Elizabeth Gurney Fry’s Checklist

I’m am interested in checklists, setting annual goals for myself, and working on specific habits I want to create or break. For example, I am currently working on a 2020 goal of “building a consistent habit of exercising.” So far I have been successful at this goal, going to the gym 4-5 times a week in 2020, because the goal is about the habit, not about a particular benchmark (lift x pounds, lose x pounds, etc.). In fact, I just finished the very interesting and inspiring read, “Atomic Habits,” which goes into greater detail about how habits can be formed and broken.

Imagine then my delight when I came across Quaker and prison reformer Elizabeth Gurney Fry’s journal entry (at age 18) on rules for her own behavior (I came across this in Barclay Press’ fantastic Illuminate Bible Study series on Paul’s letter to the Romans).

May 8th, 1798, Elizabeth records in her journal some rules for herself:

I want to set myself in good order for much time is lost and many evils committed by not having some regular plan of conduct; I make these rules for myself:

First – Never lose any time; I do not think that lost which is spent in amusement or  recreation, sometime everyday; but always be in the habit of being employed.

Second – Never err the least in truth.

Third – Never say an ill thing of a person, when I can say a good thing; not only speak charitably, but feel so.

Fourth – Never be irritable nor unkind to any body.

Fifth – Never indulge myself in luxuries that are not necessary.

Sixth – Do all things with consideration, and when my path to act right is most difficult, feel confidence in that thy power alone is able to assist me, and exert my own powers as far as they go.

Description: Extract from the diary of Elizabeth Fry
Date: 8/5/1798
Source: Norwich Millennium Library holds a complete diary of Elizabeth Fry that can be viewed on microfilm by the public.

Not only is it pretty amazing to find a list like this from a member of my faith tradition from a long time ago, but these rules are inspiring and challenging. These are things I too can and need to work towards.