On Values, Part 2

On Values, Part 2

One of my other values …Yesterday, I wrote about values, and what I think they are — especially how our values are revealed by behavior, along with some suggestions on how to assess your own core values.

So, I was asked some pointed values-questions by email from an online friend who knows my position. I thought I’d post my replies here so you, my Gentle Readers, can get to know me a little better. This was a useful exercise for me, perhaps it would be for you, too?

Authenticism is the real aim here, Rich. Since one’s values describe a person as demonstrated by their behavior, behavior demonstrates one’s authentic values.

We often speak as if our confession of belief defines who we are as a believer. But as James noted in his epistle, without accompanying behavior, the confession is incomplete.

This is the heart of a discussion on core values.

You spoke of meaningless terms. I also think we have some terms which we as believers render meaningless. One of them is the word “believe.” When a person says they “believe” something, but it has no accompanying behavior, the belief is not authentic and the confession is rendered meaningless.

So, what about you, Rich … What are some values that describe who you are as a person?

Fair enough. Here’s a stab, though I don’t pretend to be as transparent in an online anonymous forum as I would be face-to-face, I can at least outline what I value. I hope these are in line with my actual behavior — I think they are at least — but the beauty of living in community with other believers is that they can call you out on your values disconnect. Unfortunately, few if any of you reading this can do so since you don’t know me in meatspace.

I value the glimmering I have of God’s relationship to me. I don’t understand it completely, but I have this sense that I’m not required to understand it to benefit from it. Similarly, I value my wife’s astounding commitment to me, our relationship, and her unyielding love for me. As in my relationship with my Father, I don’t completely understand her love. But then, I don’t completely understand my love for her either. But I also value our commitment to grow old together, or die trying. And I value my children and their unquestioning and humbling love for me. My children have taught me more about God’s love for me as a Father than all the textbooks I read in college.

I value the grace and fortune that allows me to enjoy all these loves in a single lifetime.

I value reason chained to a thoroughly biblical faith. I value literacy. I value humility, thoughtfulness, kindness, and hard work. I value integrity. I value kittens.

I value well-chosen words.

I value humor plus a healthy sense of irony and self-deprecation.

How does your behavior reflect what is important to you?

I’m not always sure, that’s why I’m always returning to God’s face to seek his forgiveness through repentance. The mystery is that I’ve made mistakes, and continue to make mistakes despite my desire to be perfected. As Paul said: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I think, at the very least, the starting point is to want to want the proper values, then to really want the value itself, and finally to repent of conflicting behaviors and begin to grasp the value. I must strive to be that living sacrifice, though my flesh constantly struggles to slip off the altar. It’s a constant battle to remain under the transforming thumb of God’s love and I am not perfect in living the life exemplified by the values I cherish.

But if you were to watch me 24-hours a day you would see much evidence of my commitment to my family — and some conflict. When I’m with my family, I try to be completely “present.” If I bring home work, I try to separate it from my time with my kids so they don’t feel cut off from me — though I am not perfect in this area and have had to spend some time apart the last few weeks to finish a major project upon which my continued employment rests. But when I’m with my kids, we talk, we play, we cuddle, I teach, I explain, I tell stories. I cuddle with my children at bed time, and I kiss them and tell them I love them constantly. This, by the way, is not forced effort — it amazes and confounds me how naturally this affection flows when I had never been able to express this kind of intimacy and love before.

I always have time for my wife, and I never give her the bum’s rush when she calls me at work — though I might have to let her know I’m in a meeting, or trying to meet a deadline. We talk frequently, and I encourage her in her interests and want to know more about what’s new in her life each day.

I seek beauty in my photography, clarity in my writing, and I try to glorify Christ in what I communicate.

I often fail, but that’s a symptom of my weaknesses more than my desires or values.

What are you passionate about?

Discipleship. Integrity. Kindness. Wisdom. Mentoring. Reading. Writing. Communication. A job well done.

What are your convictions that influence every thing you do?

My convictions are something I’d die for — I have precious few of those. Top of the list would be: To know God. To make Him known. To love my wife and children. To be true to my faith as I understand it.

To do everything my hand finds to do with as much skill as I can muster. (Within reason.)

« What determines your priorities? »

Eight to ten hours out of the day: my boss. Physical exhaustion rules another five to seven hours of the day — ten on Saturdays. Another two or three hours are given over to sheer hunger and sometimes thirst. The remainder are given over to loving my wife and kids, being kind to strangers, and doing whatever my hand finds to do. Like blogging.

« What influences your decisions? »

I don’t always know. Do you? On a good day “it is God who works in [me] to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:13) On a bad day whatever’s urgent influences my decisions.

« What are the priorities that drive your life and are easily identified in your behavior? »

My wife says, bottom line, “You’re a teacher.”

I guess that’s the most obvious thing I know about myself, other than my weight.

