“One of the great arts in living is to learn the art of accurately appraising values. Everything that we think, that we earn, that we have given to us, that in any way touches our consciousness, has its own value” (George Matthew Adams).
PROPERLY EVALUATING THINGS IS A WONDERFUL SKILL. It comes to most people only after they’ve gotten a little age on them. It usually takes a few years of trial and error before we begin to see which things in life are really more valuable than others.
All of us have some kind of value system, whether we’ve thought much about it or not. From time to time, it’s important for us to clarify what our personal values are. But it’s also important to remember that not all values are created equal. The trick in life is to value the things that are valuable and to recognize the inferiority of all else.
To say merely that something is a “value” is not to say very much. It is only to say that a thing is capable of being valued by someone. But the crucial questions are these: How does this value rank in comparison to other values? What is the proper evaluation that should be given to this thing? It takes wisdom to see which values are valuable!
There are, to be sure, some folks who like to say that all values are subjective, that they are nothing but personal tastes. But very few people really believe that. Adolf Hitler had a value system, but most commonsense people understand that his value system was not just subjectively wrong — it was wrong when measured against the objective standards of goodness. It’s not meaningless to say that Abraham Lincoln’s value system was objectively better than Hitler’s.
If we live in a society where everyone is free to value things as they wish, we enjoy a fortunate freedom. But freedom of thought does not mean that all thoughts are equally valuable. Freedom just means that if I choose to value a thing that has little intrinsic value, I am free to do so — and to live with the consequences.
The freedom to value things according to our conscience should encourage us to grow in the quality of our conscience, to learn to evaluate things more truthfully and skillfully. As this year closes, we’ll do ourselves (and our relationships) a favor if we upgrade our values.
“Civilization ceases when we no longer respect and no longer put into their correct places the fundamental values” (R. P. Lebret).