Why Values and Morals are Important
NOTE: This is Part 4 of a 6-part series of posts. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, you can read them now: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
In this series, we talked first about why we need morals and values and learned they’re important to us and others our whole lives. Then we talked about how we treat ourselves and others so they know we appreciate them and they are important to us. Next we talked about what happens when we hurt others, about responsibility, and about respect. All these things make a big difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Today, let’s look at other things. Things that make a big difference in the kind of life we live and how it affects us and those around us.
Three big things that shape the kind of life we live are patience, kindness, and loyalty.
When we want something, we don’t want to wait for it. We want it right now. That’s being impatient. Maybe we can’t have it right now and that upsets us. But it shouldn’t. We know that if what we want is meant to be ours, it will come. That’s being patient.
It’s not always easy to be patient. Sometimes it’s hard. Whether it is sharing a toy, a place in line, an award or something else we really want, we know that hard things always have good lessons in them. Ones that help us in ways we understand right now, and even more in ways we don’t understand until later.
Patience tells us a lot about ourselves. How we behave during the wait for what we want tells us about self-discipline. That means, we come to better understand how to control ourselves and our feelings. Yes, we still want what we want. And while we might not be able to have it now, we know that good things happen during the wait. We also know if we resent or are angry about having to wait, we need to stop and remind ourselves to look for the good things. That’s important because if we resent, or are upset about waiting, we miss seeing the good things. We miss the chance to learn that these good things, and often even better things than those we wanted, are there for us to find!
Let’s say you have been saving your money to buy a Lego set. You look at it every Saturday when you go to the store. In your mind, you see all the great things you can build with it. It’s going to be such fun—you can hardly wait!
Finally you have enough money. This Saturday, you are going to buy your Lego set. But Saturday comes, and your parents can’t take you to the store. You’re sad and disappointed. You’re upset. You’ve waited so long for this and it’s just not fair.
Now, you could be upset and ruin your whole day. You might sit in your room and pout or even quarrel with your sister or brother. You might refuse to play with a friend, or do something else that you would usually enjoy doing. But you miss those good things, because you’re being impatient. You miss the good things because you want your Lego set and you want it now, not next Saturday.
You’re upset all week. But next Saturday comes, and when you get to the store, there are no Lego sets left. There are others, but not the one you wanted. You’re even more upset now, and maybe angry with your parents, too. If they’d just brought you to the store last Saturday, you’d have your Lego set and be home building all the things you want to build. Now, you’re in a really bad mood.
But then your parents take you to another store. And at this other store, you see your Lego set. And it’s on sale! You have enough money to buy the Lego set and a kite!
You’re happy then. Very happy. And you see that what you thought was a bad thing—the first store being out of your Lego set—was really a good thing—because the second store had it, and it cost less and you were able to also get a kite.
Look at all the time you wasted being upset. A whole week! Quarreling with your sister or brother, not playing with your friend, and not doing other things you would enjoy. If you had known that things would work out the way they did, you wouldn’t have wasted that week or missed out on those good times. But you did. That’s the harm in being impatient.
Throughout our lives, we all are impatient. We want something and we must wait for it. Work for it. Save for it. We learn to exercise our self-discipline and to be patient. To trust that things will work out for us the way they should at the right time.
That’s hard work, but it is important work because some of the most important things that ever happen to us happen while we’re waiting for something else to happen.
Our greatest gifts often come to us when we’re being patient.
Sometimes it’s hard to see that, to remember it, but later we always do. So when we must wait, we must teach ourselves to be self-disciplined. To be patient so we don’t miss the good things.
Deep inside, we all know we should be kind to others and to ourselves. When we are with others, we like being with them more if they are kind to us, and the less kind they are, the less we enjoy being with them.
But that’s not all there is to kindness, or the only reasons we should be kind. You see, whether you are two or twenty, others learn from you just as you learn from them.
When we are kind, we show others how to be kind. They might not know. They might know but have forgotten. Or they might choose to be unkind because it’s easier for them than being kind.
Being easier doesn’t make being unkind right, and it is not the type of person we want to be. Being kind doesn’t mean it’s okay for others to bully you. It’s not okay. Being kind does mean that you choose to treat others the way you want them to treat you.
We live in a world with billions of people, but do you know that the kindness you show toward someone today might be the only kindness shown to that person today?
Imagine that. Going a whole day with no one being kind to you. Or a whole week. That would be hard, and it is hard. As people, we appreciate kindness, and when we don’t feel it from others, it hurts.
Remember the Lego set we talked about? Well, what if you had almost enough money for it, but you needed a little more. And what if you intended to earn the rest by raking leaves for a neighbor. But then you talked to a kid across the street who needed to earn money. His dad lost his job and they don’t have money to buy food.
