CLARIFYING VALUES

Her boyfriend was trying to eat up her mind, so that then he might enjoy her body.  “Old fashioned,” he called her.  “Conservative.”  “What about oral sex?  That’s not ‘sex,’ is it?”  And so it went.  A battle of minds, of bodily passions, of the heart--a conflict of moral values.

People like to shop for “values,” to get the most for their money.  But not everyone is interested in moral values, in getting the most out of life.

Cars come with owner’s manuals.  By knowing and respecting the car’s limits and needs, changing the oil, etc., we can get the most out of it.  A driver’s license presupposes a knowledge of and respect for traffic laws.  Some might view these rules of the road as curtailments on their freedom of travel.  But to drive against traffic on the turnpike, or to drive through a blinking railroad  crossing, is to imperil our lives, and the lives of others.  In like manner, to get the most out of our lives we need to know and respect human limits and needs, to honor the moral values that regulating social intercourse.

An important part of coming of age and taking to the road of life is clarifying our values.  As we grew up we were taught many rules, norms for caring for ourselves and for others: “Use your fork.”  “Brush your teeth.”  “Tell the truth.”  “Share that.”  “Don’t go there.”  “Do your homework.”  “I don’t like your friend.”  “Go to church.”  As we move through adolescence into adulthood it becomes clear that not everyone follows the rules we were taught.  Not everyone agrees on what is right and what is wrong.  We are faced with many choices.  Do we want to continue to live by the rules that were passed on to us?  Which ones?  What do I believe in?  Why?

Clarifying our values is one of life’s most important tasks because it determines the kind of person we choose to be.  It includes our sexual morals, and driving habits, but it encompasses most every aspect of our lives, from honesty on exams and in business, to concern for the underprivileged and the environment.

As you are faced with moral, religious, and career choices, your friends, of course, can be of help to you.  But the advice of peers alone is not enough.  These are not arbitrary personal decisions.  They often involve conflicting human values and require the best advice you can get.  You need the perspective that comes from standing upon the shoulders of those who have come before you.  Select for yourself an older person--from your family, school, or church--and tap regularly into that person’s experience and wisdom.  Anchor yourself in the moral values of people your admire, and you will not be swept away by passions, fleeting fancies, or mind games.

Ronald Stanley, O.P.