Paul Prather

Friends' truths worthy of Twain or Franklin

I'm a sucker for aphorisms, those pithy statements that tell us how to live better or offer insights on human nature.

Proverbs is among my favorite biblical books, because it consists largely of these wise, terse sayings.

I'm currently listening for the second time to a biography of Benjamin Franklin on compact disc. He became famous early in his career as a printer for his witty rules for developing virtue, wealth and productivity.

And I always enjoy Mark Twain, who was full of aphorisms such as, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

With Proverbs, Franklin and Twain in mind, I asked several friends — people whose insights and lifestyles I admire — to tell me their own guiding principles, the truths they've learned through hard experience, that they believe are valid in all circumstances.

I enjoyed their answers so much that I thought I'd pass along some of their observations. I promised my friends anonymity, by the way.

Here goes:

■ Nothing good ever lasts, but nothing bad ever lasts, either.

■ The world needs more grace and mercy than justice and punishment.

■ Everyone deserves a second chance.

■ Most people are doing the best they can with the mind they have at the time.

■ Other people already know you don't have all the answers, so don't pretend you do.

■ Be honest, even when you don't have to be.

■ If you want honor, first comes humility.

■ Be a servant to your spouse and children, who need and crave your love and praise. Be willing to do menial tasks and be attentive to the needs of all.

■ Pull weeds before they take deep root; ignoring problems only makes them worse.

■ Avoid anger. It's like a fire: once out of control, it will burn down your house. No one wants to live next to a volcano.

■ Love is the best medicine in the entire world. It never fails.

■ When dealing with your children, set clear rules and consequences up front, then quickly implement the consequences whenever the rules are broken. You train kids to ignore you when you're all talk.

■ Don't give up on your children. They need to know they can't outlast you or wear you down — and that you'll never give up on them.

■ Keep your promises.

■ Everything you say or do affects someone else.

■ Other people can't make you feel any certain way. It's your choice to give them the power to do so ... or not.

■ Arrange your priorities in this order: God. Family. Friends. Others.

■ When a problem arises, always look to yourself first to see whether you might have caused it in any way.

■ Everybody is dysfunctional. That includes you.

As you can see, I've got some smart friends.

I'd like to hear your own guiding principles. E-mail them to me at the address beneath this column. If I get a lot of good responses, I'll try to include some in a future column or on my blog,