Everyone has values. Every person, organization, team, church has values, and it is important to state those values upfront. That way they can serve like rails on a train for your vision. But if Jerry Seinfeld has taught us anything, it is that keeping the reservation is actually far more important than simply taking the reservation. So it is with core values. Anyone can state a value.
When University of Texas football coach Charlie Strong took over the program, he laid out some clear, and frankly, pretty simple core values such as don’t do drugs and respect women. It didn’t take him long to release the athletes who loved drugs and hurt women. Had he kept such players on the team-many who were quite talented-that inaction would have revealed his actual core value: win at all costs. Perhaps that’s why I have a soft spot for Texas football.
There is a big difference between stated core values such as those on a website, business card and actual core values. But how do we really know if our stated core values differ than our actual core values? Or put it this way, how do we know what it is that we truly value? We will always act consistently with what we value the most. Always. With that in mind, let me share three ways to discern what we actually value.
Time. Look at your calendar. How did you actually spend your time last month or last year? What ventures did you pursue? To what did you say “no” or “yes” last month or for the past year? For whom or what did you carve out time? If we actually value family, spouse, friends, church worship, and/or our neighborhoods, we will see those values confirmed through our calendars. If we see someone or some activity repeating itself on the calendar, that has nothing to do with the aforementioned-or at least in the order of importance we state-then guess what it is that we truly value? Time doesn’t lie and a calendar is a great evaluation tool. And if we don’t evaluate, let’s remember that it doesn’t take long for our spouses, kids, and friends to learn what is actually important to us. We teach so much more with our time than with our words.
Emotion. I often tell my son, “What matters most is not if you win the game, but how you play the game.” In fact, my stated core values for my kids, and all the teams I coach, are “Have fun, hustle, and respect.” But one game my son told me, “Dad I could hear you during the game; you cared a lot about it.” Ouch. He nailed it. I didn’t have fun, and I didn’t respect the referee. What I really valued was favorable officiating and beating the opponent. My actual values showed up not so much in how I spent my time, but how I spent my emotions. What I really valued was revealed to my son, and then he simply revealed it to me. Thankfully.
Money. How you spend your money is yet another way to discern what you value. If you want to see what I really value, look at my credit card, bank statement or charitable giving. We do not withhold our money from what/whom we deem valuable. If fishing expenses comprise a larger chunk of my money than family nights out, or more than my charitable giving, then I cannot honestly claim I value my family, community, or church more than my fishing. It literally doesn’t add up.
The good news of the gospel is that Someone valued you, even when you didn’t value Him. It is only in a head on cross collision with God’s grace displayed through Jesus that His stated values in scripture slowly begin to transform our actual values.
Pastor Geoff Henderson, at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald written by local clergy members.