Recent major life changes, and perhaps a bit of reflection, forced me to take stock of my moral values. Most sources of such things seemed to be lacking in many ways. The Ten Commandments, for example, do not explicitly preclude rape, torture, genocide, slavery, or child abuse.
These sorts of atrocities feel wrong to me intuitively.
So I followed that intuition
Lacking a single trustworthy source for these core values, I referred to several sources – the Catholic Bible, philosophy and Buddhism to name several. As it turns out, many faiths, religions, and philosophies from around the world hold many of these values in common. With this in mind, I share these values with you in the hope that they may offer some measure of assistance in developing your own list; or at least provide some food for thought and reflection.
Loyalty to Family
We can be loyal to those who show us loyalty, but when loyalties feel conflicting, we must always take the side of our family – our parents, children, brothers, and sisters. Without family, we have nothing so Family comes first.
We strive to be healthy in our mind, body, and character. Our behaviors reflect how we feel, but they can also affect how we feel. So we must eat well, sleep enough, hydrate, exercise, relax, socialize, learn, and develop. There is a psycho-bio-socio interplay involved in everything we think, do, and feel, so we must attend to all three and make them a priority in our lives if we are to be truly healthy and happy.
We will not start fights, but rather we must finish every one with strength, confidence, dignity, and without malice. We must never initiate aggression or violence. We seek no permission or authority to protect ourselves.
Knowledge is important, so we must learn as much as we can; but wisdom is much more important. Knowledge and information are subject to change, but Wisdom tends to hold over time. Wisdom emerges from knowledge, experience, critical thinking, and values. Wisdom is our goal, not just knowing things, or being “smart”.
External rewards are satisfying; but it is the level of difficulty of an achievement that gives it intrinsic value. We must give everything our full effort or we will not succeed. Consequently intrinsic pride and satisfaction should be our goal; not extrinsic rewards, recognition, or trinkets.
Something that has been earned honestly and fairly can never rightly be taken away. Receiving anything that was not earned is unjust, and thus is contrary to our values. Unearned benefits hold no value, and thus are worthless. We should never accept free things or special treatments; we must earn everything we get.
When things are difficult or discouraging, we must take a step back, gather our energies and try again. Like the saying goes “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” Coupled with hard work and strategy, persistence almost always wins in the long run, so we must always focus on the long run and never quit.
Passivity is weakness, unwarranted aggression is against our values, and passive-aggressiveness is deceptive, so we must avoid all three. We strive to be assertive at all times. We do not shy away from conflicts, but rather we address problems calmly and confidently. We are neither bullies nor victims, neither predator nor prey. We strive to be confident, calm, protective, loyal, and above all assertive.
It is normal, natural, and healthy to care about others; but empathy can be exploited. Votes and money rarely help in the ways that we intend, so we must not allow others to bully, manipulate, or shame us into compassion. Such ideologues are to be viewed with extreme suspicion.
“Keep your word”, “Stay true to yourself”, and “Don’t make promises you cannot keep” are all sayings that allude to integrity. We must remain true to our words and values in the face of threats, bribes, or temptations.
Justice demands equal human rights, dignity, and opportunity for everyone. However, equality, equity, and social justice all require force, aggression, intimidation, or shaming in order to be achieved. Because they inflict injustice, these are contrary to our values of Fairness, Merit, and Justice. Justice should feel reasonable and fair to everyone involved, so we must strive to be fair and just in every one of our interactions
Without reason to guide us and to suppress our base instincts, civilization would collapse. This is true in families, countries, communities, and between individuals. Warmth, love emotion, empathy, lust and other powerful emotions are what make us human, and they can add beauty to our lives – but we must control our powerful instincts or they will control us. Beliefs, emotions, irrationality, and superstition are enemies of reason.
Freedom is the basic state of humanity and is among a small handful of human rights that are considered to be self-evident. Freedom can only be taken by force, coercion, fraud, and deception. Some limits to freedom are necessary, but these limitations should be chosen very carefully, and only by rational competent adults. We must never infringe upon the liberty of others, or advocate such action against others, unless a crime is involved.
The Chinese concept of Yin and Yang best embodies this value. Feminine and Masculine, Rest and Work, Resoluteness and Openness, Collective needs and Individual rights are several examples of areas that can complement and balance each other. When one force becomes out of balance with respect to the other, chaos follows. We must strive for balance in all we do.
Respect and Trust
Respect and trust are essential elements of a fulfilling, wholesome, and happy life. We can offer others a basic level of trust and respect initially, but our fullest measures of trust and respect are not given, they must be earned. We must offer to those who are worthy of it, the opportunity to earn our respect; and we must expect to earn theirs in return. We must also respect ourselves by setting appropriate boundaries, and enforcing them with calm, confident assertiveness.