getting our values straight with ourselves so that we can get our values straight with the world.

I know get something straight means: to correctly understand something.

But I don't get the point. So could you please explain it to me?

The fuller text is:

The Thinking Brain is objective and factual. The Feeling Brain is subjective and relative. And no matter what we do, we can never translate one form of knowledge into the other.33 This is the real problem of hope. It’s rare that we don’t understand intellectually how to cut back on carbs, or wake up earlier, or stop smoking. It’s that somewhere inside our Feeling Brain, we have decided that we don’t deserve to do those things, that we are unworthy of doing them. And that’s why we feel so bad about them. This feeling of unworthiness is usually the result of some bad shit happening to us at some point. We suffer through some terrible stuff, and our Feeling Brain decides that we deserved those bad experiences. Therefore, it sets out, despite the Thinking Brain’s better knowledge, to repeat and reexperience that suffering. This is the fundamental problem of self-control. This is the fundamental problem of hope—not an uneducated Thinking Brain, but an uneducated Feeling Brain, a Feeling Brain that has adopted and accepted poor value judgments about itself and the world. And this is the real work of anything that even resembles psychological healing: getting our values straight with ourselves so that we can get our values straight with the world. Put another way, the problem isn’t that we don’t know how not to get punched in the face. The problem is that, at some point, likely a long time ago, we got punched in face, and instead of punching back, we decided we deserved it.

  • The cited text is a "mash-up" of two different idioms - to get something straight (to understand what is and what isn't true) and to be straight with someone (to be honest with someone). As cited, it's not an established collocation anyway, particularly because of the unusual and redundant reflexive with ourselves. Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 12:17

3 Answers 3


get something straight

**: (figurative) to understand something clearly (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

"Getting our values straight with ourselves" means: figuring out what our values are, reaching an agreement with ourselves about what our values are.


It stems from a view that one of the difficulties typically faced when trying to live by, or express, or in general affirm one’s own values in our interactions with others, is deciding what those values are in the first place, even just within our own minds.

It is somewhat reminiscent of the biblical adage whereby we are advised not to criticize other people of something until we are sure we are not, ourselves, guilty of the very same thing.


"get something straight" doesn't just mean understanding something: it means making an effort to understand something. It may also involve forging an agreement with some third party.

"get our values straight" therefore means working to achieve understanding of our personal values. Adding "with ourselves" makes it clear that this is an internal process, rather than one involving agreement with other people.

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