I hope these two posts have been useful for you in seeing how you can clarify your core values by examining your behavior.

[tags]BlogRodent, values, values-clarification, pentecostal, charismatic, evangelical, ethics, behavior, beliefs[/tags]

10 thoughts on “On Values, Part 2

  1. Pingback: On Values, Part 1

  2. jim

    Well written, Rich. If you indeed are as you put yourself in print (and I tend to think you are), you’re one of few men I’ve known who walk in this with any balance. Perhaps a better word would be “harmony”, with Him, with others around you, and even yourself. Integrity is more than truth……

    I comment because we just had Josh McDowell at our church and he built a foundation for raising children out of what you express. If I remember it correctly, we build our “values” upon what we “believe”. Of course, as you say, what we say we believe and what we live remains to be tested by life. That’s why I like the other term put forth in your discussion: “transformation”. We just finished a Sunday School class on this subject. Not an instant presto-change-o in Christ, but a continual process. So I have found it to be, anyway…

  3. Rich Post author

    Thanks, Jim, for your vote of confidence. I’m pretty sure I come off sounding better in my writing than I really am. It’s a sure bet that if a man is making himself sound good, he’s more of a scoundrel than he either realizes or admits.

    I have my share of flaws. I just don’t want to advertise them on a weblog.

    But, at least, my wife can correct me in my public sentiments with her own comments. Thank God for wives who keep us honest!


  4. Marc V

    Oh, keep your flaws to yourself, will ya!

    One main term that has grown in significance to me over the years is motivation: what causes people to do the things they do. As I try to guide my son through his formative years, I continually have to examine what motivates him and what I can offer to him that would cause a change in behavior (motivation). People need a reason to act, to do whatever they do in their lives.

    Christianity is so much nonsense to a heathen, because the promises typically occur after you die.

    Preacher: Turn or Burn!
    Heathen: Well, I’m not turning, I’m enjoying this “sin”, and I ain’t burning now.
    Preacher: God loves you.
    Heathen: Who?
    Preacher: I love you too.
    Heathen: What?

    The love “angle” can be very difficult to understand. How do selfish humans find the capacity, what motivates them, to love? Rather than squeeze my brain too hard I leave it as a “God thing” and try to find more opportunities to love.

  5. Rich Post author

    Hey, Marc.

    Loving is hard. Thank God we don’t have to always like the people we love!

    I’m learning with my son that even he has no idea what motivates him most of the time. Of course, that may be the ADHD thing, too.

    I find, for myself, the more tired (sleep-deprived) and distracted (info-overload) I am, the worse decisions I make (sin).

    In fact, I’ve been thinking about a blog on the Spiritual Discipline of sleep. I’m thinking about blogging on it, because I need the discipline. Maybe it will help motivate me to do better in this area.


  6. Marc V

    Spiritual discipline of sleep?

    I’ve heard of the Rev. Sheets at the Bedside Baptist (for folks who like to sleep in on Sunday morning), but not a discipline of sleep. How un-American!! Be happy and alert in your work, work like h-e-double toothpicks and maybe you’ll get a bonus to consume more “stuff”.

    As related to values, sleep comes down to the priorities in your life. If you value sleep, then you’ll say no to some things, be SELFISH and get enough sleep. Someone who has 2 hour commutes may not have much spare time for sleep.

  7. Bob

    Values are the ideas, principles, ways-of-being and -doing that motivate decisions and behaviors.

    Really? Does a newborn suckle because of his values? Does a tired toddler sleep because he values rest?

    Two soldiers stand side by side somewhere in harm’s way. A reporter walks up and asks why they volunteered to be a part of the armed forces. Both men give the same answer related to patriotic values.

    Suddenly bullets start flying. One soldier risks his life to pull the reporter to safety while the other dives for the nearest ditch and wets his pants.

    Now, if I told you that one of these soldiers had been in the war zone for over a year, and for the other one it was his first week and his first time under fire, which would you guess was the one who lost bladder control? Why?

    What does the difference in behavior have to do with his values?

    “Behavior demonstrates one’s authentic values?” Human behavior is partly biochemical, partly spiritual, partly habitual, partly social, and often unpredictable even to the person him/herself. The links in the chain between values and behaviors include physical, social, and cultural factors, as well as character, integrity, and experience. The reductionistic and oversimplified idea that we can improve our behavior by working on our values is a dangerous, dangerous belief. It has no power to keep us out of the ditch in a crisis, and it has no power to help us understand why we were in the ditch when we thought our values were right.

    Perhaps the most apt comment in this thread is Rich’s observation:

    I find, for myself, the more tired (sleep-deprived) and distracted (info-overload) I am, the worse decisions I make (sin).

    This statement has nothing to do with values, but it is at least a valid observation about human behavior–and it’s actionable.

    an elder brother

  8. Rich Post author

    Thanks, elder brother Bob, for your useful contribution to the dialog.

