How to Tell What’s Important

Today I am going to, as they say down in Texas, “get to meddlin’.” This is a phrase often said to preachers when they say something that hits home and makes people feel uncomfortable. The sentence usually goes something like “Preacher, usually you have some real good stuff for us, but today you got to meddlin’.”

Here it is, the plain, unvarnished truth: we (you included) make time and money for the things that are important to us.

Just about every time I teach this I either get howls of protest or people squirming uncomfortably in their seats. “That can’t be true.” “You just don’t understand.” “I really want to do this but I just don’t have time.” “I really want that but I can’t afford it.” “I know I need to be in that program but I can’t afford it right now.”

The uncomfortable squirmers know it is true, and they are squirming because they don’t like being confronted with it. (Most of the howlers know it is true, too, they just wish it weren’t.)

You may wish it wasn’t true, too. If so, I hope you don’t get your wish. Bear with me and let me explain.

Have you ever had to fill out one of those questionnaires that asked you to list the things that were important to you? Did you have trouble doing it?

Or maybe it was an assessment… or a values-sorter… or some similar kind of thing that asked you to rank from 1 to 10 (or however many items there were) from most important to least important.

If so, how did you do? I’ll bet that you put things in the order you WISHED they were important to you. Or the way you thought would look good to whoever was going to be going over it with you.

We humans are funny that way. It is important to us to look good to others. We will answer questionnaires in the way that is socially acceptable or that we think the questioner wants to hear.

Even when we know that others won’t see our responses, we tend to fudge the answers to put ourselves in a good light. Not lie, you understand. Just shade things to the better side of our natures.

Please don’t think I am pointing fingers. We all do it. It is part of what humans do. (Maybe even part of being mammals.)

However, when you want an honest, objective look at what is important to you, where do you turn? You turn to your behavior.

So, let me repeat, if you want to know what is important to you, look at what you spend your time and money on. That is what you have prioritized in your life.

There is a quote I ran across years ago and I immediately fell in love with it. I always imagine a grizzled old cowboy much like the Festus character in the Gunsmoke TV series. I can just hear him saying it, “Most of the money I spent on liquor and women. The rest I just wasted.”

As I said, I just love that. It has so many wonderful lessons wrapped up in it. But most of all, it shows what this particular individual values as important. And he owns those values unashamedly. (I am not going to go into whether or not he should be ashamed, that is irrelevant to my point today.)

Okay, I am going to stop my meddling. But before I quit, I want to encourage you with this: you can change your behavior. If you don’t like what your behavior is telling about you, don’t try to silence it, change it.

How to go about that is more than I have room for here, but know that there are several effective ways you can do that. Oh yes, it likely won’t be an overnight process. But you can measure your progress… by what you spend your time and money on.

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