We often talk about moral values, justice and trust, but the important thing is to put them into effect in our everyday lives. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote, to me, is another of the ‘actions speak louder than words’ kind. It mentions that many people talk about values like justice and trust. That is a good thing, the quote implies, and something to be encouraged. Most especially when the terms are clearly defined and those definitions debated.
The point of the quote, in my mind is the second half. In this, the quote says that while it is good to discuss these things, the truly important thing is to actually live them. The quote implores us to make them part of our lives, and live them every day. In short, it’s a call to become the best person we can possibly be, and live our values, not just discuss them.
Why is living our values important?
Well, if you discuss the importance of moral values, but then do the opposite, that would make you a hypocrite, right? That’s not good, at least not in my book. I try to do the best I can, how about you?
By living our values, we can be an example of what we think is important. We lead by example, not with chatter. Even if no one chooses to follows our example, we can look at ourselves in the mirror and be pleased rather than be disgusted.
And, if we are lucky, we can get others interested by observing our actions, thereby helping to spread good deeds and actions. To me, that is a great benefit of proper actions and the powerful positive influence they can have on others.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Let’s start with moral values. What are yours? For which do you feel most strongly? Grab some paper and write down as many as you can think of in the next two minutes. Scan back through them and note which ones really draw you in or give you a strong reaction.
Circle or put a star next to the three or four that are most important moral values. Now take a moment and write a few sentences next to each which help you explain what, exactly, the word means to you. Be as precise and detailed as you can, as if you were explaining it to a stranger.
One of mine is justice. In thinking about it, I considered some of the stories in the news recently. One case of a death was getting a ton of air time and celebrity attention. If it was the only murder in the last month, it might be appropriate.
However, many others were killed in that area, and in other cities across the USA, and in other countries around the world. Can you stand for justice without standing for each and everyone of them? Or does justice only apply to certain people or certain circumstances? That’s not an accusation, but a deep and probing question.
Take a moment and ask similar questions about each of your important moral values. Truly examine what each one means to you, and if it is universal, or selective in nature. Do you feel the same now about each as you did at the beginning of the post?
Ok, we’ve done some soul searching, but that’s just the first half of the quote. Let’s see what we can do with the second half of the quote. What can we do, and how can we go about living these professed values in our everyday lives?
Since I don’t know what your selections are, you’ll have to figure out the details, but let’s see if we can construct a framework to work with, shall we? Using the example from earlier, justice, what can be done to make sure justice is applied evenly? At least I don’t believe it can be called justice if it only applies to some people or some situations, do you?
Let’s start with you, as that’s the only person you can change. What can you do to be as just as you possibly can? Can you remind others of all the other people who were killed and have not received special attention from the media and politicians? Every time a person is killed, it is a terrible.
Can you lead by example? Can you find out about people in your area who have not received justice or as much attention as some others? Note that I differentiate between advocating for justice and simply trying to get face time on cameras, for which some people appear to live.
Argue for your definitions of moral values, but be sure to live them. Be the person who lives the values you say are important. Challenge others who seem to haven’t yet thought through the implications of their definition of a value. Explain to them why you feel their definition is flawed, then show them, by demonstration, what you believe is proper.
Win their hearts, and change their minds. Only one of these can be done with your words. The other must be done with your actions. It is my hope that you will make it your goal to live your values, every day.