A couple of years ago I really began to experience a certain clarity in my life. After a long season of personal doubt and some public rejection in ministry, it had begun to feel like I was being tossed around in a heavy storm-at-sea. I had lost direction and impetus, and I became driven by outside forces rather than what was imbedded in my soul.

What I had experienced was not only a sense of loss in purpose or direction, but a stripping of values due to what I allowed to happen to me for the sake of my ministry to people.

It was killing me from the inside out.

That is just about the gears began to shift in my mind as I began dealing in a cold and calculated way with myself. I had not dealt seriously with who I was and how I was uniquely equipped to really and truly live. I began to turn down the volume on the outside voices in my life, and began to listen much more carefully to my own soul.

I asked, “What in life am I ready to put some intellectual, philosophical, and ethical roots down on? What hills am I willing to do battle on? What will be the unalterable ideas that I will live my life around?”

They may not be what they were five years ago, and they might not be the same in another five, but that’s not the point. Having a what, who, and why in your life is incredibly crucial to a life with depth and weight.

So I developed a list of non-negotiables.

Here they are:

  • I am faithful to my wife.
  • I say what I want.
  • I am dangerous to those who oppose truth, goodness, and reason.
  • Compassion for my family trumps my need to be right.
  • I replace doubt with acts of faith.
  • I am a risk taker.
  • I live in accordance with my faith.
  • I do what I believe is in the best interest of my family, even if they disagree.
  • I do not ask for permission.
  • Fear does not keep me from taking risks.
  • I do not indulge my addictions.
  • I am a man of my word, period.
  • I do not show anger to my mother.
  • When name-calling begins, the discussion is over.
  • I spend time with men I respect.
  • I exercise regularly.
  • I ask for help when I’m not being the man I want to be.
  • I speak my mind in spite of my fear of confrontation.
  • I honor my daily spiritual practice.
  • I welcome feedback.
  • I only apologize when it’s appropriate, not simply to please others.
  • I do not hide out at work just to avoid issues at home.
  • I choose which of my friendships to maintain.
  • I do not sell out who I am to placate others.
  • I do as I see fit.
  • Hell will break away at my feet.

What are your life’s non-negotiables?

9 thoughts on “Non-Negotiable

  1. I think my list would be shorter. Did you start out with a number in mind?

  2. No, I didn’t.

    It’s been a list I built on for many months actually. I think I finally came to a point where I had a satisfaction with the sum of all I had compiled. I didn’t want to condense it because each one I wrote had an individual significance to me.

  3. There is a unique and quiet strength found coming through that kind of unsettling storm. I’m glad you survived, No, more than survived, Transformed. Keep On, Dave.

    1. Thanks John. That means a lot to me. I don’t think I would have made it half as far through some of those storms without you walking with me during them.

      1. That is a mutual reality my friend.

  4. Question: How do you reconcile “I say what I want.” and “Compassion for my family trumps my need to be right.” when those two conflict? That seems to be my biggest source of tension these days.

    1. Great question, thanks for asking.

      I don’t feel I have to reconcile them because I think they lay in balance with one another and they originated from two separate contexts.

      “I say what I want” is a response to being cornered professionally by a standard that I ultimately felt was unhealthy. I was given things I could and could not communicate. I choose to represent myself now, and I will not cow-tow to others ideologies for the sake of a job, or personal advancement.

      At the same time, if compassion for my family does comes ahead of being right, and I own my own voice, then it should be a simple bridge to build. Again, in my past, I was asked to be “right” in certain arenas, and this affected my family destructively. I see “saying what I want” and “compassion for my family” as non-negotiable ideologies to be complementary to one another.

      But this is a highly personal list, and so I realize that only I know the webbing inside the context of each well enough to see them all as well-aligned. Fro someone else, it may be more of a place of tension and anxiety then empowerment and freedom.


  5. This is similar to what John Maxwell encourages in one of his books. He calls it the Daily Dozen. Meaning there are 12 things to live by on a daily basis and my list similar to yours helps keeps me grounded.

    Thanks for your honesty and sharing your list.

  6. This is similar to what John Maxwell encourages in one of his books. He calls it the Daily Dozen. Meaning there are 12 things to live by on a daily basis and my list similar to yours helps keeps me grounded.
    Thanks for your honesty and sharing your list.

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