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Naming Values

I posted several times about the need to name values. I think this is important at the personal and collective levels. The word value shares the same root as the French word valoir which connects to such words as valour and valiant. Values give us strength and courage so we can act in a meaningful, purposeful, and courageous manner.Values anchor us our lives. We are not simply adrift on the sea losing sight of the horizon.

I think naming values, as nouns, brings them to life differently than saying something like, “I value” which monetizes the value as if it were currency. Naming a value allows me to hold the value. Although I do not think values are fluid in the sense they change definitions, certain values are important at times and others at other times in life. In this regard, it is important to not only name the values, but to return to them from time to time and tend to them like a gardener would to their flower bed.

Some values I will name and explain connect to others either in creating a balance or without the other they would not be fully understood.

Compassion – Buddhists refer to this as loving/kindness and it begins with one’s self. Compassion and its close cousin patience allows me to make mistakes or to be distracted and gently return my self to the moment. It balances the passion I have for certain things in my life. Without compassion the flame burns hot and is quickly extinguished.

Respect is the honouring of one’s truths and respecting the truth of others. Truth comes from the word troth and happens in relationship. Mindful listening and speaking are essential to respect. It is more than nodding one’s head and turning away.

Community is living with another, sharing what is common and important – the named values – and lifting each other up in difficult times. Mindful listening and speaking play a critical role. The functional community, one with purpose, is able to recognize its moments of dysfunction and communicate effectively. Within community, there is an honouring and respecting of the diversity and autonomy of each other.

Responsibility allows one to respond mindfully. I am responsible for my words and actions. Living in community calls on its members to be responsible or the community cannot survive. I think autonomy and responsibility are companions. Autonomy is the freedom to choose, but not at the expense of others. I set aside self-interest as I mindfully attend to the truths of others.

Wisdom is that which is shared and passed on from generation to generation. It allows the community to act prudently while expanding. Wisdom in this way is a common sense held by the community and learned by each ensuing generation. Carefully and attentively, we choose those things which apply and add as necessary.

Open-mindedness is in part the honouring of truths. Curiosity and the concept of beginner’s mind play a critical role. I step away from my expert’s role with predetermined solutions and replace it with the beginner’s mind of mindful listening, mindful speaking, and right action. The possibilities are generously fueled by curiosity with a sometimes playful face.

Justice is the fairness and equity we find in the most functional of communities. Things are not always equal, but understanding the multiple truths within a community, respecting those truths, and working with a beginner’s mind allows justice to emerge. This is not relativism gone wild, but born out of wisdom, being responsible for words and actions, and being compassionate brings justice to the forefront.

This list is not exhaustive. For the moment, these are the values I choose and name as the most important.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

5 responses »

  1. BEGINNER’S MIND. I’m so thankful for this concept amongst the very many of Fr Richard Rohr’s that speak to me powerfully … and it’s always great, isn’t it, to have friendship with others who share some common experiences … William Stafford, Parker J Palmer, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr …

    You wrote: “I step away from my expert’s role with predetermined solutions and replace it with the beginner’s mind of mindful listening, mindful speaking, and right action” …

    That’s why I keep coming back to your wisdom, Ivon. It’s a pleasure to be able to share something of your heart. Thank you 🙂

  2. Pingback: Two Wolves Inside Me Movie – Which Values Will You Feed? « Teacher as Transformer

  3. Lovely and uplifting–thank you.


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