We each have two distinct value systems.Â One is the value system we express, and the other is the value system we demonstrate through our behavior.Â On a daily basis we strive to bring these two value systems as close to alignment as possible — or we invest our energy in trying not to recognize the discrepancy between the two. (What we donâ€™t acknowledge canâ€™t hurt us, our misplaced optimism tells us.)Â I think it is safe to say that most of us do some of both of these.
The experience of addiction provides the most blatant examples of a split between our two value systems.Â In the final months of my first marriage, had you asked me if I valued my marriage or my drinking more, I would have told you quite sincerely that my marriage was the more important of the two.Â Everything in my behavior said otherwise.Â When there is a discrepancy between expressed and demonstrated values, the demonstrated behavior is the credible one.
In our day-to-day lives, however, the challenge of aligning our demonstrated values with our expressed values is usually more complex — or at least it feels that way.Â I may think something I hear about is a â€œgood cause,â€ but I donâ€™t take any action to support it.Â I may believe that family is more important than work, but choose to put some work considerations first in my life.Â I may have concerns about how cattle are handled by the beef industry, but enjoy steak on a regular basis.Â These discrepancies donâ€™t make us bad people, but hopefully our increasing awareness of the two distinct value systems will be the pebble in our shoe to keep us awake as we walk the path — motivating us to examine our beliefs, and our choices based on those beliefs, more carefully.