Wow. Lots of controversy lately about insurance coverage and the responsibility of one’s employer. It got me to thinking….about values, actually. How it is important to have them, share them, act on them. But it is also important to respect the values of others as well. Let me explain….

Comprehensive sex education includes discussion about individual values as it relates to decision-making and relationships. (See? Sex ed isn’t just about penises and vaginas!) Making prudent decisions is guided by one’s values.

Let’s take a minute to ponder…..what IS a value, and what are yours?

I define it as an idea, belief, and/or consciousness that allows a person to live their authentic life. It is something that a person holds near and dear to them; a belief that cannot be taken away, though it may certainly morph over time.

I’ll share some of my values to give you an idea of different kinds of values. They are not necessarily in any order:

  • love of family,
  • belief in maintaining a healthy lifestyle (does an occasional glass of wine count?),
  • lasting friendships,
  • respecting others’ opinions while holding onto my own ideals,
  • taking time to enjoy the simple and not-so-simple pleasures in life,
  • education, and
  • quality medical care.

So, what are some of yours? Take a minute to think about it and write them down.

Time’s Up!

I bet your list looks a lot like mine!

There are decision-making formulas we teach students in health education classes. Within the formula there is an opportunity to recognize and evaluate one’s own values in order to make sound decisions. As an educator, I may have different values than my students and their families, so it is up to each family to talk about their own POSITIVE values: cultural, religious, personal, whatever…. Schools can teach skills, but parents and caregivers are indispensable when it comes to continuing the dialogue at home.

We all view the world from different vantage points – ‘perspectives’.

We all have different values – and that’s okay. After all, we come from different ethnic, religious, cultural, geographical backgrounds. In my opinion, the important consideration is to respect others’ values and the perspective that goes along with it. “Perspective” is probably one of my favorite words…(besides “summer”!) Sharing a similar perspective with others about a value builds community and offers reassurance that our thinking isn’t totally wacky. However understanding and accepting that people have different perspectives makes for a more harmonious world …. as well as some interesting friendly debates!

Therefore, one’s own values should be cherished, but not forced upon others. If a person chooses to use birth control, or not, that is a personal choice that likely is affected by their religious, cultural, or family value system coupled with their perspective on how their values should be lived. For example, employers who do not believe in contraception have every right not to use contraception as a personal choice based on their values. However, should their employees be unable to obtain contraception of their choice merely because the corporation who employs them feels an obligation to instill their values upon their devoted employees? We all want to be respected and valued for who we are and not be marginalized or penalized for honoring our own values.

So parents, teachers, caregivers, healthcare providers…whomever you are…teaching positive values to those young people you care for is incredibly important. But one value that is also imperative to teach – as well as model – is the ability to respect others’ perspective’s and appreciate people for the unique and intriguing people they invariably are.