Several years ago, on the vacation of a lifetime, I felt a personal dilemma between taking care of my family and being selfish with my time. Here’s how this went down.
Not long after returning from an overseas deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, my unit was given an opportunity to take some vacation time. This is the first time I had been home with my family in several months. While overseas, Dawn (my wife) and I prepared for a trip to Hawaii. This is something that we had been talking about for years, and it really was the trip of a lifetime.
We boarded a military flight, landed at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, and our family checked into a hotel suite near the top floor of a high-rise looking out over Waikiki Beach. The view out the window was paradise.
(Just about anything looks like paradise after spending months on the side of a mountain in Afghanistan or in the dusty streets of Iraq. However, this really did look like a postcard paradise.)
Got the picture in your mind yet? Good.
Now imagine the total exhaustion that comes along with spending months at war, making great sacrifices to defeat terrorism around the world. Now you can start to picture what happens next…
While sitting in the living room of that hotel suite, I started to flip through the channels of the television. This is something that I hadn’t been able to do in many months. Of course, not long after flipping through these channels, I come across a fascinating movie that has drawn me in.
And this is where the personal dilemma happens.
My family is waiting for me on the sofa of that living room, longing to go spend time with me playing in the water and building sandcastles. I, however, just want to sit in the living room and mindlessly watch TV for hours in an attempt to forget about the people killed and wounded around me in combat.
Although this dilemma took place several years ago, I still remember the incredibly strong desire to blow off my family while selfish watching a movie in that hotel room. This wasn’t a challenge physically or emotionally; this was a challenge to my values. This simple hotel room dilemma forced me to choose what was most valuable to me.
I believe decisions you make during personal challenges really demonstrate to the people around you what is most valuable to you.
You really can’t cheat on the test of values. There are a few things that will broadcast to everyone around you what you really value in life, and here are my top three tests.
Test your mind
I went through a test of the mind in that hotel room several years ago. In case you’re wondering how it turned out, I turned off the TV in the middle of the movie, went outside, and played in the surf and sand with my family for the rest of the day.
I will remember the day our family spent at Waikiki Beach for the rest of my life. It’s a precious memory that I would have lost if I had been selfish and chosen to stay in the hotel room and put myself before my family that day.
I hope my family also learned how valuable they are to me that day at the beach. Rather than only thinking about myself, I tried to honor them by placing their desires above my own. I wanted my family to know how much I value my relationship with them.
To some of you reading this article, this dilemma may seem like a very small incident. For me, it was a major test. I had to decide personally what really came first in my life – my personal comfort and convenience or my relationship with my family.
Ultimately, every time your values clash, this is a test of the mind. It really is an opportunity for you to demonstrate what is most important in your life. The decisions that you make when values clash broadcast to yourself and the world what you value most. Think of this way: It doesn’t matter what you ‘say’ is most valuable in your life. What you ‘do’ shouts to the world what you value most.
Test your month
Every personal dilemma is ultimately a clash of your personal values. This can be seen very clearly in how you spend your time. Time is the great equalizing factor. No one gets more or fewer hours in the day. Where you spend your time is a bold declaration to the world of what is valuable to you.
I only had time for one activity: watch a movie or spend time with my family. Because all of us have a finite amount of time, it is a very powerful tool to showcase your values. No matter what I say is most important in my life, when you look at my calendar, over the course of a month, you cannot deny where my attention an energy goes.
Time is a powerful test of your values. It really does broadcast to the world what you think is worthy of your attention and energy.
Test your money
You knew this one was coming, right? When doing an honest evaluation of your personal values, you also have to look at your personal income. Where your money goes demonstrates your values. Money is a megaphone, and it shouts to the world what is of first importance in your life.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting money is inherently powerful. We all need money to survive. However, after paying for the necessities of life, the rest of your money becomes a tool . . . very powerful tool!
Money is morally neutral. It isn’t inherently evil, nor is it inherently good. However, how you spend your money has the ability to do great good or great evil. That’s what makes it such a powerful tool for showcasing your values.
I wrote this article today because I think some people don’t examine their personal values. Sometimes we say that one thing is valuable, but we show something different. It might be that we are deceiving ourselves, as well as trying to deceive others, about what is truly important in our life.
There’s a lot more that I could and would like to say about this one . . . I just don’t have the time. If you want to know more information about your spending habits, check out my recent sermon on this subject – How spending problems are often spiritual problems.
I want to challenge you to go back and do these three simple tests.
Test #1– Take a look at your personal challenges over the past few months. How did these clashes of values turn out? Your decisions in the face of these challenges show what is most important in your life.
Test #2– Where did you spend the majority of your time over the past month? Did what you say is most important in your life get the majority of your time?
Test #3– Look at your checking account. Did you put your money where your mouth is? Are you spending the majority of your income on what you say is most important in your life?
This is what it looks like to put your personal values to the test and to show the world that what you say are your personal values, really are most valuable to you.