Consider the human value system as a snowball, we are born at the top of the mountain a relatively clean white ball with only with a few preprogrammed instincts like hunger, thirst, need for love and warmth.
From the moment we are born we begin to absorb and collect external influences from the people and experiences we come into contact with aka ‘the mountain of life’. Much like an actual mountain, the side we roll down makes huge difference in our development. In the first few years our snowball builds most of its core substance from our closest human interactions, family and friends. We don’t have enough snow (values) to roll on our own (navigate this world effectively) so we take all that we can from the outside world. It’s in our genetic survivals interest to learn from the world around us so we do so at an exponential rate, much like a sponge hitting water for the first time.
Each time we watch our parents interact we absorb how the they treat each other, love each other, listen to each other, celebrate with each other etc. When we have siblings we are shown by our family what’s appropriate and what isn’t. It is during these interactions in which the building blocks of our values develop. It is here where we build our basic human understanding of love, empathy, flexibility, curiosity, respect, compassion and trust.
By the time we enter primary school we have already rolled into enough of our own snowball to consciously make our minds up about what ‘should’ be right or wrong but we are far from independent. We have already started rolling in our own direction and the teachers continue to add to the molding process, adding values of the school and what they personally believe onto the children. Not only do direct forms of communication mold the children, the children are still sponges and absorb even the subtle ways teachers interact with the students. Do the teachers respect the children? How much patience do the teachers hold? How do the teachers resolve tensions within the classroom?
When the values of the teachers and the students are inline they ‘fit in’. If they do not, problems can begin to arise. Parents from a different culture desire and teach one value system (with the best intentions) and the school teaches another (with the best intentions), the snowball is being required to shave off a few layers and add a few conflicting foreign layers. These students at a young age begin to feel unknown tensions from within their own beliefs. Should I believe what my parents always told me to believe in or should I do as the teacher demands? It seems everyone around me is doing as the teacher expects but I feel it isn’t right.
If that wasn’t enough, the playground is a chronic warzone of varied values, the children with relatively aligned value systems will stick together with little difficulty where as the students from other mountains of life will need to make some adjustments to their snowball if they want to ‘fit in’. If the child feels rejected and unable to make the appropriate changes to ‘fit in’ they will quite possibly spend much of their school life feeling like a social reject which only perpetuates with time. When we feel rejected, we don’t believe others will listen to us, when we believe others won’t listen to us we have difficulty feeling valued as a part of the community, when we don’t feel apart of a community we find it difficult to find peace from within. When we project this energy out into the world, we receive it in return which is the painful double edged sword of social rejection.
As we get older our values also encapsulate how we as a society spend our day, we are connected to our culture, our tribe and our identity through our shared values and in here lies another trap. When everyone around us is rolling down the hill in a specific way it can be incredibly difficult to start rolling in a new, different and potentially better direction. Varying from tribe to tribe, adjusting and experimenting with different sides of the mountain can be seen as a form of betrayal. The tribe see and hear us questioning the ‘way we roll’ and can cause the others to feel socially separated from us. Try telling a Christian they should try to learn and appreciate the Buddhist teachings…not to change, just to listen and learn. This in itself is seen as an attack on their own values. With this separation spawns grounds for distrust as they start to wonder wether we would stand for the same things as they would if it boiled down to defending the tribe.
As we get older our external influences begin to take less and less of an effect on our snowballing values. If we don’t question our values our snowball naturally begins to roll into a rock solid ball as we feel more able to navigate this world with our own understanding. It’s quite possible to live a full life without needing to question our values but this makes us extremely vulnerable and inflexible to external change. The economic crisis is a prime and present example which has caught many off guard.
Shared values are the social fabric that interconnects our communities and people together. As the world becomes faster, more liquid and increasingly inter-dependent understanding and calibrating our tribes values is vitally important. Here are 3 three essential traits for a more harmonious future.
Empathy is one of the most important life skills humans require in finding peace. People feel comfortable when they feel respected for their unique values. It’s when we reject, criticize and dislike others for having different values many of the worlds unnecessary problems arise.
Curiosity is required if we dare to improve ourselves and learn from new mountains of life, it can be seen not as a threat but as an opportunity for the tribe to grow in a new stronger direction.
Flexibility is required to stay on our feet whilst living in our hyper-speed societies.
If empathy, curiosity and flexibility are rolled into our internal values we can find ourselves being open, flexible, able to communicate, learn and respect people from different tribes which opens new worlds of unlimited opportunities.
Where, how and who is going to teach and integrate these traits?