At the age of 37, I'm still working on this. It took me a long time to realize that I was not a believer. I tried to cling to the idea of being a believer. I felt for some reason that it was necessary of me to believe. I didn't really have an idea that being a non-believer was possible, something that many people embraced and something that was OK to embrace. It was only when I found an article in the local paper that I discovered there was a group of people locally who did not believe. That was over 5 years ago and I'm still working on my own value system. Some things for sure I know are wrong for multiple reasons that have little to do with religion. Some things are not so black and white.
So, in no particular order, here is the start of a list of what are values for me. It's not perfect and I know I'm not perfect in always keeping with those values but these are the things I believe are important.
1. I don't like lying. I don't like to lie to people and I really hate when people lie to me. I feel it can destroy trust and it can cause issues for a relationship years down the road. I feel omitting important information is just as bad as lying. Lying about your age, religious beliefs, your values, etc to get me to like is not going to work out very well in the end. I will never understand why people have to construct an entire identity that is not them in order to get someone to like them and stay with them. The truth eventually comes out if that is not really who you are. Pretending, to me, just doesn't make any sense. But sadly, people do it all too often and my husband has done this which is why we have so many issues in our marriage. I don't think I would have stayed with him ultimately if I had known just how encompassing his religious beliefs were. But he lied to me; he lied to his best friend about our relationship; he lied to everyone about many things including his age. It's something that for me will now be a deal breaker in a any kind of a relationship. I won't tolerate it anymore. A person who is willing to lie about big things like that will like about other things and will continue to lie.
2. I don't like stealing. Fastest way to get me to more or less dislike you for life is to steal from me. My younger sister's best friend did this and to this day I still do not understand why she is friends with this person because stealing money from me was bad enough, she stole my sister's husband too! But who my sister hands out with is her deal. I just won't go anywhere near this person. It wasn't much money but it was at a time I was leaving my husband and it was a small purse of change that was more or less the last bit of money I had at the time. And I was leaving my husband at that time (when my oldest was only 6 months old) because he was taking 20% of the very little bit of money we were getting at the time and putting it towards tithes. He wasn't working. He was out of work and I was staying at home with a six month old and I was nursing. Formula was not an option because he felt it was poison. But he felt obligated to his church and had to not only take out this 20% but then hid it from me and eventually got himself a savings account I could not access. Want to really get me going on a rant? Mention tithing. As far as I am concerned it is one of the things that truly makes a church evil, to require those who are living on fixed incomes, government assistance, etc to tithe.
3. I feel we should do more for the environment. Earth is the only home we have and we need to take care of it. I'm not perfect with this. I try to remember to recycle when possible but it's not always easy for me to figure out what can be recycled here. We're doing better than we used to but there is always room for improvement. Eventually, I want to reach a point where I can contribute money towards these efforts as well.
4. I feel we should all do our part to make the world a better place and help when we can. This is another area that I want to do more with and I'm hoping to get more of a chance with my job this year. But I think the more we do for our fellow humans, the better we all will be. We do not live on an island. The things we do affect others. Why not use that to do good?
5. I feel war will not make things better, compassion and tolerance will. We need to stop having the idea that everyone has to think and do the same thing. We need to stop fighting about what one's god wants him/her to do and look to realistic and doable solutions to the problems we have. If we don't, we will destroy the only home we have and kill nearly everyone in the process.
This last year has been a difficult one because I feel that the US has gone in a direction that is not as kind or generous. It hurts to see the things that the current administration is doing: the bigotry, xenophobia, and outright greed. I do have some hope that the next generation will be better. I hear it when I listen to my oldest daughter go against her father's values of homophobia and bigotry. It amazes me she is already able to stand up for herself and share what her developing values are, something that I was not able to do at her age. I really hope that ultimately, there will be generation of children like her, a generation that will completely and totally change our world for the better. And hopefully the steps towards that change will start sooner, with my generation. It's there. I just worry that things will get worse before they get better.
So again, this is a very much incomplete list that I hope to expand on. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer:
“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”