Your Actions Reveal Your Priorities

Its a phrase I’ve said over and over again to my wife, starting before we were married. For example, right now I could be doing any number of other things instead of writing here. The fact that I am not shows that this blog is a higher priority to me right now than those other things–even if I might claim otherwise. Its a truism, but one that often bears being repeated.

When I read the following paragraph at the end of Cane Caldo’s most recent post, I considered the first phrase to be a similar truism:

Most of us are or will be married to former whores; like Hosea except that most of us weren’t any better. So don’t miss Hosea’s lessons because of silly sentiments.

Clearly, some other readers did not believe it to be a truism: Lexet Blog expressed doubt over whether there even is such a thing as a “former whore,” and Jack expressed a similar sentiment.

This post is not to argue with them, although I certainly believe there is such a thing as a former whore. To me, the life of St. Mary of Egypt is more than enough to establish that. No, this post is about something else that came to my mind as I read the post and comments–something that really doesn’t even have to do with whores.

I thought of the many young (and no longer young) men who have told me that one of their top priorities in life is to marry and have a family, and have also shared with me their extremely high standards in who they would consider as a prospective wife while lamenting the scarcity of candidates that meet those standards.

Now, before you write me off as telling young men to “man up and marry those sluts,” let me be clear. I’m not telling anyone to get married, or to marry anyone. I don’t think there is anything wrong with remaining unmarried, provided you remain chaste. Nor am I telling anyone to lower their standards, whether that’s in terms of virginity, physical beauty, homemaking skills, or what have you. What I am saying is that your actions reveal your priorities, and if your standards are prohibitively high, it gives the lie to any claim you may make that marrying and having children is a high priority to you.

Think about it this way. A young man tells me that one of his top priorities is to provide a large percentage of his protein by hunting deer, but hasn’t been able to hunt so far because he can’t afford a deer rifle. I recommend that he buy a used NEF Handi-Rifle, or if he can’t find one, a Savage Axis, because they are decent rifles and cost less than $350 with a scope, even from overpriced retailers like Cabela’s. If he’s still not hunting 3 years later, because he refuses to buy anything short of a Weatherby Mark V Accumark and a Swarovsky scope, I’m not going to believe putting meat in the freezer is a high priority for him, no matter how many times he assures me it is.

Yes, there are significant differences between wives and rifles, but the general truth remains: If something is really a high priority to you, you will find a way to accomplish it.

In my experience, when someone says that something is a high priority to him, but acts as if it is not, he is almost inevitably unhappy about it. The dissonance between his perceived and actual priorities is mentally and emotionally exhausting.

So what do you do if that’s you? Well, you need to take stock of your priorities indicated by your actions, and those you claim to hold. You need to identify every instance where these are in conflict, and thoroughly consider which priority is actually more important to you. If the more important one is the one indicated by your actions, you simply acknowledge that, both mentally and verbally, and stop saying that something contrary is a priority. You start saying the truth you have already been living. If, on the other hand, you decide the priority you have been claiming to hold is more important than the one indicated by your actions, you do the inverse. In that case, you start living what you have already been saying. When your claimed and lived priorities are thus brought in line, you will find a level of peace that is impossible when they are in conflict.

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