Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places



Values: the life blocks, the moral foundation

We just ended this excellent series at bible class on how we communicate to family members. Amongst many other things, the series involved identifying our personal styles and reactions in times of conflict, and having a look at other historical examples in the bible. I am kicking myself at the moment because I’d stored my notes from 2 weeks ago in a real safe place… which of course now means I can’t find them. But I did remember that the first question on the top of the list had to do with personal values.

It was something along the lines of,

Have your told your family what your personal values are?

It’s a great question, at least for me. Mostly because I have no idea what my personal values are, much less thought about articulating it to my family of origin, or to Tony and Arddun. It’s also a great question because it highlights that most fundamental assumption that trips all of us up: just because we’re in the same family, doesn’t mean we all inhabit the same attitudes and exhibit the same behaviours.

It’s like common sense in housework. It’s not actually that common. So if that’s tricky enough to determine sometimes, then we need to start talking out loud about what we think our personal and family values are.

A quick look around the interweb has produced a number of familiar and less familiar examples. More than anything, I’m awed and rather ashamed that I had never thought to do this.

In This House
I’ve seen this around. Like it, but only two out of three of us do Loud really well. And even then, I’ve mellowed lots.
Steele Family
Ooohhh I like this one
Family words rather than values per se
Something more abstract. Not sure that I care for this “Tag Cloud” style
One-word family values list
Also like this one
Homemade family values flower
Clearly, there were SEVERAL family meetings and a parenting textbook/workbook attached to this one. Wow!
Christian Vanilla
The Christian Comprehensive approach
We Are Kind
The Focused approach
Jennings family values
I thought I recognised the handwriting!!! I’ve seen that poster before!!! #kjennings #whilerandomlygoogling

Of course, articulating family values is something that needs to be discussed and agreed on, and not just cobbled together by me, the overenthusiastic part-time SAHM. But even before I’m ready to go broach the subject with Tony (and Tony, my love, consider the subject already partially broached!) I need to work out what it is that I value.

I’m still working through the list, but I thought I’d start with what I already do. I think we ALL like to think that we champion huge concepts all the time like Love, Justice, Loyalty, Kindness, Purity, Courage. And we aspire to be diligent and successful in areas like Health, Beauty, Finances. Still, I think we all know that attitudes don’t speak the loudest – actions do.  So here’s what I’ve come up with so far this week, based partly on what I spend my heart on. And I’m sure there’s more to come.

My Personal Values (that I’ve come to recgonise anyway)

I value continual self improvement, hard work, and the desire to reach my full potential

This one took a while for me to get to, especially the bit about reaching my full potential. I think we get constantly inundated with the World’s vision of how someone reaches their full potential. They get a Nobel Peace Prize, for instance. Climb a mountain. Start a company. Become a celebrity. Write a book. Write 10 books. Work 85 hours a week. Have 7 children, foster 10 more, adopt 3. Basically spend every waking moment Living and Doing, in the hopes of becoming the best version of themselves.

I believe it’s no coincidence that I choose to be a Christian. It’s also not a coincidence that I choose to blog. The former requires a lifetime of a renewing of the mind, and the unlearning of old ways while putting on Christ. The latter is one of my means of documenting the process, and checking in. My problem is finishing – I’m not great at that. But I do genuinely seek to do better, and I do spend quite a bit of time examining my faith, my actions, and my shortcomings. Which is why I’m constantly goal-setting (but still suck at seeing some of it through). And also, I get REAL excited putting together a 23-step program to get me there. That’s probably the funnest bit for me.

I value Discernment, Sagacity, Temperate Judgement

This one came about because I’m increasingly aware of how I balk when given “expert advice” on many subject matters – health and nutrition, parenting, technology, religion, self-help… I am especially leery of magic bullets. Yet when Celina and I were growing up and identifying our polar-opposite traits, we had always regarded her as the suspicious one, while I would swallow a concept whole first because I trusted people so quickly. That seems to have changed along the way.

Don’t get me wrong – I can still get incredibly excited over new shiny concepts. But Tony often balances off such enthusiasm with a measured, factual response (and the occasional eyebrow-raise) that I’ve grown to appreciate his cautiousness. And I’ve become a lot more moderate (and sadly, a little cynical) over the last decade and a half, after an entire adolescence of my mother tsk-tsking me for being Too Emotional.

I value having the courage to speak up, to change, to meddle

While packing my old bedroom in Singapore last year, I came across a letter I had written to a sister in Christ and it took my breath away. It was basically me broaching the subject of how I’d noticed her changing away from God and church, and how I really yearn for her to hang on to her faith. It was earnest, it was honest, it was surprisingly loving and gentle (not my best traits), and because it had been such a long time since I’d done something like that, it touched me. Weirdly, I wish others had written that way to me when I was going through big stuff in my late teens and early twenties. I wish I had sent that letter to that sister. But perhaps I only wrote what I needed to hear for myself. Communicating through the prism of my own love language.

