Creating a Value System for the Generations to Come
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HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
Trudy could hardly be more intentional in communicating her life’s purpose, including the motivation for her fourth book. “I am writing this book for one reason: to help you define, preserve, and transfer your family values.” Most of her own were formed from the example of her parents, Truett and Jeannette Cathy. Trudy says her mom valued faith, family, and perseverance through difficult times. She can still hear her mom telling the kids as they left the house, “Have fun, and remember who you are and whose you are.”
Her dad also valued faith and family most, and lived that out. Some of her favorite memories with him are when he simply stopped by her bedroom. “It would be late. I knew he was tired. He was still wearing his work clothes. He smelled like chicken (as always). But if he saw my bedroom light on at the end of the hall, he would sometimes use whatever energy he had left over from the day to come talk to me.”
John White, Trudy’s husband of many years, was raised with similar values. Together, they did their best to model the values of faith and family to their own four children by spending time with the Lord themselves, and by engaging the kids in experiences and discussions to foster their own walks of faith. One would assume that Trudy and John had identified their primary values early in their marriage, but she admits that’s not the case. “I’m embarrassed to say, even after we engaged a life coach to teach our then-adult children how to define their personal and family values – we still hadn’t worked through the process of identifying and naming our own!”
In 2011, they did just that. In identifying one’s own values, Trudy suggests three questions to consider:
· What really matters to you?
· What values govern how you live?
· What values do you want others to recognize in you?
To answer those questions themselves, the Whites and their four children’s families used two tools: a word bank and values cards, written by staff at the University of New Mexico in 2001. They’re called The Personal Values Card Sort, which she shares in the book. The tools work similarly: a person (or couple) reads over a list of 83 common values, e.g. courtesy, faith, dependability, compassion, wealth, etc., adding others if desired, and sorts them into three categories: Important to Me, Very Important to Me, and Not Important to Me. Once done, the person repeats the process until the top three to five values are identified. It’s tough to choose between so many good values, she says, but extremely helpful to determine what’s most important to someone. In doing so, Trudy says they found a clear focus for their lives, time, and finances, as well as the freedom to say “no” to good opportunities that simply don’t fall into their most-cherished values. The top five values for Trudy and John are: faith, family, integrity, generosity, and gratitude.
WAYS TO TRANSFER YOUR VALUES
“More is caught than taught,” Trudy likes to say. “Children will forget most of what you tell them and half of what you show them; their memories will form and harden around what you do with them.” The Whites have found that the best way to pass their values on to their kids and grandkids is through what they call “value experiences.” What they’ve found works best for them is to have six planned experiences with their family every year:
· Birthday trips for the grandkids - On their 8th, 11th, 14th, and 17th birthdays, Trudy and John take each grandchild on a weekend away doing something the child enjoys.
· Family Vacation - The Whites and their four kids’ families take a weeklong vacation right after Christmas, spending time together playing as well as doing mission and service work.
· Family Reunion - The wider Cathy family gathers, usually at the beach, enjoying just being together and appreciating their common foundation as a family.
· Annual Family Assembly - This weekend is a family business retreat, discussing careers, updates on Chick-Fil-A, family business, and estate planning, and ideas for giving.
· Assembly for Grands - The focus of these weekend gatherings is to teach the grandkids about family values, help them identify their own, as well as their purpose and strengths, and teach basic budgeting and business practices.
· Camp MiPa (short for Mimi and Papa) - All the grandkids (out of diapers) come to the White’s home for a true camp experience, full of activities, games, devotions, cooking, and fun. This is where Trudy’s 13 years as Director for the Winshape Camp comes in quite handy.
Trudy emphasizes that none of the above ideas needs to be fancy or expensive, and that each family is unique and will find different ideas work better for them. The point is simply to be together to develop relationships, and to discuss important topics which center around values. She also offers a number of ideas for grandparents to stay relevant in their grandkids lives, despite the age difference. With all the technological advances of recent years, she does her best to keep up, and when she’s stumped, she lets her grandkids teach her new things. She also tries to keep on top of current lingo that kids use, and they take turns watching and listening to one another’s favorite music, movies, and TV shows, then talking about what they like in them.
WHY IT MATTERS
Like a building, Trudy believes that every family needs a firm foundation. “Those foundations are our values – the essentials, the non-negotiables, the very cornerstone of who He made each of us to be and what He has called each of us to do.” In their mid-sixties, the Whites care very much and think deeply about the legacy they will leave one day. “We must remember what God has done for us. And we must pass it on to our children and grandchildren. As John and I often remind ourselves, ‘The legacy you leave then is the life you are living now.’ This conviction became all the weightier to them as John endured two bouts with cancer in recent years. Trudy says that having a clear view of their values in a time of adversity gave them strength and direction in responding to it.
According to Trudy, "Of all the wonderful, challenging callings God has put on my life, this is the one I most want to ‘get right.’ And this is the one I’ll think about, pray about, and work on every day I have left on earth. Identify your values. Preserve them. Transfer them. That is how you truly leave a legacy on this earth and, more importantly, in the hearts and minds of the people you love the most – the ones who will carry your values into future generations.”
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