On this Sunday as you prepare for the work week, pause and consider your intending actions and the thoughts that will generate those actions. Both will derive from your values.
As a word, values refer to what is of worth to the individual or group either positive or negative. We can remember price with relation to a product or service and thus ask what it is worth which means what its value is. Two android phones would browse but one is N12k while the other is N120k. Two people in the same town and country will buy the two to meet the same purpose although one has a higher value than the other.
Another perspective on the phone issue has to do with individual orientation if not world view. Someone may have the cash to pay for the iPhone of N120k but would rather buy the one of N12k and use the balance to pay school fees for the child of a less privileged neighbour. Yet another pays even more for another phone just as buying one SUV for N30 million when a new car at N10million can serve the need for transportation and prestige and the N20 million balance can set up a factory to employ 20 desperate Nigerians. It’s about values.
In plural form values refer to a system of human principles that guide conduct or thought and actions. They are fundamental, absolute, and eternal. Among others they include truth, honesty, obedience/loyalty, justice, kindness, love, peace, integrity, beauty and others discussed hereunder. They are absolute because they are not defined by time and circumstance. One cannot be honest here and now and dishonest when situations change. A hungry girl can turn down wads of currency notes to protect the image of her family and hers. A young man can turn down big money offered for assassination or for blackmail. The in-thing in some states I’m told is that you have to belong to the ‘ruling’ cult group to get a job or position or contract. If you join, that is a statement on your values set.
A review of above brief listing implies that a society that has a system steeped in or founded on those values should be an ideal society. Call it utopia if you wish, for it is hard to meet all the ideal human values in any setting particularly in the present world which is so demanding. Yet, an effort is required. It is why religious organizations labour so much to get their members in, although and unfortunately some of the leaders operate the principle of do as I say not as I do.
Is the concept of values the same as norms and morals? They are not synonyms. Values are personal and societal and generally voluntary. Norms are generally obligatory while morals are standards or sets of values that ideal groups should adopt.
This Sunday permit me to briefly dwell on four human values that my father Elder AB Ubong emphasized a lot. These were humility, hard work, trustworthiness (honesty), and gratitude. Morning and evening devotion would not be complete without one or more of these on the table.
Humility was the most important. I wonder till date whether the emphasis on this has had a negative effect on his children. Reason? It appears to have made them not “aggressive.” That word can be interpreted in several ways up to violence which appears to have defined our contemporary world. I can with definiteness say that in spite of our humility, my father’s children have gone as far a majority of their contemporaries have although with material acquisitions taking the back seat.
Hard work was not a theory of life but a case of living by example. My father almost always came home with files. He must be in the office without fail by 7.15 am (to prepare for 7.30am) and close not before 3.30pm. Today it is odd for a Head of Department to arrive before the Cleaner. To my father it was normal.
The third also manifested in practice. His last tour of duty was as Zonal Inspector of Taxes. When someone came to me when I was in a bank, requested for loan and I made sure he got it, the man thought it was unusual that there was no demand for personal upfront payment. After the money was used and repaid, he came back with an envelope. I declined. He saw a memorial table calendar on my table with my father’s photograph. He asked me who it was. On being told he said he had the exact experience 10 years earlier with my father.
Am I boasting? Your position likely reflects your values set. I am trying to make the point to parents that the values they preach and practice can have strong positive influence on their children. If you give or take bribes; if you appropriate what is not yours; if you are fond of sorting in school; if you bend or twist justice and fair play; if you cheat and oppress; if your break the law; you are saying that honesty is not the best policy and therefore not part of your values set.
My father’s attachment to gratitude was based on perceived orientation of God to it. Tithe and offering are for the clergy and hopefully the church. What belongs to God is testimony, praise, and worship. And because humans are made in the image and likeness of God, they appreciate appreciation. An ordinary thank you is bound to generate another favour. Many people ignore the place of gratitude, believing that what they obtain is theirs by right. When you consider that thousands of eminently qualified persons with same rights were not favoured in this world of scarcity, the importance of gratitude becomes magnified. Mature spouses that each other for favour done. How many men thank their wives for cooked food, as if it is easy to cook.
I prefer public mention even if one has to skirt say, the actual amount or gift or favour. It works so well. Just look at the face of someone acknowledged in public by a beneficiary.
In a world in a state of flux and incredible complexity, standing by all values one holds dear can be trying. US says it will never pay any kidnapper. US values freedom a lot. But when the chips are down, third parties can ‘negotiate’ freedom for kidnapped nationals while money changes purse secretly. Yet, all human beings should hold a set of values with tenacity. So should societies. Positive values are indeed what keep the world intact. Imagine that 99% of us value violence, deceit, idleness, arrogance, criminally, greed, and so on. There would be an implosion internally first before any external effort at explosion.
This week and always, determine your values; if they will not promote the greatest good for the greatest number, please reconsider. This has nothing to do with status. Cleaner or security man or billionaire or President, cultivate and exhibit the positive values for a just, peaceful, and egalitarian society. As our elders say, what is sweet on your tongue can be sweet on someone else’s. Live and let live.
Happy Sunday and have a good week that is filled with positive values.