Identifying and Obeying Our Values

A doctor seated beside me told me of how he and his Catholic priest would head over to his place for a number of beers. Sometimes they would get so caught up in their conversations that they would drink until they had become drunk. His question was, "what harm is there in two guys getting slightly drunk at home?"

The implication however, was that getting drunk was perfectly fine because if the priest did it with me it must be ok. Talking to him further revealed that he had a number of children who were now teenagers. This doctor mentioned that he would never drink in front of them. This directly contradicted with the man’s first statement.

We started discussing this point, arguing that if he was not willing to drink in front of his children, then it was obvious that he held a value that drinking was wrong. If it was not wrong then there would be no problem in drinking in front of them. It may also be, for arguments sake, that the value was about it being wrong to get drunk. In either case, this value was being violated when the doctor would drink to excess with his priest.

Not only this, but each time he drank with his priest, he was fooling himself into thinking that everything was alright because his priest was also part of the act, dissipating part of his guilt. Perhaps he was reasoning with himself that it was ok to drink because he felt that he could control himself, or for some other weak concession that he was making for himself. In reality, he was trampling all over this value of his which so clearly showed itself when his children were around.

After violating a value for a sufficient amount of time, our conscience does not remind us so loudly of our error and we start to sear it as with a hot iron, becoming less and less sensitive to it. Soon we do not even hear it, but it does not change the fact that we are still acting against it.

Being true to ourselves is identifying those values that we hold and starting to live true to them, obeying our conscience no matter how weak its voice may have become. It is through doing this that we will experience true peace, both with ourselves and with others.