Recently I was in a faith-sharing group where the participants were asked to share our most important values. Have you ever been asked to articulate your deepest values? It is something to think about.
There is an old saying that we should “put your money where your mouth is.” Another one tells us to “practice what we preach.” Often we say we value certain things, but in reality our actions say otherwise. I remember a retreat director saying one time that you can usually tell what you really value by how you spend your money and the bulk of your time.
An example is that many people claim to value prayer but they are so busy and don’t have enough time. On the other hand, when the weekend rolls around or they have a day off, they often don’t spend any more time with the Lord than when they are working or studying.
This holds true for persons who say they value friendship or family and yet rarely spend a few hours of quality time with those they love. I know a married deacon who was responsible for the Family Life Committee of a particular parish where I ministered. He and his wife spent so much time doing things in the parish that he was rarely home with his children. Consequently, several of them ended up in trouble and with serious problems from lack of parental attention. If you asked him, he would claim to be a family man, but his behavior proved otherwise.
It is so easy to say we have certain values but our lives don’t always reflect them. We can say our faith and the Holy Eucharist are important to us and yet go on a vacation with friends and miss Mass because we didn’t want to inconvenience them.
Another example is to call good health a value, but skip meals, eat poorly and get little exercise. Recently, I came to the conclusion that if exercise really is a value in my life, I wouldn’t avoid it so much, especially because it helps people with Parkinson’s disease.
You can also discover your values by regularly reflecting on your daily life. I like to take a little time each day to review how I lived the last 24 hours. I ask myself questions about what I did or did not do, and how I spent my time and energy. Some of the following questions may help you in your own reflection:
Do I value friendship and relationships? Look at your life. Who are your true friends? Do you connect with them frequently? Will they stick by you in the good times and the bad? Are there people for whom you would do the same?
Do I value my faith? When did you last spend regular time with Jesus in prayer or go on a retreat?
Is family a value for me? When is the last time you really spent quality time with your family or wrote someone far away a letter or made a call?
The list goes on and on. What we really value in our lives must be translated into action.
It is in reflecting upon our actions and where we spend our time and energy, that we discover what we really value. You might be surprised.