The Value of Values

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I once knew a man (it could have as easily been a woman) who believed he deserved everything he wanted. He lost his job but nothing changed. In fact, he believed he deserved even more since it was so unfair that he’d lost the job. He dined on credit at the most expensive restaurants; he bought a new sports car on credit. When no employers called to hire him, he borrowed money and opened his own restaurant. He was responsible now for employees—but he emptied the cash register daily without bothering to pay taxes or vendors. Facing bankruptcy, he shrugged, evaded frantic phone calls, and signed up for the pre-approved personal credit that continued to arrive. I lost track of him, but periodically I hear stories. He continues to find people to back his ventures, and he still leaves a trail of hurt and fury.

I was one of those affected by this man’s self-absorption. Angrily—and futilely—I also voiced frustration and sought compensation. Until I made room in my mind and heart for a lesson: This is an example of someone else’s poor stewardship, but what do you want to learn from it? What do you value? Who do you want to be?

Fast forward about a year to post-9/11 in New York City where I had my own small business. The economy had already slowed, but my employees knew that payroll and medical coverage were guaranteed. Still, I felt rumblings of needed changes in and around me. What do you value? Who do you want to be? I began a transition; I downsized the company, spent more time in my community, started teaching knitting to eight-year-olds in an after-school program, discovered other ways to give back. I made less money and felt richer than ever before.

Fast forward a bit more. My youngest brother, living on the other side of the country, had a motorcycle accident and was paralyzed. The world again turned upside down. What do you value? Who do you want to be? His courage and spirit taught me and all who know him that everything is possible when you have family and friends who love you, work that challenges and fulfills you, an outlook that is grateful, generous, and embracing.

I continue to see now that we choose what we value, and that our definition of “value” changes as we open ourselves to a larger life. I think God is always encouraging us to ask, Who do you want me to be? What do you value? The rest is up to us.