For the longest time, we had a gnarly, old apple tree at camp that I would walk by every day heading to the office. The tree was protected a bit by one building and a few larger trees close by. It got plenty of water and sun and was planted in good soil.
However, it was almost completely hollowed out. Each summer, though, it would still bear its fruit. However, the bitter, hard apples were good only for deer fodder or for a game of apple ball with the boys.
This past winter, a hard wind came up and the tree came down. The trees around our little, hollow apple tree made it through the windstorm fine. Our apple tree, however, was not so lucky.
As our minister reminds us often, when a tree falls, the only thing left to do is to collect the fruit and burn the tree. I didn’t realize it at the time, but our little tree’s true ‘fruit’ was its lesson on personal values.
Our personal values give us the ‘why’ for our actions and our actions – how we react to situations, who we spend time with, and the words we use – show the world our values.
As our children grow, we teach, redirect and discipline them in hopes they will grow into the types of adults of whom we’ll be proud. This is just as important now as it was for Solomon when he wrote Proverbs 13:24:
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
The Bible gives us a number of scriptural options on the formation of values. From the allusions to athletes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 to the simple three-part direction of Micah 6:8 to the ultimate direction of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39, the creation of values is of supreme importance.
If our young men are to create, judge and live their personal values, they have to first be aware of those they currently hold. Whether you have been discussing the values around your kitchen table each night or leaving it up to role modeling (from yourself or from those in the world to which they attend), once your son hits late middle school, it’s time to have a direct discussion on your personal and family values.
While you may feel teenage boys are not the easiest humans to talk with about ‘big ideas’, they are actually yearning for this exact thing. Here are a couple of ideas to get your started.
*Basic Rule: If it includes food, you’ll have a more engaged audience. And, regardless of whether your son is an athlete, “mathlete”, or in between, doing something active and side by side is always better than sitting down a doing this eye to eye.
Read the Bible together. Take a few moments to find your favorite passages that center on values and discuss them together.
Ask a question. When you have some quiet time together driving somewhere or at the dinner table, ask “My boss/coworker/friend and I were talking about what values would be important to instill in their younger children. Which values do you think would be important?” Great follow-up questions would be, “Why do you think those are important?” and “Do you feel we do a good job in our family of living up to those?”
Write them down. We did an interesting exercise with our Pathway Class the other day. We had the fathers and sons write down their understanding of their family’s personal values separately and then compare the two lists. Let’s just say the differences outweighed the similarities. By a LOT.
Track your time and behaviors together. The best way to understand what you value most is by tracking the time you spend during the day. Challenge each other to track your day for three or four days. Be honest! Once you’ve gone a few days, look back and judge whether your values are being born out by how you spend your time. If what you value and how you spend your time don’t match up, you either need to change your calendar or change your values.
Men with core values centered on the unchanging example of Jesus have been able to better withstand the changing morays and values of the culture at large. They take the storms and keep producing good fruit. Though, that is not to say they don’t take some hits and some scars along the way.
And, while those without Christ can certainly produce fruit, they risk being blown down in the cultural storms of our present day much more easily. Without a strong core and values rooted in that which does not change, we are much more susceptible to passing fancies.
Take a few moments each week to help build Christ-based personal values in your sons (and yourself!) Your care and questions will be remembered and valued as he grows into adulthood.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
And, there is no other way to start than to simply start.