Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | September 1, 2019

Values clarification

I first heard about values clarification when I was studying for a degree in education. Since then, the concept has always intrigued me, and I’ve sometimes used exercises to help myself, students, and parishioners evaluate their most important values.

The simple truth is that often we can hold two values simultaneously, but there are other times when those same two values may conflict and we have to choose one over the other.

Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. [from Luke 14]

Jesus, in yet another difficult saying (does he have any that aren’t difficult?) says that discipleship—learning the right thing, doing the right thing—is the most important value. Everything else comes second. Every. Thing. Else.

This is why you see parents covering their children in the presence of gunfire, giving up their own lives to save the life of someone they love. Or a police officer or soldier shielding a civilian who may even be a stranger.

This is why people call the authorities to turn in the family member they love who is plotting violence.

This is why the whistleblower releases information about illegal activity by an employer or agency.

This is why groups like AlAnon teach friends and family how to say no to someone suffering from addiction, though that can be incredibly difficult and the person they love may leave.

This is why the college student who could easily succeed in a lucrative career chooses instead to work among the poor, or create a nonprofit, or live a life centered on at-risk teens.

We all make choices every single day, and those choices are based on values that we, consciously or not, have at our highest level of what’s important.

Which values will we choose?

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2019

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