Take a look at a big office building that belongs to one company. Now in the basement you might have janitors’ quarters and mail rooms. If one moves up a level, they might find some wet-behind-the-ears college graduates working as low level accountants, interns, and yes-men. Continue on up the chain all the way to the top floor where you will find a few executive CEO’s who are in charge of everything found beneath their feet. The office building resembles a modern day hierarchy.
Now taking that same model, let us go a little deeper. Think about all the good things that happen to you during the day. Upon waking up, you notice the sun shining beautifully through the window, with the rich aroma of the normal morning coffee brewing.As you set out to walk to work, you pass by a lovely elderly couple who has been together for years, just now finishing up their breakfast. You notice the incredible love they have for each other. It is clear in their eyes and by the ease of their willingness to serve each other. The day continues on with its ups and downs and while walking home you take inventory of every good and bad thing that happened. As you reflect and recollect, you are awed by the difference between the goodness of the cup of coffee and that of the elderly couple. The cup of coffee was wonderful but the couple was distinctly different. They motivated you with a true and deep value response that was held within your heart.
In Liturgy and Personality Hildebrand states,
“discretio in discernment of gradations...is also a mark of personality in it’s
true sense; without it there can be no organic contact with the world of values,
no formation of man through values…”
There are gradations of goodness and value in all that we do. When we see a great deal of value in something that is difficult, we are more willing to do it then if it held very little value. In the way that I discerned that I would go to great lengths to accomplish a difficult task, I placed it in a level appropriate to its deserved value response; but in order to do this I first needed to discern the level to which it belonged in a hierarchy of values. Let’s say that this task is a job assigned to me at work. If I do well at this task my boss has offered to give me a bonus in reward because it is such a large job. This bonus would allow my to support my family better, being able to afford better food and better education. I see a great deal of value in supporting my family and the experience they will have. Therefore I place this task higher up than another task at work that would not reap the same reward nor require the same response.
By my placement of this task, I make a judgement of the gradations of the value in a situation. This judgement marks my personality showing that I value time with my family so I am willing to work hard for them. The different values presented move me to respond in the proper way, just as with the elderly couple and the smell of coffee. So too with the length of time I should work to save money for my family.
Dietrich von Hildebrand, Liturgy and Personality (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1960), pg 93