Why What Matters — Matters
Growing up, one of my favorite games was Monopoly. I have fond memories of Friday nights at my older brother’s home, embroiled in fierce competition to put one another out of business through our dominant real estate holdings. I am not sure that I ever actually read the official rules for Monopoly. I just adapted to the rules my brother taught me.
As I’ve played Monopoly over the years with other friends and acquaintances, I’ve realized that many of us have made up our own rules about how and when to collect money, when you can and cannot start trading properties, and how you can manipulate things when you are about to go bust. When people play the same game using different rules, conflict and confusion ensue.
In life, many of us are playing by rules we learned somewhere and from someone along the way. We embrace our rules, which may or may not be based on reliable truth. We soon realize that other people have their own sets of rules. Not only can we become confused on how the game of life is to be executed, but conflict abounds as our values clash with those of others. Of course, Monopoly is just a game of little consequence. Life, on the other hand, is a contest that requires clarity and conviction about the principles that make for satisfaction and significance.
Give Us This Day Our Daily Relativism
Today, we live in an age of pervasive relativism. It’s found in business, education, and politics. We also experience it in family life and even in religion. Closer to the home of our own hearts, many of us live our everyday lives in a relativistic fashion. We embrace the idea of values but have not clarified what they are and how they should scaffold our daily lives. When it comes to values and issues of principle, we have our feet firmly planted in midair. It’s hard to go deep or win the daily battle with that approach to life.
A few years ago, I was called as the senior pastor of a church that was in deep trouble. After substantial campus relocation, the congregation was strapped with an 18 million-dollar mortgage, a 10-million-dollar cash-shortfall from a failed capital campaign, and no senior pastor. The preacher confessed to adultery just weeks after the relocation.
In the process of seeking to shepherd the church to health and guide the staff, I conducted an experiment a few months after my arrival. For years, the church had emphasized 15 guiding principles that uniquely identified their congregation and clarified their ministry strategy. So at an all-staff gathering I handed out blank sheets of paper and asked the staff to list these 15 values. I was met with blank stares. After collecting the papers I discovered that one staff member listed five, most could recall one or two, and some had no idea what I was talking about.
Many of us function this same way in our daily experience. We know truth is important. Somewhere, someone wrote about it – we seem to recall. We feel the need to clarify the things that really matter. But we lack any definition, compelling recall, or clear articulation of the “rules of the game” in our lives.
What if someone were to come up and ask, “Can you explain your values in two minutes or less?” Could you identify some uncompromising principles that are real for you and woven into the fabric of your daily existence? Are they so clear and dominant in your thinking that they are a framework for your daily life? Do you have a certain awareness that these principles spring from the Word of God?
I believe every one of us has a longing to embrace wisdom in such a specific way that it results in a system of principles that will guide and guard our daily journey. We need a set of personal convictions which we will not compromise. This can be described as a value system.
Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 2:5, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” We want to win the daily contest through a life of worship, integrity, and non-conformity. Values matter. A clear understanding of the unchanging rules of the game matters.
Clarifying Your Values
In the book The Deeper Life, we help you understand the difference between your DECLARED values and your DEMONSTRATED values, then guide you to make sure these two factors align. Some key tests help us understand the values we say we embrace and the ones we actually live out. Once our true values are clarified we can articulate them in a way that is clear and reviewable every day. This is another key step in the pathway to a deeper, more intentional life.
The Value of Integrity in Values
Tony Campolo has described an insightful social research poll conducted on fifty people, all over the age of ninety-five. They were asked, “What would you do differently if you had life to live over again?” The top three answers were these: I would reflect more, risk more, and do more things that would live on after I’m dead.[i]
A Christian interpretation of this would be, “I would take more time to clarify the principles that really matter. Then, after examining their eternal value, I would take the risk and boldly live out my life based on these principles.” This is the collective voice of fifty people with ninety-five years of experience. A person doesn’t have to reach this age to learn these lessons.
Those who live meaningful lives are people of deep conviction. To develop conviction you must slow down and ask yourself what matters. Then, check and see if there is a disparity between what you say and what you do. In the beginning, it may have to be a daily process. With consistent practice, though, the principles will become clear both in your words and life. Your life of integrity.
Copyright © 2014 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.