Do our lives align with our values?

 on March 1, 2017

I read The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only novel, when I was a teenager. It contains the famous quip, “Nowadays, people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

A couple of years later, he reused the line in his play Lady Windermere’s Fan as the definition of a cynic.

It is a good line for us to think about as we enter into the season of Lent. We live in a society driven by economic bottom lines – everything becomes a commodity, assigned a price tag, its worth determined by the market (whatever that market might be).

I’m sure it’s not unrelated that our society is beset by a cynicism that is not only community destroying but soul destroying. People can be bought for a price (just when we thought slavery was dead). Truth is a commodity up for sale (just when we thought objective scientific evidence would free us from delusion). What’s deemed valuable is what fetches the highest price.

But price and value are not the same thing, and the very cynical Oscar Wilde knew that. Value includes a sense of the importance or intrinsic worth of something or someone. It is not related to what we could fetch for it on the market. It may indeed be priceless – without price.

This Lent, I invite you to consider the values that undergird our diocesan strategic plan, Growing in Christ. It names five: faith, compassion, collaboration, accountability, boldness.

Many think that Lent is a time to focus on our sins and shortcomings. The great spiritual guides direct us to focus less on the vices that lead us into sin and look instead to the virtues we aspire to. How do our lives and actions align with our values?

How do we nourish our faith in God who is revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit? How do I grow in knowing God in my intellect, in my affections, in my activity? How do I respond to God’s love for me in personal and communal worship?

Loving compassion is the primary stance of God toward creation, revealed in Jesus Christ. Our love of God needs to overflow into our love for our neighbour, also God’s beloved, as God’s love has overflowed for us. How do we express our compassion in attitude and act in our daily dealings with family, friends, colleagues, strangers? Are the vulnerable the particular subjects of our love?

The Christian life is never solitary. From the beginning, we have been called to live in companionship with others. The biblical invitation is to exercise our unique gifts collaboratively, for each needs the others’ gifts for all of us to live fully and maturely. We do not need to compete for God’s love and attention. God has already given that to us.

What we do actually matters – to us, to our world, to God’s mission. It also matters how we do it. Both way and act are important. As part of a communion of saints, through time and place, we are mutually accountable to God, each other and ourselves for what we do and how we live. We bear one another’s burdens. We share in each other’s triumphs. Our baptismal vows remind us that our failures are not a measure of our worth but a chance for a new start. Accountability, then, is about constructive critique leading to growth, rather than punitive judgement that cynically pronounces nothing can improve.

Because we have hope in the living God who has raised Jesus from the dead and empowers us with the life-giving Spirit, we are called to live boldly and without the anxious fear that can trap and constrain us. Do we value boldness – the courageousness that empowered the apostles to proclaim the Good News that transforms the world? Boldness, unless it is linked to faith, compassion, collaboration and accountability, can be impulsive recklessness or irresponsible conceit. Linked to these other values, however, boldness can mobilize our creative imagination and productive energy, joining us to God’s mission to reconcile the world to himself.

This Lent, explore these values and see how they shape your life, as well as the life of your parish and our diocese. Pray about what we can do and how we can more clearly live by the values we affirm.


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