Without any type of practice on values, they can quickly become unbalanced or neglected leading to painful communication with our partners. Before you assume you have to run and join your local religious organization, be aware that spirituality and connection to values can be found in many places from a meditation group, to a yoga class to a meetup.com spiritual group. Values can be studied by attending a lecture to a self-help book or from a religious book to a fiction book. There are many types of spiritual groups in your community that can be sought out to help give you a focus on values.
Most of us rely on the spiritual or religious practice that we were taught and if this does not work, we often chose nothing, leaving out any and all practice of meaningful values.
Do values really matter?
In this 2016 political election, one Governor said that “values do not matter. “ She said, “What matters are the issues.” In other words she shared it was less important how we speak to each other, less important how we treat people, and not important if we are honest. She quoted “what matters is that the taxes in my town are lowered and that is the issue”. Lets think about that. If a candidate tells you he or she will lower your taxes, then you might think your issue is solved, but if he or she does not have values, you may be getting words that are false, made up and spoken only to get your vote. In theory, it is impossible to do business with someone who has misguided values because there is no guarantee they will be honest, care about your needs, or treat you kindly.
It is important to build a foundation of values somewhere into your life. If we all behaved with healthy values, our conflict would be limited. I am aware that some cultures view hate as a value, but most of us could agree that the values we are speaking of include the values that bring us closer together, not farther apart.
Some of the values to focus on include:
- Separation of culture and self
How does this translate to our marriage?
Dominant society has a focus on power and prestige and when we follow this, this becomes the focus and the goal. The idea of values becomes second nature. When we get married, if the goal is for each spouse to “be right, have the nicest house, wear the most up to date clothes, get the most time with the video game controller, have the most successful kids, go to the best school, or be on the most town boards, then the values of our own behavior can get lost. It does not mean that any of these attributes are wrong in moderation, but we have to find a balance beyond what the ego desires. If you value family time, you will commit to spending time with your family. If you value how you treat your spouse, you will focus on that. If you value honesty, you will own up to your mistakes. Being on a town boards is a good thing to support your community but this is also a prestigious position. When you value the prestige of being on multiple town boards, the time spent with your family is of lower value and this hurts your closest relationships.
When we argue, if we can give attention to value it can help with the outcome. If we are unkind to our spouse, they become defensive. If the goal is to win the argument and not care about how we treat our spouse, the game is lost. If we lie to our spouse, we have to walk around with guilt and shame. If we want to have good diplomatic relations with other countries, we have to show some degree of value in how we speak and in being a trustable adversary. If we want to have a good relationship with ourselves so we can be comfortable in our own skin, we have to show a degree of good values to see ourselves as worthy. We all have worth simply by living on earth, but if we do not work on how we behave in the world, it is easy to forget we have worth.
Why are values left out of many marriages?
In the years preceding 2016, the movement away from spirituality and religion has been very high. Concurrently, many organizations focus on increasing the wealth and prestige of their institution, putting personal interest above value. We are seeing a return to the practice of values but this is a work in progress. Many parts of religion are presented with dogmatic practices with little meaning. Thankfully, there are many spiritual and religious leaders that are wonderful and will match your core values, but first you have to be aware of which values truly make you feel healthy and take action to find these leaders. While you may not want to be part of an organized group, this is fine, look for what type of tools help you focus on values. Just don’t leave them out because they can be easily forgotten leading to strife in relationships. The problem with “doing our own thing” often translates to doing nothing and avoiding looking at our behaviors. It often means praying to G-d or a higher power when something goes wrong or we want a quick fix. Of course you do not want a spiritual practice that is not meaningful to you. However, the foundation of most major religions, and the foundation of most spiritual practices is how we behave and treat each other. If we leave this aspect completely out of our lives, we neglect to look at our own character traits which making any changes in our relationships and marriages. The answer is not to repeat the religious practices in same way as your parents or to focus on the same dogmatic patterns of practice that do not have meaning for you. However, it is important to build some type of connection THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU that focuses on values. If we can find a way to look at our own behavior through values, this is often the missing link to why we struggle to make better choices. It can also help us understand why we may struggle with self-esteem.
If your learned value was to make a lot of money and you do not make a lot of money, you will always feel like a failure. If you learned the value of working so hard you never stop to take care of yourself, you will struggle. If you learned the value of getting away with the easiest practice rather than hard work, yet you never got to experience the feeling of accomplishment, this may be a value you want to explore. Misplaced values can be dangerous and unhealthy. Misplaced values are those taught to you by others that you are hanging onto, but no longer work for you-or maybe they never did.
Sometimes we have to take a closer look at values to decide the one we truly desire and the ones that will make a difference in our lives and the lives around us.
With a newfound focus on values, you will likely be very surprised to see a positive change in all your relationships with family, friends, and your spouse and in your heart and mind. Like practice for any instrument, test, sport, job, lecture or relationship, it takes ongoing practice to remind us to keep on working on our character traits. The study of values and the practice of values is not a one-week course; it is an ongoing focus that keeps us grounded in making good and healthy choices.
Where can you seek out a focus or study on values in your home or community?