    Upon reflection, I am still inclined to believe that behavior reveals values. Yes, there are behaviors that are clearly reflexive, instinctive, need-driven, or biologically sourced. I cannot accept that all behaviors are programmed by flesh–so it seems clear to me that cognition, beliefs and values must play a role in fixing some behaviors. Perhaps you and I would merely disagree about where programming ends and values and beliefs begin?

    Regarding your interesting thought-experiment, I think we would still disagree. Let’s assume the wet-pants soldier is the newbie and the life-saver is the battle-hardened grunt. On the surface, they both believe the same, but their behaviors are different? Perhaps because the battle-hardened soldier has learned–through training, discipline, experience, drills, repitition, and much thought–to ignore his instinctive response and act on his values, instead. In this case, I would argue that behavior not only revealed his values, but that those self-same values–over time–with the constant reinforcement of behavior, drills, and experience, allowed for moral consonance instead of disonnance. It is precisely because of discipline and repeated behavior in small and large battles, real, imagined and drilled, that he was able to do in the heat of the moment what he could not have done without training.

    Meanwhile, the wet-pants soldier, if he was truly honest about what he believes his values are, may well struggle with his moral dissonance. If he doesn’t struggle with it, then he may have only been giving lip-service to his values.

    I suppose one could say, though, that the wet-pants soldier is the battle-hardened grunt and he has the sense to get out of the way of flying bullets while the life-saving soldier is the one so full of naivete that he risks his life to save a muck-raking journalist–when he should have been seeing to the safety of his fellow troops. If that is what you have in mind (and I have no idea) then the scenario rings false simply because to say each soldier gave answers “related to patriotic values” says nothing about what each values.

    Hungry babes and tired toddlers–heck, hungry me and tired me–reveal that the occassion for behavior can arise from quarters other than the mind, but these impetuses and impulses do not dictate how a morally rational person will act on those impulses.

    And you can’t convince me that babies and toddlers are morally rational.

    I am still convinced that behaviors and values must be in harmony–that one cannot be improved without a measure of attention on the other. To improve our behaviors, we must have the right values. To strengthen the chosen values, we should encourage disciplines of behavior so that when the need arises we are able to do what is right without giving in to the easy, value-less impulse.

    I hope this makes sense. Unfortunately, I’ve been up for 36 hours, denying myself the impulse to sleep, because certain values I hold have been driving me to accomplish certain tasks. Alas, my behavior seems to betray my values. For the short-term, anyhow. At some point, my value and need for sleep will overcome my value and need to accomplish the task at hand right now. Anyhow, I hope my sleep deprivation doesn’t mangle my prose overmuch.



    Your lesser brother.


  9. Bob

    Hi, Rich.

    Lesser brother? In age only.

    I did not mean to say that choosing values is unimportant. I did mean to say that behavior doesn’t necessarily reveal values: there is a causal chain between values and behavior that has to be built and maintained. The toddler hasn’t built it yet. The inexperienced soldier only thinks he has. He is dismayed that his behavior came from some non-rational part of him instead of being filtered through his values. You used terms like moral rationality and discipline to describe that causal chain, so I think a close reading of our posts will show that you elaborated this point more than you refuted it.

    I also meant to say–and here is where we may have a real disagreement–that

    The reductionistic and oversimplified idea that we can improve our behavior by working on our values is a dangerous, dangerous belief.

    In other words, values are only indirectly linked to behavior, and working on the links in the chain between values and behavior (things like practice, training, discipline, habit-formation) must not be neglected. Working on values can be an intellectual exercise. Working on the habits that lead to right behavior is often much more visceral. If one only does the former and neglects the latter, the result may be a shattering collapse of self-concept when behavior fails to reflect deeply held values.

    Enough. Get some sleep, Rich!



  10. Rich Post author

    Thanks, Bob, for the follow-up and clarification. I think, in the end, we probably agree more than disagree. For I certainly agree with you that the intellectual exercise of “values clarification” is futile and dangerous without behaviors to reinforce and embed the values.

    My beef is simply that far too many of us — within and without the Church — hold to values that our behaviors contradict. I simply propose that we examine the values we claim to hold, and commit ourselves to behaviors that are consistent with those values. However, I also recognize that this is also a futile excercise without the grace of God to enable us to do so. Even Paul felt this conflict when he noted that his own behaviors often did not reflect his desires.

    But I also like what Paul told the Philippians. In Chapter 2 he implored his readers to take on the mind of Christ — which is one of humility and selflessness. Immediately following that imperative, he commanded the Philippian church to put their salvation into practice. Included in that mandate was what I think of as a promise:

    Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

    And in Chapter 4 he adds instructions on how we are to think — which I believe is often the most neglected discipline of all and the neglect of a disciplined thought life leads to all sorts of moral dissonance.



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