Defining My Values

Written by Renee

I completed the Joy Equation in February 2010.  As part of Week One, I was instructed to identify my eight core values. This was new territory for me.  My values?  No one has ever asked about my values. The only time I ever hear the word “values” is when the religious right shouts about “family values” which is really just a band-aid for bigotry. I had to warm up to the word. What are my values?

At first, with my Catholic background, I thought about the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’s shake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3-10)

Peace? Yeah, okay, that sounds good. Justice? Sure. Merciful? Acceptable. Poor in spirit? Meek? Mourning? I get it, but those aren’t my values. I don’t want to lie down at the end of each day and ask myself, “Renee, were you poor in spirit today?” It doesn’t seem motivating.

I had to dig deeper. My Catholicism still clenched me in its grasp. I thought about the seven spiritual works of mercy.

1. Instruct the ignorant.
2. Counsel the doubtful.
3. Admonish sinners.
4. Bear wrongs patiently.
5. Forgive offenses willingly.
6. Comfort the afflicted.
7. Pray for the living and the dead.

Ah! Here we go. Teach. Counsel. Console. Forgiveness. Compassion. Patience. Peace. We’re getting closer. Thanks, St. Thomas of Aquinas, for teaching me about mercy.

The Joy Equation states, “Our core values are the habits of our heart.” What makes my heart cry out? What moves me to action? What would I fight to for the right to enjoy and experience?

I narrowed down a long, long list with notes in the margins reminding myself “not what I should choose, rather what resonates with me.” Finally, I came up with eight. And then I defined them.

Honesty – Being honest with myself and others, telling the truth, saying what I mean, and always having good, open communication.

Peace – Being at peace with myself, things in my life that I can’t change, and cutting back on the arguing to focus on the greater good. “Good enough is good enough.” –Jane Fonda

Love – Keeping love in my heart and showing it at all times, making everyone feel special and worth of my time. Radiate Love.

Patience – Knowing what matters enough to stress me out and what’s not worth my worries. Keeping my temper in check. Taking deep breaths and going slowly. Keep calm and carry on.

Joy/Humor – Smiling and laughing more than frowning and crying. Finding humor in unfavorable situations. Being able to laugh at myself. Enjoying the company of others. Finding my fun.

Compassion – Knowing when others need my help, a second chance, or a compromise. Putting myself in others’ shoes. Being flexible to accommodate the needs of others when they need it most.

Passion – Recognizing the drive I need to go after what I want. Taking life by the horns. Fearlessly pursuing the things I love. Making time to do things for me.

Authenticity – Knowing what’s best when I need it most. Staying true to myself. Putting my needs first. Taking time to fix #1. Not compromising my values. Doing what I need to do. Not being fake. Giving 100% all the time but knowing what 100% is.

When you wrap up my values and put a pretty bow on them, you can see the Beatitudes and spiritual works of mercy trickling through them… but you can also see my liberal arts education and my ferocious feminism. I can tell where I’m trying to reel in my Type A, Arian personality, trying to cool off my fire sign. I can tell where I’m trying to open my heart just a little more, to soften my rough edges and let a little more light in.

There’s something empowering about naming your values and doing your best to adhere to them, something very tenacious and gritty that I love.  It makes for one hell of a personal journey.

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