If you want to “step up” your commitment and action, sometimes it helps to step back first and reflect. Taking time to reconnect with your values when making ethical choices is one of the sources of strength if you want to “commit ethical action” more often and more effectively.
Clarify your values
To “clarify” means simply “to make clear.” To see not through the mud but through the clear water. To see not the distractions, emotionally and in what’s happening in the world, but what’s in your mind and heart.
In considering what activism to be involved with, consider what are your deepest values that you want to see made real in the world?
Ethical Culture values
In Ethical Culture, we emphasize certain values. You might consider these as a starting point. Where do you agree, disagree?
We value the unique individual worth of each human being, because we understand every person to be infinitely interconnected. As someone outside our movement wisely said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
But more than valuing human worth, we value action that elicits that worth in others, and we understand that such action also has a benefit to our self. When we act in a way that “brings out the best” (and unique worth) in others, that’s what brings out our own best self.
This leads, for many of us, to ideals including:
- liberty and freedom that is available to all, not just a few
- the equality that permits individual uniqueness and worth to thrive
- inclusion and mutual empowerment
- human community that promotes freedom, equality, and inclusion
- reason and evidence in seeking truth and wisdom
- the human ability to learn and change, within natural limits
- peace at all levels of human relationship, from personal relationships to nation-states — the peace that comes from understanding and mutuality and enhances human flourishing
- a sustainable relationship with the natural world which nurtures and sustains our life and other life, and of which we are a part
Once we’re clear about our values (understanding that’s imperfect and our values shift over our lives), they help ground us in:
- choosing which issues to be involved in, to prioritize
- choosing how we’ll act when we are involved. “Be the change” and not just try to persuade or force others or “the system” to change
What we do as individuals and in large and small groupings of people has an effect on this world, and what we do not do also has consequences.
We have choices, including some ability, though more limited than we’d like to believe, to transcend our own unconscious biases and patterns. Not to choose is itself a choice. We can’t do everything, but we can do something.
Choice is based on balancing inner values and what we perceive to be happening in our outer world: opportunities and threats.
What is the most appropriate way in this moment to help promote and, sometimes, protect and defend what I hold most dear? That’s another choice. We sometimes push forward, we sometimes resist outside forces pushing back. And sometimes we build strength, resilience, knowledge, and skill.
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