I hope this letter finds you well. As we begin this new year I can’t help but think about where I’d like to make improvements in my life. Society makes this hard to ignore as we ask each other about new years resolutions. As much as I hate cliches I enjoy any opportunity for self-reflection.
My son started middle school this year. I can feel my time with him growing shorter as I remember my own transition to middle school. With it came more confidence and independence. I want to foster that, while at the same time instill in him values that will provide direction.
As a teacher, my gut reaction is to teach him those values overtly. As a parent (and a human), I know overt education rarely works. I need to show him those values. To lead by those values. To live those values.
My values determine my actions. And I know my kids are watching my actions. They see me get angry, frustrated, and fail. They also see my determination, my triumphs, and my success. And whether I like it or not what they see is what they’ll repeat. My behavior sets a standard for their behavior.
I think this is what it means in the scripture:
No matter what I do, my baggage will pass onto my kids, until I work through it. Setting an example of working through my baggage will hopefully set an example of working through their own.
With this in mind, I started to think through my values. Starting with watching my actions. Then I can work backward and see what I value.
My values were established in my young years through experience and example (my parent’s values = their actions). Most of my values have been borrowed. They weren’t really my values. A lot of my actions didn’t line up with what I valued. That’s a problem.
Values should be reinforced like military training. Muscle memory. Something I can rely on without having to think. They should be my default response. They have to be practiced.
I remember rolling my eyes at a church magazine article about a family that practiced saying no to drugs around the dinner table. Anytime I suggest role play for training purposes at work I get the same reaction. Practice feels stupid. Especially something that should be innately obvious. But I am not always what I want to be. I tend to do the easiest, least painful, and immediately gratifying path than the one I really want to take.
Let’s take honesty. Honesty feels like a no-brainer. Yet, I have a particularly hard time with honesty. Not that I’m deliberately deceitful, but I won’t always reveal everything I should.
This habit of not being honest as much with myself as with others comes from a lot of practice and reward for my dishonesty. Sitting in priesthood interviews or talking to my parents and feeling so much shame and fear. It was easier to lie than go through the pain of the truth.
My dishonesty is built on shame. For me to work through it I have to own those parts of me that I’m not particularly proud of. I have to be okay with them. I have to be honest with myself they’re a part of me. It’s only after this that I can start to value honesty enough that it influences my actions.
I want it to be my default action. I want to be an honest person. Not just because I want my kids to be honest. It is through honesty that I can live authentically. As scary as that is I would rather be authentic than fit into some box I wasn’t built for.
Have a great new year as you work towards your goals. If there’s anything I can do to help let me know.
Take care and stay safe,