I’ve always been suspicious of the word “values” when used as anything other than a verb. As in:
“Johnny values his bicycle.”
I’m suspicious because it feels like a noble word that has been debased by liberal educators in order to pander “values-based” curriculum. (Remember the dreaded “values clarification” exercises? — see my thoughts on this at: “The Basis for Christian Ethics.”)
Unfortunately, for those who don’t recognize absolutes in morality and ethics, then one man’s “values” are as good and worthwhile as the next with the only distinction being, “How’s that working for you?”
I’m happier with words like principles, integrity, goals, worth, treasure, cherish, hatreds, and desires. To me, each of these terms embraces specific aspects of what politically-correct “values” attempts to embrace.
I dislike the word and think it’s “weak” and slightly unbecoming to discussions of the Christian faith. Values is now so broad as to be almost useless in real discussion and therefore tends to water-down and obscure what is really important: such as what God hates and what God loves.
But, still, the term is with us, and we sometimes fall into a discussion of it. So, when pressed to define values, this is my view:
Values are the ideas, principles, ways-of-being and -doing that motivate decisions and behaviors.
Such values, while resistant to change, are not permanent: they can and do change throughout life. My values as a married adult father are vastly different than my values as a single college-graduate. And if I am to become more like Jesus, my values must change. Values are not mere beliefs, ideas, wishes, or desires: they are deeper than that, and they are revealed by behavior — not simple introspection and statements of faith. For example, Johnny may think he values truth, but if he’s constantly lying to his boss about uncompleted work, then “self-protection” is a much higher value for him than honesty.
(If my behaviors aren’t consistent with what I think my values are, this creates a lot of internal moral tension. Think of it as “values dissonance.”)
My values, along with my mind, need to be transformed. When my values are transformed, my ability to make the proper decisions — and therefore my behavior — falls in line with God’s good and perfect will (see Romans 12:1-2). Spiritual transformation is the required alternative to moral conformity.
There has been much talk about how we can change values by changing behaviors — and the converse: that we change behaviors changing my values. But my flesh is weak and such values de programming efforts often fail me. If my value system has led me to commit sin, or is keeping me from living my best, then what I ultimately needed is repentance and transformation, not just values reassessment and a desire to change.
So, if I am to discover what values and behaviors I need to repent from and offer up for transformation, I should at least start with an evaluation or an assessment. Here is what I do:
- I define what I think values are (see my definition above).
- I attempt to prayerfully discover what my real values are by reflecting on the patterns of my behavior. If possible, I try to prioritize my current values.
- I especially look for any disconnect between the values I think I hold and my actual behavior
- I offer up my soiled bag of dirty, ungodly values in prayer and repentance. I turn to the Word for guidance on the proper values and the behaviors God expects of me. I prayerfully ask the Father to transform my shoddy values and to rewrite his will on my heart and mind.
- I set new goals based on the desired values and decide on some specific, measurable behaviors that reflect those values.
Our values serve as a compass, guiding our thoughts, decisions, and actions every day. If my compass is off, pointing me in the wrong direction, my daily — and lifelong — experience will not be what God has planned for me. Ultimately, the best life God has for me will result in a lifestyle of devotion to God (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, body), compassion (Love your neighbor as yourself), witness (Go into all the world …), and worship (Don’t conform … be transformed … my spiritual act of worship).
But if my compass isn’t under my conscious control, and if it’s not submitted to transformation by God (through prayer, worship, scripture reading and study, discipleship, accountability, and godly fellowship) I risk losing my course — repeatedly — because it’s my fallen nature to drift off-course. Consciously re-evaluating, transforming, and living by my values helps keep me on course.
Here’s an example. If I have determined that intimacy with God is a value I want to focus on, then I need to first repent of neglecting my relationship with God. And I need to prayerfully ask for his help. Then I need to prayerfully set measurable, attainable goals based on this new value. Some new goals based on that value might be:
- Read the Bible through in a year.
- Thoroughly study one complete passage each week.
- Memorize one Bible verse a day.
- Set aside one hour of uninterrupted prayer each week.
- Fast once a month.
- Serve at the homeless shelter once a week.
- Sign up to be a Big Brother.
- Volunteer at a crisis hot-line. (Jesus said serving the helpless is serving him.)
Here are some questions I’ve found help reveal my values:
- If you won a $1 million tax free sweepstakes, what would you do tomorrow?
- If you had six months left to live, what would you do with the time you had left?
- What are you best known for?
- If money were not an issue, what would you do for a living?
- Imagine that you are delivering the eulogy at your own funeral, what would you say about your life? What would your family say? What about your boss, coworkers, friends? Is there a difference between what you would want them to say, versus what might actually get said?
- If God would grant one prayer, what would it be?
- What is truly important to me in life?
- Where do I invest my time? When I have free time, what do I do? Why?
- What do I spend money on? Why?
- What excites me?
- What attracts people to me?
- What do people admire about me?
- What do I most admire in others?
- What, for you, makes life worth living?
- What do you fear most? What frightens or upsets you?
- What activities do you enjoy (e.g. hobbies, watching TV)?
- What role do family and friends play in your life?
- What role does church play in your life?
Tomorrow, I get asked some pointed questions about my own values.
[tags]BlogRodent, values, values-clarification, pentecostal, charismatic, evangelical, ethics, behavior, beliefs[/tags]
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