Rediscovering My Values: A Week with Jim Wallis

While much of Jim Wallis’ book, Rediscovering Values, was review for me, primarily in discussing the issues of our economics and the commons and community we need to turn to, I did find his concepts quite easy to grasp, and they all seemed quite practical. I think his metaphor of an unbalanced stool (the largest leg, the economy, that has grown so large it has now toppled our society over) is very accessible to anyone, not just economists, which allows for the concept of a new economy to be understood regardless of you economic knowledge.

For me, the best section was the last one, which took Chapters 16-17. I think that within these chapters he was able to put forward a transformation that is within our reach, while giving us a list of things we as individuals can be doing to make it happen. Wallis begins with the larger scale, suggesting that “A balanced stool [society] might also need new regulations around the revolving door between government regulators and lobbying for the industry they are supposed to regulate” (Wallis 225). In other words, Wallis addresses the need for change from the top down as essential, and even gives ways to do that – it is all about finding balance in government involvement or lack thereof. This was helpful to me, because while I appreciated previous writers that we have spent time with (particularly Eisenstien in this case), I found that Wallis’ goals and comments for the change that needed to happen on a large scale were easier for me to realistically support. It could be, perhaps, that Wallis’ ideas were not as radical, and perhaps they need to be. But for right now, I think Wallis is on the right track, and feel as though I can get behind his ideas.

In Chapter 17, Wallis narrowed down to what we – as individuals, communities, and churches – can do. He gave a list of 20 practical things, or Moral Exercises, as he calls them, to assess where we are at in embracing a new economy and making change on the micro level. He tells readers that “ Change begins when some people make different choices,” and that “[c]hange is preceded by commitments, new practices, and new disciplines – on all our parts” (Wallis 228, 229). Our actions start change, and sometimes it isn’t until after that our beliefs fully follow.

Of course, I had to read through and consider the Moral Exercises he lists, and ask myself (with only one week until the conference, and only one month left in this course) where I am in embracing the change that the new economy will bring. I had spoken in class a while ago about a practice my mother has, every once in a while writing down what her values are, and then asking herself where those values manifest in her everyday life. Wallis’ list reminded me of that practice. Where does my money and time get invested? When I think of my values, I think of God, my family, the pursuit of Biblical justice, my other relationships, my education, to continually be growing and challenging myself, and my health. When I look at my calendar and budget, it is blatantly obvious that my education takes up the largest section of both my time and money… but I guess there is a time and place for that, and right now I am pursuing education, so I struggle with the question: how does one pursue education and not spend the majority of their time and money investing in it? Needless to say, I still have to figure that one out. But that unique dynamic aside, Wallis (and my mother) challenge me to ensure that my engagement in this world, both economically and with my time, must reflect my values – and if they are not reflecting what I say my values are, perhaps they reflect what my values have become.