It has been said that what we value shows us and others who we are. Yet in a social culture that pushes its own values on us as to what our beliefs and opinions should be, is what we seem to value really indicative of what we truly value?
When we are very young, it is easy to confuse what we believe with what others have taught us to believe. Yet, as we get older, we tend to make distinctions that are much clearer - at least, in our own mind. Similarly, even if we try to convince ourselves that we hold certain beliefs or that certain things and aspects of life are important to us, there comes a time when we stand still and listen to our own voice of truth.
We may value the increased social acceptance we gain from pretending to hold views and opinions that conform to those of the people around us, but most of us value self-respect and self-acceptance more. This is why we must learn to create values that are in line with our inner truth - or as St. Augustine would have said, "the inward man." If we are embracing beliefs and ideas that are antithetical to our inward man, we will experience both inner turmoil and outward frustration.
Although for years we may feel as if we are continuing to learn and understand ourselves, at the core of our being there is a depth of self-awareness that if we choose to, we can access. Philosopher Charles Taylor, who has studied inwardness and modern selfhood extensively, defines this organic self-awareness as the "implicit understanding" that is deep within us.
Plato believed that this understanding merely guides us to what he termed "the before" - or the doctrine of reminiscence, as spoken of in Meno. But St. Augustine believed that this inner knowledge could guide us to an "above."
In other words, through delving into our inner selves, we can reach an understanding that enables us to become more than we are. Thus, we not only return to the values that are aligned to the inner core of our being - we also find a way to elevate our original values into values that are greater and superior.
For beyond merely being, we begin the process of becoming. And even though we may lose the friendship and companionship of those whose values and beliefs are more closely akin to those society pressures us to adopt, we will gain the inner peace and contentment that comes from listening to our own voice of truth - our inner self.