Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Values is a word tossed about with a demeaning casualness in today’s public dialog but is rarely actually defined by the speakers, be they congressmen, candidates, media talking heads, or anyone else with a political agenda.  Since our country is engaged in so called cultural wars it must be assumed that these values are self evident, which of course they are not.  This results in assumptions that lead to misunderstandings and division.

When I hear someone say a political candidate “shares my values”, unless told otherwise, I believe the reference is to abortion, gay marriage, and/or religious faith (usually Christian). One could not be faulted for inferring from public dialog that our citizenry is composed of 2 camps, the faithful who oppose gay marriage and abortion, and people of little or no faith who do not, an inference that is utterly false.

I do not belong to any church. I do not believe homosexuality is a sin or a choice. I am in favor of gay marriage, and I believe in a woman’s right to make her own choice regarding abortion.  Does this mean I have no values?  Of course not.  I have a set of values around which I have lived my entire life, and I am quite confident that many others, regardless of church or political affiliations, share them:

Love for others
Commitment to family, marriage, and friends
Understanding and tolerance for ideas and people who differ from me, and
Respect for beliefs of others
Willingness to learn and accept change
A personal faith (to be described in a future post on this blog)

These are the values that determine who and what we are, our personal character and our place in the community of men and women.  They have found their way into the fabric of my life from many sources: my parents and my extended family and friends, personal experiences learning and practicing the craft of medicine, reading extensively the spiritual writings of others, and simply – or not so simply - navigating the corners in my life.

From HAVE I TOLD YOU TODAY THAT I LOVE YOU…words to my children…

“Your relationship with others will be as varied as the people you encounter and will be determined by many factors, not the least of which will be your own personality and psychological style.  But regardless of who and what you are, there are certain basic tenets that I would urge you to follow.

Be respectful of others, regardless of their position in our socio-economic conscious society.  Be your real self with both the room maid and the hotel manager.

Be tolerant of ideas, beliefs, and behavior that differ from yours; no one has a monopoly on the truth.

With grace forgive the weaknesses of others and do not judge what you may perceive to be their shortcomings.

Forgive first offenses.  Overlook minor slights.

Enable and nurture; be one who helps other achieve their own selfhood.  Act in such a way that others will feel better for knowing you.

 Be honest toward others.  Do not present yourself to be other than who you are.  And do not deceive or use others to achieve your own way or goals.”

I cannot claim to be one hundred percent faithful to these standards, but I try, because they are within me, and not imposed by some external authority.