I believe that in order to truly understand an individual, you must grasp their key values. I accept this as a truth because these ideals certainly (and regularly) affect a person’s decisions, even if they are unable to fully identify their own foundational concepts. In order of importance, my values are wisdom, integrity, and fellowship. I believe that these values align closely with my identity primarily as a Christian and then a husband, son, brother, friend, leader, coach, airman, officer, and then writer.
I place wisdom as the primary value because I believe that if you desire wisdom and search for it, then the rest of your foundations will sort themselves out. If you believe that all values are relative, then wisdom will do you no good. In a world where all values are relative, you have no requirement to live for anyone other than yourself and you would do best to live for every pleasure you can grasp. Ironically, this has been proven to actually decrease long-term happiness (see the book ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ by Daniel Gilbert, as well as the entire book of Ecclesiastes), and anyone with common sense can watch the horrors that fame and fortune inflict on a soul that lives without a foundation driven by wisdom. This is why wisdom leads to something far more important than pleasure; it leads to meaning. This is why an individual must accept moral foundations, as without accepting universal fundamentals, there can be no judgement; no telling right from wrong. And wisdom is just that. Wisdom is having good judgment, and if a person understands right from wrong, then they will understand a multitude of things: the proper subjects to study, the incorrect values to live by, the appropriate actions to accomplish every morning, and the erroneous words to use in a relationship. I believe that with wisdom, you will be led to God, and by finding the Creator and Source of moral authority, you will discover what responsibilities you must shoulder in this life. By shouldering responsibilities, one gives meaning to their life and if you shoulder God-directed responsibilities, then you have accepted your required suffering and will have positively affected not only your own life, but the lives around you as well.
I value integrity because without it, no relationship can truly form, and who are we without relationships? Integrity is more than honesty, as it includes abiding by all moral principles (once again, a true universal foundation), which you have gained through great wisdom. The Ten Commandments, or the Judeo-Christian moral law, is an appropriate place to start. The true moral foundation though, can be found in Matthew 22:37-40, where Jesus states (paraphrased) to first love God and second (but equally!) love your fellow man. If you accomplish this, then you will have no need for any other laws, as all other edicts will naturally flow from these two. Living in this manner does not simply mean living with kindness, but also motivation and honesty and transparency. With integrity, you will understand your gifts and how you must shoulder the responsibilities that wisdom directs you to.
For me at least, fellowship naturally flows from wisdom and integrity. After all, if I have begun to understand right from wrong and I truly love both God and my fellow man, then I must show my brothers and sisters what is good and what is sin, lest they fall into a trap and lose their lives or worse, their souls. Fellowship though, offers opportunities in both directions, and in doing so, also allows for me to understand when and how I am wrong. For this, I must have integrity (specifically, honesty and transparency) with myself. No matter whether I can admit that I may be wrong, there is still a chance that I might be, and it is a truly horrible thing to exist and only find out at the end that you have endured life with the incorrect guidance. The responsibilities we shoulder will inevitably lead us to fellowship, either to mentor or be mentored. If done right, fellowship is a mixing of lives, a discussion or morals, and a true empathetic connection with those we care to have it with. Only through fellowship can you become a trusted advisor, and only then can you truly have a chance at changing someone’s life for the better by altering not only their actions, but specifically their foundations.
I state these values to present the ‘why’ behind what I do. They’re why I struggle to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually each and every day. They’re why I challenge the organizations and ideologies of this world, including many Christian-based (but warped) ideologies. They’re why I write and why I open my home and heart (as often and as well as I can) to those around me. They’re why I choose to face challenges head-on, while also tearing down my own arguments to ensure that I’ve built a solid foundation. They’re why even though I might be wrong at times in my actions or words, I can ensure that I continue to fight for what is true and right; to struggle against this world and its warped and shallow values, as it’s my duty, the responsibility I’ve shouldered.
If you’ve made it this far, then I expect that you’ll have stopped for (at least) a moment to consider whether you have a concept of your own key values. Whether you have a complete grasp on them or not, I challenge you to, over the coming week, reflect on what top three values you should live by, and whether your actions and goals reflect those ideals. In doing so, I wholeheartedly believe that you’ll successfully discover or affirm the responsibilities you ought to shoulder. If you successfully accept these responsibilities, then you will have given your life purpose and will have satisfaction even through the darkest of trials that approach your doorstep.
-Christopher L. Myers