Much too early, every Thursday morning, I go to a men’s group. I say “go to” but “slog to” may be more appropriate; 05:30am is an awful time to be awake. But there is free coffee and since I inherited my father’s “thriftiness”, I’m a sucker for such inducements. We typically gather to discuss parenting, how to be better husbands, etc… but today blessed us with an unwarranted epiphany.
When an epiphany comes along, you pay attention
We were discussing values and how a parent needs to know and live their own values before he can impart those values on to his children. Makes sense in one’s head, but when you get down to it, how exactly do you know your values?
We all theoretically agreed that values are important, that we must have them, but how does one create new, or good, values? Is there a process? As we talked about these issues, it became apparent that most of us saw this topic through a fuzzy lens, meaning that we understood it in our heads but had very little idea how to go about making it happen.
What I mean by “values”
A value, meaning “what you value” or “your values”, is a reaction to experience. When you go through something, or if something happens to you, you react. Your automatic actions will reveal your deepest values. That will show what your heart really believes. Then your actions reveal your chosen values.
If you are accosted by a homeless man outside of a supermarket, or perhaps someone that “has just run out of gas” and “just needs a few bucks” to get somewhere, what is your reaction?
Initially you might be sympathetic to their cause but then other values kick in, ones that make you decide that this person is not really stuck, that they will just buy booze with “your” money. So your value is your reaction but also your final action.
In fact, your final action is your chosen value
And this is how you know and change your values; change your decisions.
And this is not a theoretical discussion
This idea plays for keeps, but you have to live it. You can’t simply sit back and imagine that you will make a different choice, you actually have to change. You have to actively participate in the change you want to make in yourself.
If you sit at home all day and night, watching TV or movies, you probably won’t have many opportunities to test yourself. Go out, put yourself in new and challenging situations, find experiences that push you to see who you are and more importantly who you want to be.
Create a better story, be the character that inspires
In great stories, truly memorable characters are never passive. They take action, they move their story forward. The writer puts him or her in situations that test their mettle so the reader can see how they’ll respond. That’s what we need to do with ourselves.
If you have never been to church, find a church that pushes your buttons a little. See how you react, then if your actions are not the values you want, conscioulsy focus on the actions you want to take. Go to a part of town that you are scared to go to and see what happens. Obviously some good sense is required but a little danger is good for the soul.
Conflict allows you to see who you are and change.
We are created to tell great stories with our lives
We are meant to live and rub up against this world in a way that matters and inspires. To make a difference in ours and others lives. Find the values that inspire you, put yourself in situations where you have to choose to make those values part of you, then repeat with different experiences.
You are the storyteller, the writer of your character’s actions. The Great Storyteller handles the world around you, but you are in charge of your own actions. Make them the best you can.