Monday, June 28, 2010

Defining Family Values

I am realizing more and more that time is limited, and that to get done the things that are important to me, I need to first focus on my values, and on our family values, and then choose my tasks accordingly. I am happier when my actions reflect my values. For instance, I can stand the dents and dull spots in my living room floor because my choices about the floor reflected my values of using local, affordable,recyclable, and nontoxic materials. When through circumstances I feel forced to choose actions that do not align with my values, I feel a lot of stress.

I've found that, without thought, finding what aligns with my values is a kind of "I'll know it when I see it" experience. But with thought, I can do a better job of articulating what I want to find, and perhaps get help from others in finding it. That is a journey I am taking now with my homeschooling, but more on that later.

The values that we think are important for our family include the following:
  • Gratitude: although we can certainly complain with the best of them, we try not to, and we try to find things to be grateful for. We are blessed, and this is not difficult. We try to express gratitude out loud, too, so our children can hear it. "Yes, it is very sad that Uncle sold his house, but we were so lucky to have the chance to visit it."
  • Responsibility to make the world a better place: I see this one from micro to macro, and all our actions are small. At home, I try to use this with sibling issues. If a comment isn't likely to make the situation better, it doesn't need to be said. In speech I like the suggestion to first consider "is it necessary? is it kind? is it true?"
  • Kindness: in a similar vein, being kind is important. We point out that being funny at someone's expense is unkind and that with kindness we can make a difference in the world, as we make someone feel a little better through kindness that may multiply as all the people we interact with may interact just a little better with other people, and so on.
  • Take care of the earth: We struggle with this one, but it is nonetheless a family value. We drive a gas minivan and heat with oil, but recycle, talk about how there is no "away" to throw trash to, try to limit our consumption, and think about ways that we can preserve nature.
  • Appreciate beauty: I try to point out natural beauty as I see it (and even man-made beauty). I think noticing it helps with the previous value, and it also sharpens observation and takes one out of oneself for a moment at least.
These are all ideals, of course that we strive toward and don't necessarily achieve, but I think failing to recognize them overtly will most certainly lead to failure to strive toward them at all!

My youngest son recently finished his first year of Spirit Play at our church, and I very much like their Rainbow Promises, and find that they are a good model for our family values also:
  • Respect each person.
  • Offer fair & kind treatment to ourselves & others.
  • Yearn to learn about ourselves , each other, and the mystery.
  • Grow by searching for what is right and true.
  • Believe in your ideas, share them, and listen as others share their ideas.
  • Insist on a fair and peaceful world.
  • Value the earth, our home.
Written as part of Steady Mom's 30 Minute Blog Challenge.