Meet the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Browne, newly appointed Assistant to the Bishop, as she discerns her top three values from a list ranging from “Accountability” to “Wisdom.”
Michigan Area Assistant to the Bishop
One of the most useful self-understanding exercises I’ve attempted recently was suggested to me by my coach, the Rev. Margaret Marcuson of Portland, OR. A shout-out to Margaret here and to all coaches and coach-ees working together to better-up how they do what they do. If you keep reading, you’ll understand why this matters to me!
Margaret suggested I try a values exercise presented by Dr. Brene Brown in her book Dare to Lead. It consists of a long list of value descriptors, from “Accountability” to “Wisdom.” My assignment was to identify my top two or three to name what I care about and understand what motivates me.
In the first pass-through, I succeeded only in eliminating about half of the values. After that, it was a matter of deciding which terms were similar enough to belong together and which one best included the largest number of similar terms. It took a long time! I had to set it aside frequently to return with fresh eyes.
Now I have words for what I most deeply care about, and it’s proven more useful than I could have imagined. It helps me sort out why some events or interactions affect me as deeply significant and fulfilling; why some things make me unusually angry or sad; why I dedicate time and energy to some tasks and not others. I was initially surprised by my self-selected top three. Still, the longer I lived with them, the more I confirmed my own conclusion: that gratitude, community, and competence describe me and my most deeply-held values.
Under gratitude, I include other values like faith, beauty, generosity, and humility. It’s because I’m grateful for the gifts of the created world, including all of God’s creatures, that I also value the environment and home. It’s because I am so grateful for the overflow of grace that I receive daily that I’m a Christian and a minister. It seems a small response to an enormous gift.
It’s because I value community that I also value things like diversity, justice, connection, and teamwork. It’s why I love the United Methodist Church: despite its flaws, our denomination also values community; one way we do that is by supporting ministries of compassion. (See the notes below about our conference’s responses to the flooding in SE Michigan and the crisis in Haiti.)
I wasn’t thrilled to end up with competence as one of my top three values. It seems pretty dull and — let’s admit it — bureaucratic. But I have to admit that it’s accurate. I so appreciate people who are really good at what they do, whether they get paid for it or not. Parents, teachers, mechanics, physical therapists, mail carriers, caregivers, and volunteer church gardeners: I am so grateful to all of you for making our communities stronger and healthier!
I encourage you to give the Values Exercise a try! It’s easy to find on the web: daretolead.brenebrown.com. Send me your top three at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to know what is most important to you!