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I have said for years that Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it. We do not have the privilege of living in a culture that is biblically literate, much less one that will stay with you long enough to expound upon a core doctrine of Christianity without getting distracted because they are Instagraming your conversation. So we have to be prepared to not only share what we believe, but why we believe it.

Have you ever thought about that in the context of your own personal life? What things do you stand for? What things make you angry when you hear about them? What things keep you awake at night because you can’t do anything about it? What qualities do you admire in leaders, role models, friends, and family? What character flaws drive you insane to the point that you can’t be around “that person?” Have you ever sat down and thoughtfully worked through your own person core values and principles?

Unless you are super amazing or have been challenged in this area before, chances are you are like me and think, “Huh, I haven’t thought about that before.” I’ve thought about it in terms of an organization, but not really sat down and ask, “What is my life about? What things do I stand for? What qualities do I want to exemplify in my life?”

Before I get into a few tips for doing so, let me first explain why I think this is important for you to do personally. First, we all have core values that we innately live by even if we don’t know it. Have you ever walked into an establishment and immediately thought, “I don’t belong here” or thought “This place is for me!”? It’s probably because there was something there that resinated with you on a subconscious level that you have yet to articulate. But what if you could articulate it? What if you could actually talk with someone about your core values and why you agree or disagree with someone(thing) based upon those values?  

The second reason I think it’s important for you to do so, is for the simple fact if you don’t know what drives you, then you’ll eventually run out of steam. If you put a 17th century person in a modern vehicle and said “Drive!” – how far would they go? That’s right, as far as that tank of gas would get them. Although I’m sure they would slam into the nearest tree before doing so. The problem for them would be that they have no idea that the vehicle requires gasoline to run. That gasoline is like a core value. Similarly, if you don’t know what floats your boat, fills your cup, gets you jiven, energizes you, and likewise what discourages you, bothers you, or keeps you up at night – then how do you ever expect to get where you want to go in life?

When you have clearly articulated your values and core behaviors that you live by, decisions become a lot easier don’t they? Do I take this job or that job? Do I borrow money to buy this item or save up for it? Do I homeschool my kids or put them in public school? Do I break up with this person or are they “the One” for me? Do I forgive them or do I hold a grudge? When you’ve defined your personal core values (and maybe some family values you live by as a family) the foggy waters of decision-making become much clearer.

So how do you do it? Here are a couple ideas that I have found from numerous sources that have helped me:

  1. Think about people that you have looked up to as models throughout your life. What types of behaviors did they engage in that made you want to be like them? What do you remember most about them? If you could sum up aspects of your experience with them what would they be? What did you learn from them? This is a great starting point to find out what qualities and characteristics are valuable to you.
  2. Write a eulogy for yourself. Okay, I realize this sounds quite dark and dreadful. But seriously think about it. What would you want your spouse to say about you if you died? What would you want your kids to say about you? What would friends say about you? I promise this exercise will start bringing into focus your core values and what you want to be remembered for very quickly!
  3. Ask your friends and those closest to you for feedback about your behavior. Ask them questions like: What qualities do I exemplify most often?  What characteristics do I show on a regular basis? Are there areas of my life that you think I need to clean up? Wow! Are you ready to open yourself up to constructive criticism? Are you ready to hear the types of behaviors that shine through in your everyday life? Maybe you will need to do this one very carefully and prepare emotionally for it. You may be disappointed afterward, find fresh direction, or be pleasantly surprised.
  4. Last, and most importantly, take time to pray and reflect. Find a quite place. It’s so easy to be swamped by electronic devices, phone calls, emails, Facebook notifications, and pictures of food that need to be Instagramed – slow down, take time, meditate, reflect, and pray. Ask the Lord to guide your thoughts. Open the scriptures and investigate what qualities Jesus showed that stand out to you. What about other Bible characters that you admire – what values stand out to you that you can adopt for your own life?

I hope that you take time to figure out what your values and core behaviors will be. Why? Because I want you to succeed in doing what God calls you to do. And that becomes more clear as you clarify the values and principles that motivate you to move forward.

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