I'm a runner. In my prime, I ran, on average, about 60 miles per week. Trouble is, that's all the real exercise I got then and get now. I rarely spend time working on my core or my arms. As a result, I've got some well-developed muscles and others that struggle to wrestle with my 12-year old son. Additionally, I have recurring bouts of lower back pain and troubles with my feet.
One of the biggest problems runners face, in fact, isn't impact injuries to their legs: it's injuries that result from not strengthening their core.
The rest of life is like running; a marathon of epic proportions. And, like running, when we don't strengthen our core - in this case our core values - other areas of our lives suffer.
What are core values and why do we need them?
These are the non-negotiables in life. They're not necessarily the same for all people, though some values do show up in most people. They're the ones we regard generally:
- Right to live peaceably, according to your own conscience
- Pursuit of individual interests
- Right to make decisions
- Right to own property
- Religious freedom
- Political views
They're the big things in life that many (most?) people want for themselves and agree that others have a right to as well.
A more individualized core value might be wearing Yogi Bear socks every day and for every occasion because they bring you good luck.
Core values are important because they form the basis for our moral compass. These are values that are developed through conscious effort. That is, they don't happen by accident. It's fine for core values to perfectly align with organizational values, but they can't form based on blind acceptance of any rhetoric (peaceable or otherwise).
Core values are visceral and specific, each one pointing to just one thing.
Organizations attempt to influence (read erode) our core values with statements like this one from the Republican National Committee:
Republicans believe in liberty, economic prosperity, preserving American values and traditions, and restoring the American dream for every citizen of this great nation. As a party, we support policies that seek to achieve those goals.
This is an innocuous enough statement and, it seems like most people (regardless of political affiliation) want these things. If you look closely, however, statements like these are all sentiment and no substance. They're designed to play on people's emotions without conveying a specific ideal; something that actually is a core value.
There are a lot of loud voices out there today, spewing rhetoric much like the statement above - empty platitudes - that make us feel rather than think.
The most dangerous weapon against any rhetoric is someone willing to think for themselves.
I'm speaking a bit harshly against rhetoric. In most cases, the rhetoric itself isn't bad. When we respond with blind emotion to that rhetoric, that's when we run into trouble. It's important to feel and process our emotions, but never let emotion take the wheel.
Most people who take a moment to think right now will realize that forces are at work, particularly in the most developed nations of the world, to pit people against each other. In the United States, it's the great political divide which seems to influence far more in people's lives than it should. Two major problems have resulted:
- people who hold blindly to their own belief systems, and
- people who respond with hostility toward people who don't "think" the same way they do.
The unfortunate reality here: most people aren't thinking for themselves. They're blindly accepting whatever is being shouted at them which gives the appearance of alignment with their core values.
Where does that leave us as individuals and societies? Do we simply bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best?
My suggestion: protect your core values. If any "wind of doctrine" comes from any source that seeks to influence your core values, question it. Don't take anything on blind faith.
But, we're all tired. We've been running this race against the pandemic, natural disasters, and civil unrest for a long time. It's not over yet. But, it's time to make a conscious decision for yourself about those values you cherish most. Then remember, even as you defend your own core values, don't attack the core values of others. Those two things are the key to a return to civil discourse, and protecting our core values from being weakened by the noise.
Thanks for reading!