What do they mean to you?
When was the last time you considered the values that make up your character?
Are you trustworthy, loyal, fair, honorable or patient?
Are your friends and family proud of who you are? Why or why not?
What can you do to improve?
What are values?
Values are the ideals or principles of a given society and the personal qualities considered worthwhile or desirable. They are different for each of us and can vary from person to person and even for each person from one time to another.
We learn our values from our families, friends, religion and community. In turn, the people we associate with learn values from us as well. Are your loved ones learning the values that you want them to adopt? The world is moving so quickly that we need to ensure that our families and children understand what values are important to us.
Consider these quotes:
Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. ~ C. S. Lewis
As a man, I’ve been representative of the values I hold dear. And the values I hold dear are carryovers from the lives of my parents. ~ Sidney Poitier
What values are important to you?
Think of the traits you admire most in someone close to you, such as a parent or a best friend.
Do you share those same values? Most often, we tend to share similar values with the people with whom we associate. Obviously, that can be good or bad. With young people, it is especially important that they choose their companions wisely.
When I conduct writing workshops for high school students, one of the most frequently requested topics is Personal Values. It is always an illuminating exercise to have the students check off the values that are important to them. One person may select almost all of the values in the list, while others cannot seem to relate to more than one or two. What does that tell us about their character?
How are you passing your values on to your family?
Your actions speak louder than words. If you want your kids to be honest, what are you teaching them by your actions? Do you tell little white lies from time to time, fudge the numbers a bit on your taxes or fail to point out when a cashier gives you too much change?
If your faith is important to you, do you practice it with your family? Do you attend services regularly, or only when it is convenient or a major event, such as Easter or Christmas? If you ran into your minister, priest, imam or rabbi on the street, would he/she recognize you? Better yet, would you recognize them in their “street clothes?”
Children look up to their parents and tend to emulate their actions, whether we realize it or not. As an example, consider your reaction when a 4-year-old drops something and lets out a short curse. Will it be a mild expletive or something stronger that they’ve heard you say? With luck, it takes only a time or two for the parent to realize how much “little ears” pick up from us.
When my grandson expressed his frustration about something by using Daddy’s favorite swear word, Daddy and Mommy both started using a new preference of “Oh, snap!” At first, it struck me as pretty funny, but I was proud to see that exercising their values helped them to teach their children what was acceptable behavior.
It isn’t easy to be a role model for our children, but it is crucial if we want to pass on our values to them. So the next time you are tempted to cut an ethical corner or use words that you don’t want them to repeat, keep in mind that your kids are watching and listening.
Exercises on Values
Try these simple exercises on values. Look at this list of sample values and select the ones that are most important to you, or at least a few to start with. There is no right answer. In fact, your personal values may not even be on this list.
[column width=”30%” padding=”5%”] activism
can do attitude
friendship[/column] [column width=”30%” padding=”5%”] genuineness
interest in others
joie de vivre
motivation [/column] [column width=”30%” padding=”0″] nonviolence
pride (not ego)
sense of honor
sense of humor
work ethics [/column]
Your Personal Values
- Which values are most important to you? Why?
- From whom did you learn these values? How?
- Which values do you admire in people around you? Why?
- In what ways do you act on your values?
- How do your values help you make difficult decisions?
Once you have identified some of your own values and contemplated their importance to you, take the opportunity to open up a dialog with your family members. Discuss the importance of values with them and share your own experiences.
If you could instill three values into the people around you, what would they be? I’d love to get your feedback on which values YOU consider important.