The Contradiction between Values and Behavior

“Some people recognize the need to be free from addiction but are not yet willing to begin. If you are in that situation, perhaps you can begin by acknowledging your unwillingness and considering the costs of your addiction. You can list what is important to you. Look at your family and social relationships, your relationship to God, your spiritual strength, your ability to help and bless others, your health. Then look for contradictions between what you believe in and hope for and your behavior. Consider how your actions undermine what you value.” (A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, pp. 1-2)

Image of lined writing paper with a heading of Step-1 Inventory, followed by 2 colums: Values and Behavior. The purpose of this inventory is to identify contradictions between values and behavior.

I once participated in a marriage enrichment seminar. One of the exercises was to make two lists. On the first list we each wrote down the things that were important to us; the things we believed and hoped for. On the other list we wrote how we actually spent our time. The leader of the activity shared that when he first did this exercise, he listed “relationship with children” as one of his values. When he actually looked at what he spent his time doing, he realized with chagrin that his behavior indicated that watching old Star Trek reruns was more important to him than building his relationships with his children. That is the kind of contradiction I think the passage I quoted from Step 1 in the Guide is talking about.

For me, part of working Step 1 is this kind of inventory. How does my behavior compare to my beliefs and values? If I say I would like to have a good relationship with my husband but my behavior tells me that I judge or belittle him, I need to admit that there is a contradiction between my behaviors and my values. The same thing applies if I don’t spend time with him, or I ignore his needs and expectations.

I say that I would like to be healthy and maintain a normal weight. If an inventory of my behavior tells me that I am obsessing about food, eating food I have not planned, letting portion sizes get out of control, or eating foods that I know are not good for me, my behavior is undermining what I value.

Becoming aware of these contradictions does not mean that I can immediately fix my behavior. In fact, that is why I am embarking upon a 12-Step journey: because I have not been able to change my own behavior despite my best efforts. That is OK. The good news of Step 1 is that I can have hope. I need to be willing to admit that I am powerless and work the 12-Step program as honestly and faithfully as I can. If I do these things, the Lord, through the power of the Atonement, will either remove my weaknesses and shortcomings or give me the power I need to turn them into strengths.

  • Try writing a Step-1 Inventory listing your values and beliefs on one side and listing your relevant behavior on the other.
  • Are there any contradictions between your behavior and what you say your values are?
  • Do you have hope that it is possible for you to overcome these contradictions with the Lord’s help?
  • What will you do today to make progress?

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Related Posts: Steps 1, 2, and 3: I Can’t, He Can, I’ll Let HimCan God Understand My Powerlessness?

 

 

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