I was born 11 years after the release of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that didn't stop my brothers and I from begging our parents to let us watch it as soon as we discovered it.
It's not a particularly violent or crude movie, so when I was four and Ben five, they agreed. We pushed the VHS into the player, waited for the tape to catch, and sat excitedly in front of our new(ish) Zenith HDTV as the static cleared and the adventure began. There isn't a ton of crude language, but at one point in the film, Indiana Jones has a close call with a Rhino and exclaims "Holy... (you can fill in the rest)." It was the first time I can recall hearing a curse word on TV. I can't explain why, but I immediately felt warm, like I'd done something wrong, and looked back at my Mom to make sure I wasn't in trouble.
Growing up cursing wasn't allowed in our house (unless Mom or Dad HAD to and then they'd put a coin in the swear jar). It was just a part of our families value system. As was feeding your animals before feeding yourself, saying "yes sir" and "yes ma'am," and being grateful for what we had. These were our families values and at a young age I began to see right and wrong through the lens of these values. Over time my values as an individual have shifted, but the role they play in my daily actions have remained consistent.
Values can be defined as standards that not only guide the behavior of the individuals who hold them, but serve as their basis for judging the behavior of others.
Growing up we are told not to judge others, but the reality is we are constantly making judgement calls on what we believe is right and wrong. Those judgements are determined by our values. The problem is, only a select few can name what their values are. It is not that they do not have values, just that they are not clearly defined. And we cannot act on what we have not defined.
During a training I present on personal values, I have participants create a list of actions they have seen notable people like Lebron James and Jane Goodall take. After we create a list of actions, I ask the participants to determine the values of those individuals based solely on the actions they came up with.
It's all pretty low stakes, until I flip the script. I ask them what I'll ask you to do now. Imagine your name is at the top of a giant poster. Everyone you know at your school, work, community has just finished listing every action they've seen you take since knowing you. They are about to determine what values they believe you hold based on those actions. Will those values align with the values you claim to hold? Or do you need to reevaluate the actions you've been taking?
Is it fair that others judge our values based on our actions? Maybe, maybe not. But if not by our actions, then what should others use?
Our actions should reflect our values. It's not too late to start making values-based decisions and taking actions that reflect values that your Mom, and Indiana Jones, would be proud of.
Ask five people you interact with often to make a list of actions they've seen you take in the last month. Do these align with your desired values?
What is the difference between claiming a set of values and actually living by them?
"We are not what we say, but what we do." - Jason Wetzler