Living a principled life


It’s that time of year for renewal. It’s a time to be reminded of our principles.   For some of us, it’s this time of year that we participate in our ceremonies. It’s this time that we put our worries away, give thanks, imagine possibilities, and be in awe of creation. It’s time for ceremonies.

What do I mean by a principled life?  Principled is defined as: a person or their behavior acting in accordance with morality and showing of right and wrong. Morality is defined as: principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Oftentimes, these are taught to us by our parents and our relatives. It is there we are taught how to conduct ourselves in the world and in relationship with others.

I have recently been learning about the 7 Anishinaabe Grandfather teachings. They include:

• Nibwaakaawin (Wisdom): To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom.

• Zaagi’idiwin (Love): To know peace is to know love.

• Minaadendamowin (Respect): To honor all creation is to have respect.

• Aakode’ewin (Bravery): Bravery is to face the foe with integrity.

• Gwayakwaadiziwin (Honesty): Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave.

• Dabaadendiziwin (Humility): Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation.

• Debwewin (Truth): Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

As I sat and listened to an Anishinaabe Elders it dawned on me that the Lakota have similar teachings. I was taught many of these by my parents and family.

As I sat there in ceremony, it dawned on me that not everyone lives their life in accordance to these teachings, or participates in our ceremonies. There are parts of our community who are in survival mode, or caught up in addiction, or are afraid to learn.

What I know is that each time I meet a person, I give them the benefit of showing me who they are. It’s then that I decide if they are someone I want in my life. I’ve learned that not everyone should be in my life.

Not everyone lives a principled life. Shocking, I know, but for me it was a realization. Recently, I was fooled into believing that a family shared similar values as me, but they didn’t. I mistakenly brought them close to my family and assumed they were my family, but they weren’t.

It’s been a life of trial and errors as I learn that people have different values. Some people don’t value family. Some people do not have any regard for others. Some people deliberately exploit people for their own personal gain. Some people are cruel for the sake of being cruel. These are the kind of people that I avoid.

I’ve come to realize that sometimes my disappointments are tied to my expectations of people. For me, these relationships are not how I imagine them to be. People aren’t living up to my expectations. People aren’t behaving how they’re supposed to. Note, all of this is occurring in my mind.


s I write, I struggle. I am reminded that I don’t know how to give voice to my desires. The sound of my voice is unfamiliar. I fall back into myself. As I shrink into myself, I wonder, how dare I speak?  Who am I to give voice to what I need?  Who am I to give voice to what I want?  My words taste unfamiliar. Are these my needs and wants?  

Verbalizing my expectations requires confidence, or sense of agency about oneself. Confidence, it’s a trait I’m learning. Oftentimes, I quiver in myself. Years of abuse, assault, and rape taught me to disassociate.

As a child, I didn’t have control over who I was around because the adults oversaw this. It was confusing because our parents encouraged us to respect our Elders, but we were treated disrespectfully by some Elders. I later learned that they ain’t Elders, they are just old.   

As an adult, I choose who is in my life. It is my right to exclude people from my life. If someone tears at me, diminishes my light, speaks to me disrespectfully, then they have no place in my life or my families. Respect, it goes two ways.   

I have a right to state if my needs are not being met. Yes, I’m learning to manage my expectations in relationships and disappointments. They are a bit unwieldy. Life is still teaching me how to live it.

s the summer is upon us, and for those who go to ceremony, it is that time for renewal, for understanding, for forgiveness. I’m not carrying any disappointments into my new year with me. Life is too wonderful and living is too beautiful. I’m taking clarity into my new year and a sense of renewal of our principles.