A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
LIVING OUR VALUES
By the end of the week last week, I had every reason to be joyful.
Amy had a great experience with the leaders of her church congregation. Joe Jr. found out that he passed his bar exam (the legal kind, not the lounge kind). Andrea called to say how happy she and Adam are (which stands to reason, since they are working together at “the happiest place on earth”). Beth was accepted into a respected and highly competitive major at her college. Jon’s midterm grade report arrived and there was no need for subsequent grounding. And Anita and I actually found time for a date (OK, so it was Chinese take-out and a video at home – with Jon and Beth – but it was the best date we’ve had in a long, long time).
It was a great week in our family. One of the best in recent memory. Usually there’s someone or something about which to fret. But at the end of the week last week, all was well with the Walkers. We were all safe and healthy; we were all doing good, productive things in our lives; and we all had love in our hearts, food in our stomachs, clothes on our backs comfortable beds in which to sleep (well, mostly comfortable: I’m pretty sure Amy’s husband, Brock, wasn’t sleeping on a feather bed at his post in Iraq).
It hasn’t always been thus for our family, believe me. So it was a great opportunity for me to be able to stretch out my arms, throw back my head and proclaim to any and all who would listen: “Life is good!”
Except I didn’t.
Instead, I walked around with a dark cloud over my head all weekend because the college football team for which I cheer played horribly and lost a big game – badly. I was distressed about it. No, that’s not quite right. I was irritated. I was frustrated. I was angry. I was annoyed. And I was taking it out on my family, who interestingly had not fumbled one ball during the game, nor had they been flagged for one penalty or allowed the other team to score one touchdown. They had done nothing but good things during the week, and yet all they were getting from me was gratuitous grouchiness and apoplectic angst.
Anita put up with it for as long as she could. But finally she came downstairs where I was sulking and . . . well, I won’t go into detail. Years of watching “Law & Order” have taught me a thing or two about spousal privilege. Let’s just say she found a way to help me see that my conduct was casting a pall over the entire house, and that family members who deserved to be praised and rewarded were instead feeling like they were being punished by me for something they had absolutely nothing to do with.
I apologized to Anita for what I thought was a bad case of misplaced priorities. And certainly that had something to do with it. But as I’ve thought about it during the past few days I’ve come to the conclusion that it actually goes much deeper than that. Priorities can come and go, but our values cut right to the very core of our lives and are reflected in our thinking and our behaviors. Whenever I’m asked, “What do you truly value?” my first instinctive reaction is always: “My family.” But if my family is truly my top core value, shouldn’t they also be my highest priority? And shouldn’t they therefore receive the best of me – whether or not my team has a good game that week?
Obviously, I have some work to do if I’m going to bring my thoughts, words and actions in line with my values. And if what I see on TV and in the movies is any indication, I’m not the only one (please tell me that our core values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have not really been replaced by “money, sports and the pursuit of pleasure,” as the TV schedule seems to indicate). We need to dig deep into our hearts and souls to rediscover the things that we truly value, and to bring those values to the surface so they are reflected in our daily lives.
Living our values may not always be easy. But I can’t help but believe it will be worth it. It will simplify our lives, bringing clarity to confusion and peace to our own internal dissonance. And who knows? It may even eliminate angst-ridden grouchiness and replace it with joy.
Even when we don’t have every reason to be joyful.
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— © Joseph Walker
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