Does what you say you value align with your behavior?
Consider these three scenarios:
- You love your family and enjoy the time you share with them. Even though you work 60 to 70 hours a week, you enjoy your work. Because you want to spend more time with your spouse and your children, you attempt to balance family time with your work schedule, but neither are getting your total attention or your best life. You are feeling tense, guilty, and alone.
- You consider yourself to be a person of your word. Whether it is with family, friends, or colleagues, you feel a sense of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment when you complete a project as promised on time. But, when you don’t complete the project, in the time frame you set for yourself, you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Even when the people around you are not concerned about it, you still feel as if you have not kept your word.
- You are a person of faith, a Jesus follower, and you feel comfortable with talking about your religious beliefs. You attend a Sunday School class with people who are also persons of faith but who do not share your views on particular issues. You like sharing your opinions and beliefs, but every Sunday you feel the tension when the class discussion begins. You enjoy the people in the class, but you are losing your patience with being on guard and not offending anyone.
When your decisions and behaviors do not align, you experience the tension of conflicting values. In the midst of such conflict, it is important to know and to understand who you are and why you think and feel the way you do.
When your thinking and behaving match your values, life is good. You feel satisfied, content, and at peace. But when your thoughts and actions do not align with your values, you feel tentative, off-balance, and filled with inner turmoil.
Consider Romans 7
The Apostle Paul understood conflicting values. He wrote to the Roman church:
I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So, if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:14-25 The Message)
The conflict is between the will of God revealed in the Law, and the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The Law is “spiritual,” but Paul says he is not. So, he is struggling between living the life God wants him to live and the life he is living. His conflict is not between his “lower” nature and his “higher” nature but is upon being good enough on his own and upon relying upon God’s grace to live as a follower of Jesus.
Today, this conflict could be expressed between following the “words” of the scripture or following the “Word” to whom the scriptures point.
David, in Psalm 15, reveals the values in his life.
GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this. (Psalm 15, The Message)
Notice that David said the person who enjoys the presence of God, who gets invited to dinner, “walks straight, acts right, tells the truth.” Because this person values truth in her heart, her words express truth. Because she values kindness, she “doesn’t blame her neighbor.” Because she values honesty, she keeps her word even when it hurts. Because she makes an honest living, “she never takes a bribe.”
Regardless of what might happen around him, David could live with confidence that the right principles shaped his values and guided his decisions. That confidence gave him emotional and spiritual stability. It enabled him to be the person God could use for God’s glory.
As you examine your own life, what values do you see shaping your behavior? Maybe a better question is, what values do you want to shape your behavior?
As with Paul, many of you hold certain values, but you live differently from what you say is important to you. Unless you are intentional in discovering and understanding your values you will be shaped by the values of others.
You can’t have a set of values for work, another set for home, and still another set for your friends or for the church. Your goal should be to completely integrate your values into all areas of your life.
What Informs Your Life?
When you know and honor your values, life is good. So, here is what I want you to do. Decide now, this moment, to give yourself 30 minutes to reflect upon the following (10 minutes for each):
Identify the times when you were your happiest.
- What were you doing?
- Who were the people with you?
- What were you thinking and feeling?
- What really made you happy?
Identify the times when you were most proud
- Why were you proud?
- Who were the people who shared your pride?
- What did you think and feel at the moment?
- What gave you your feelings of pride?
Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied
- What need or desire was fulfilled?
- How and why did the experience give you meaning?
- Were there other people who shared the moments with you? Who?
- What else added to your feelings and fulfillment?
To reflect upon these questions will give you insight into what informs your life. You will discover and affirm what is important in the way you live, work, and make decisions.
What is important to you?
Glenn Adsit was a minister in China. Toward the end of his tenure, he and his family were held captive in their house by the government. They could not leave their house to go to the fruit market without soldiers accompanying them. Then one day, while under house arrest, several soldiers came to them and said, “You can return to America.”
Glenn and his family were celebrating when the soldiers said, “You can take two hundred pounds with you. We will be back tomorrow to get you.”
They had been there for years. How were they going to get everything down to two hundred pounds? They got the scales out and began to weigh everything. That is when the family argument began. There were two children, a wife, and a husband. What about this vase? We just bought the typewriter. What about my books? They weighed everything. Finally, they had two hundred pounds down to the ounce.
The next day, the soldiers came to get them. “Ready to go?” they asked.
“Did you weigh everything?”
Then the soldiers asked, “Did you weigh the kids?”
Glen replied, “No, we didn’t.”
They said, “Weigh the kids.”
It was at that moment, that the typewriter, vase, and everything else was not important.
So, what is important to you? When you know and honor your values, life is good. Are you living the way you want to live? Is life turning out the way you want it to turn out?
Today, you have the opportunity to do something about it. What one thing are you going to do?