Actions Matter, Strive to Live Your Beliefs Daily

I was in Trader Joe’s doing some grocery shopping earlier this fall. Now, I pretty much have my Trader Joe’s run down to a science. I have some staples to my bachelor diet that include orange juice, eggs, tortilla chips and salsa, organic chicken breast, Swiss cheese, and tortillas. I mix some things up occasionally, but by and large I know where all these things are and try to get in and get out as quickly as possible. The only thing I sacrifice speed and efficiency for is the free sample of coffee and whatever new salsa concoction they are peddling. I fly through the aisles as I fill my basket. I am a speed demon in TJ’s.

Anyway, I was in the zone, dodging people with their shopping carts and crying babies when a random lady tapped me on my shoulder. She said, “That’s the best mission statement I’ve ever seen.”

I turned around and looked at this stranger. Huh?

“That’s the best mission statement I’ve ever seen,” she said.

 I realized, then, that I had a St. Paul’s T-Shirt on. And on the back of it was our mission statement.

“Seek truth, knowledge, and excellence and to live by faith, compassion, and integrity.”

I said to her, “Lady, get out of my way. I’m on a mission to get my free coffee sample!”

Just kidding. I didn’t say that.

She was very nice and we talked for a minute about St. Paul’s and the mission statement. She continued to tell me how perfect she thought the mission statement is.  

I’m not making this up. This actually happened. You try to do some grocery shopping and the next minute you’re talking mission statements. Sometimes life is strange.

St-Pauls-ChapelIf you attend St. Paul’s School, you’ll probably hear our mission statement a thousand times. And I have to say I think random Trader Joe’s lady is right. I think we’ve got the perfect message at St. Paul’s.

“Seek truth knowledge and excellence; live by faith, compassion, and integrity.”

 I like hearing it. I even switched my fancy email signature to quote it on every email I send.

When I hear our mission statement, I think to myself: “Yep. That’s exactly right. That’s how I want to live.” And that’s how I want our guys to live too.

In the Book of James, we find the following admonition:

“Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.”

James reminds me that words are not enough. Our actions matter. Where the rubber meets the road is not whether we have t-shirts or email signatures with the mission statement. It is whether we will live that message out. Will we stop at being hearers of that message? Or will we be doers? Will we live it out? Will we live by faith, compassion, and integrity?

Living a good life means we strive to live out our beliefs every day. It is something that we practice. It is something we cultivate. It is how we live into who we are created to be. We might not always get it right, but it is the continued effort that matters. It is why we pray in chapel each week that God would “teach us… to serve Thee as Thou deservest,” because learning how to be “doers” and not merely “hearers” is at the heart of our education.

Nathan Sell

Nathan Sell

Chaplain Sell is the Upper School Chaplain for St. Paul’s. Chaplain Sell has followed his calling into school ministry after finishing his bachelor’s at Sewanee and earning his Master’s of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. He can be reached at

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