells me I do not really believe that part of the Declaration’s ideal. And since I support ‘equality’ laws, which are based in forcing one person to accept another who they may find morally questionable, then my actions do not conform with the Declaration’s ideal of liberty. Finally, if I support social security, which is based on taking from one and giving it to another, my actions contradict the Declaration’s ideal of ‘pursuing happiness‘ — at least, not the happiness of others.
So, in the hypothetical above, what do my actions tell me? They tell me that I either A — do not think of the Declaration in the same terms as the men who drafted and adopted it intended, or B — I do not actually believe those stated ideals are true. If A, and I have a different understanding of the ideals asserted in the Declaration, then I may be ignorant or confused. Either way, I need to study the founders words more closely to decide. However, if I properly understand the original intent of the Declaration, and I claim their ideals, yet my actions are in conflict with those ideals, then I am deceiving myself, as ell as everyone else around me. In this case, I am walking a fine line between criminal ignorance and deliberately lying — both of which speak directly to my character.
Once we can take an honest look at ourselves and determine whether our actions (i.e. ‘principles’) agree with our stated beliefs (i.e. ‘ideals’), then we can use this understanding to evaluate the beliefs of others. In this case, I will not provide any examples. I’ll leave that to the reader. However, if the reader has a firm understanding of the relationship between ‘principle’ and ‘ideal,’ then I have no doubt that the reader will find many such examples in our society today — namely because so few of us actually live a principled life any more that their consistency sticks out against the overall backdrop of hypocrisy which surrounds those few principled souls left in this world…
[NOTE: I no longer think of my voice as anything special. There was a time when I believed I had something important to say, but not so much these days. I write now because I feel driven to do so. Something inside me will not let me rest until I post the pages you just read. I’d just as soon not bother anymore. It all seems like no one is listening and I do more harm than good. So I have come to trust that whatever it is driving me has all this under control. Personally, I believe it is God, but others may not. All I ask is that, if anything I write helps you, or you think it might help others in any way, please, share this page. Re-blog it, share it on FB or send the link to your friends. So long as you feel it will do more good than harm, then please, use this page however you wish. Thank you.]