“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37,39
Occasionally I will suggest to clients to write their own epitaph. The purpose of the exercise is not to be morbid, but to encourage clients to reflect on the motives by which they live their lives. Are they investing their efforts only in their own selfish goals, or are they motivated by investing their lives in the betterment of humanity? Ultimately, how they answer that question will define the values by which they have chosen to live.
Stephen Covey said it much better when he wrote about Habit 2 in his acclaimed book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Begin with the End in Mind,” he called it. Here’s an excerpt of how he describes this habit. “Although Habit 2 applies to many different circumstances and levels of life, the most fundamental application of ‘begin with the end in mind’ is to begin today with the image, picture, or paradigm of the end of your life as your frame of reference or the criterion by which everything else is examined. . . By keeping that end clearly in mind, you can make certain that whatever you do on any particular day does not violate the criteria you have defined as supremely important. . .”
Assume, for example, that you generally obey traffic laws, speed limits, etc. What is your motive, to avoid fines for violations, or because of your care and concern for the safety of other motorists as well as your own? Jesus addressed this issue when he was challenged by an expert in the law as to which is the greatest commandment. His familiar reply was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, he went on to explain, if you love God and love your neighbor, all the other laws and commandments simply become second nature – like obeying traffic laws out of concern for others.
It is a relevant challenge for all of us in our own day with the COVID 19 pandemic. Do we wear facemasks and social distance because it is being demanded of us? Or do we do so out of genuine care and concern for the wellbeing of others and ourselves? How each of us answers that question will define the values by which we live, and ultimately what our epitaphs might one day say. Good time to “begin with the end in mind.”