Examining Our Values


Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. Usually abstract ideas, these include things like manners or pride, but can also include behaviors towards events, activities, as well as one’s self or others in regard to sportsmanship, intimate relationship, or even personal relationships such as with family or friends.


Our values come from a variety of sources but tend to be based on particular influences over time. These influences may include any combination of family, friends, work, education, religion, propaganda, music, television, community culture, or even major events such as a war or economic crisis.

The best question then becomes what shapes or determines our values? The best answer would then be something along the lines of “exactly how you personally interpret and/or apply the given influence”. A good example of this might be in how a doctor may tell you that exercise is important. If you are a younger healthy individual, you may not listen to such an influence because you are currently not affected by not exercising. However, eventually, that influence may become more important when you begin to feel the symptoms related to not exercising.

Once again, your values are the things that you believe are important in your everyday life. For instance, you may have been exposed to the influence of socialism, but the influence of your economic education, culture, and experience to the contrary may be weighted heavier in your mind. The influence itself is not the determining factor in your values. Instead, the determining factor is how you personally receive the information and ultimately, exactly what you determine it means to you in your life.

Understand that your values will more than likely change over time. Education and experience are the prime reasons for this change. So I would imagine that generally speaking, this change is a good thing because it would mean that your education and experiences are increasing. That is to say of course that your education and experiences are good ones. For instance, a young uneducated single person will more than likely act and carry themselves entirely different than an older educated parent. We should expect, and perhaps invite these changes, because it means that we are growing as individuals.

This is not always the case though. Sometimes the influence may be great, but may also be a negative for the individual. For instance, a horrendous murder of a loved one by someone of a different race may influence an individual to a higher degree of prejudice. While irrational, the reality is that the influence was great enough to alter the value. We need to understand that positive growth is not always the case.

On a similar note, and because of this, we need to recognize that our values are not concrete and can change based on a particularly strong influence. This is important to understand in regard to the reliability of another. Additionally, there will be times when we all value something but our actions do not necessarily reflect this. The decisive may briefly be indecisive. The fitness guru may decide to eat a pizza. The intellectual may make a dumb decision. The tolerant or diverse may actually be selective. The best friend may turn their back for selfish reasons.

I believe this happens because of something similar to the 80/20 Rule. Not everyone can be 100%, 100% of the time. Nobody is perfect. So perhaps we should expect our current values to be upheld the majority of the time, but not expect them 100% of the time. The same goes for others. And once again, expect these values to be refined or even completely changed over time, and never expect concrete.

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