Now you really want that Lego set. But the family across the street really wants to eat. What kindness can you do?
You might tell your friend that you have a job raking the neighbor’s yard. He can do it instead and earn food money. That’s a kindness. You sacrificing something you want for him to earn something he needs.
You might help him earn that money by raking the neighbor’s yard with him. Helping out in this way makes the work easier and it tells your friend when he needs help, you are there to help him.
The neighbor, knowing why the two of you are raking, might help find a second neighbor who needs some raking done. This helps your friend earn a little more to buy more food.
When we are kind, the good we do always comes back to us. When we help one another and we need help, others will help us. We rely on each other. Not to fix our problems, but to be kind and assist us so that we can help ourselves.
We should never expect someone else to step in and fix our problems. Everyone has their own problems. But if we can do someone a kindness, then we should. That tells them the kind of person we are, and it tells us the kind of person we are.
One of the best things in life is knowing we aren’t alone. Knowing we’re not the only person who has a problem. Feeling alone or as if this trial has only ever happened to us is a terrible feeling. The truth is everyone has problems. How they deal with those problems makes all the difference in the kind of life they live.
If you try to be kind, to be thoughtful of others and to help them when you can, you will still have problems. But you’ll react to them respecting yourself and the other person. You’ll treat others with kindness, and when you have a problem and need kindness from another, someone will be kind to you.
Kindness isn’t always in big things. It can be a smile to someone who needs a smile. It can be to stop and wait, allowing someone to go ahead of you in a line. It can be in picking up something someone drops on the floor and handing it to them.
What kindness really says is that you noticed the other person. You looked at them and saw that they needed something. And you did something thoughtful and caring for them just because you could. Not because you’d be rewarded, or because you had to do it. You did it because you could. That is a very special gift to give to others. And it speaks well of you to them. It tells them that you are smart enough to know the value of kindness.
When you decided that your across-the-street friend needed food money more than you needed the Lego set, you were being loyal to your friend. When you helped your friend rake the neighbor’s yard and gave your friend the money to buy food, you were being loyal to your friend.
Loyalty means you support someone. Being loyal to your friend means you support your friend. You help your friend when you can.
In life, we have many chances to be loyal. To our family, our friends, and later, to those we work for and those we work with. There are many other times we can be loyal, too. About friendship, we learned that to have a friend, you must be a friend. Well, loyalty works the same way. If you want others to be loyal to you, then you must be loyal to them.
That doesn’t mean you always agree, or you must do something you know is wrong. It means when your friend says or does something that hurts you, you remember all the things that friend has done to help you. You don’t forget everything else that is good because of one bad thing. You talk it over, and you find a solution that respects both of you.
It is easy to be loyal when you and your friend or your parents agree. It’s harder when you disagree, but that’s when you have the most to gain or lose—and the other person does, too.
Loyalty isn’t expecting someone else to always be right. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them when they think they’re right and you know they’re wrong. Loyalty, remember, is supporting someone else. This kind of support means being honest with them, sharing your very best to help them do the right thing.
Let’s say the friend raked the neighbor’s yard and you helped. But you did most of the work. Your friend spent most of the time not raking but talking to another friend, who didn’t help rake.
You might not appreciate that. You gave up something you wanted to help, and now your friend is goofing off. But is that friend goofing off? Or is this other friend trying to help also? You aren’t sure. It could be either. In this case, being loyal to your friend means not judging by what you think you know or see. It means giving your friend the benefit of doubt, trusting your friend until you know the truth.
People are loyal to family and friends. They’re also loyal to bigger things, like their company or their church, to their community or their country. It isn’t always easy to be loyal. Things do happen that make you wonder sometimes if your loyalty is right. That can be scary.
But don’t not question your decision because you’re afraid. It’s good to question it. Because when you do, you learn to discern. That means, you carefully consider whether or not you want to give your loyalty to someone or something. When you do that, you’re thinking about the good and bad, the hard and easy, and the right and wrong.
Loyalty isn’t a thing someone can demand you give them. It’s a choice you make. People who love you and provide for you, people who care for you, deserve your loyalty, and you will want to give it to them. Often, giving your loyalty requires courage. And we’ll talk about that next time, in three weeks.
I hope you’ll join me then for Part 5 of Why Morals and Values are Important. We’ll talk about courage and discipline and civility then. That will give you time to think about patience and kindness and loyalty, and to talk all this over with your mom and dad and see what they think.
If you missed Part 1, Part 2, and/or Part 3, you can still read them. Here are the links to those articles: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3