I can be blunt now, I know. I have a forthright manner. I call a spade a spade, sometimes worse. But I think I’ve mellowed. I used to have a lot more courage to speak up for the underdog, to broach difficult ideas, to poke at the glass ceiling, question the status quo, meddle with love. Of course, that also meant I tread on many toes, flummoxed many Aunties and Uncles in church, intimidated others without necessarily winning them over, and made enemies. I still do some of these things quite well. :-(

Coming to a different country and starting out as an outsider has subdued me somewhat. I am also more mindful, now that I’m married, of charging ahead but leaving my introverted, circumspect husband and partner exposed and hating it. And yet I wonder if I’ve swung too far the other way, like a pendulum. Where the good stuff is getting muffled with the bad. I believe I still have it in me to fight the good fight when it counts.

This personal value isn’t so much one that I’m exercising regularly, but one that is dormant and needs refining.


I’m sure there are many others – the dead obvious ones like I Value Beauty (which is why I window shop so much), and the more surprising one like I Value Family, which is why I’ve put the corporate career ladder climbing schtick aside for now, and am still working out how to reinvent that bit. This isn’t a comprehensive list, like I said, but it was the first 3 that came to mind and it’s an interesting start.


Soooo… what are your personal values?

The importance of being earnest

Now that I have a baby, I’m in a desperate hurry to grow up.

There’s something downright scary about having a blank canvas of a human being living with you. Because nothing quite points out the colour palette of my values like having Arddun watch me and sponge up. It’s almost hypocritical how I expect Tony to take me as I am, warts and all, and yet how determined I am to scrub up and present my most godly self to my offspring, in the hopes that some halo shiny will rub off.

Why is that?

Within the first six months of Arddun’s life, many in my mother’s group had arranged for their bubs to be christened. And the natural question of Arddun’s own christening arose, of course. And rightly or wrongly, my standard answer had been that Tony and I believe in letting Arddun make that decision about baptism herself.

On the surface, it sounds like we’re bringing Arddun up in a religiously-neutral environment so she can decide for herself if God (or gods) exist or not. And yet if she is to pay witness to our everyday lives, it is my deepest desire that she understands what being a (hugely flawed but tremendously forgiven) Christian is. See, this has been my struggle – and my latest epiphany: there is no way any parent can bring up a religious blank canvas. No way.

Because if our actions match our beliefs, then all children grow up either taught that there is God or there isn’t. I think it would be very difficult to be deeply devoted to God, yet teach my child that He may or may not exist. And likewise, that it’d be very difficult to teach my child who God is, yet live day to day like I don’t believe in Him.

Bizarrely, I had spent quite a bit of time BC mulling over Fictitious Kid’s religious education. I’m a second-generation Christian, which means I’d attended Sunday school and worship since I was 2 weeks old, came forward to be baptised when I was 12, and only missed 2 Sunday services before I came to Australia and its daylight savings and ruthless winter influenza. And I had spent five dark years resenting the fact that I could not be sure I owned my own faith. I wondered if I’d been brainwashed, if my worldview had long been coloured by the tinted glasses superglued to my face since birth. I searched for years while vacantly going through the motions of worship, and felt a traitor both ways – either to my family and my God for doubting, or to myself for not knowing how to get to “neutral ground” so I could start to “find REAL truth” unfettered by expectation and upbringing.

It’s a natural course that nth-generation Christians take. It’s part of growing up and taking responsibility for our own values and beliefs. And it took me a long time to get comfortable again. In my younger days, in those days of searching, I had determined to try something different with Fictitious Kid. In desperately unhappy moments, I had wondered if I’d ever been a Christian had I grown up in a freethinking household. And I had wondered if I could bring up Fictitious Kid in a religiously-neutral household, where he/she would be taught all world beliefs (including Atheism) and left truly to decide for him or herself.

But now I’m not sure I could, or that I’d even want to.

Because at the very least, Christianity provides practical guidelines, a value system, and answers the ultimate question of “Why”. And I owe it to Arddun to give her those certainties, at least. And maybe she’ll become a Christian, and maybe she won’t. I have to believe that a heart that truly seeks truth will find it eventually, and so perhaps my job is to soften her heart enough so that it yearns for the journey. Her salvation is not in my hands, but I’ve decided I love her enough to give her the best that I believe in.

I only hope that I have the courage to love her for her choices – and in spite of her choices. And that she knows, just like I know about my own mother, that I’m doing the whole God-upbringing thing for her in spite of my flaws, and because of my deepest love.

Arddun's first bible class
Arddun’s first bible class: 11 March 2012

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