Finding and Supporting Our Common Bonds

Saturday

ONE OF THE MOST important benefits of religious and spiritual practice is the encouragement to exercise certain values — compassion, honesty, kindness, etc. This is a fundamental core of all religions and spiritual practices.

There may be a few values that exist in one religion but not another, but overall, there is a huge overlap. In other words, there are many important values that almost all religions respect. And these same values are respected by all psychologically healthy people all over the world.

If you talked to any healthy person from any country or any religion, any race or any political denomination, they would very likely tell you what they aspire to be is more compassionate, kinder to others, more honest, wiser, etc., and what they want their children to grow up to be is honest, wise, fair, etc.

So maybe an emphasis on the values themselves might be a sort of antidote to religious clashes. Because each shared value would be a point of unity.

If you agree with this, check out the following two resources. The first is The Foundation For a Better Life. This organization has no affiliations with any religion. It only promotes values. And the organization literally promotes values. They put the values on billboards and television spots.

You can see their TV ads and billboards and a list of all the values they promote on their site. Click on any of the values and you'll be able to read a true story that illustrates that value. Take a good look at that list of values and I think you will see that everybody you know would agree that those are good values. Those are the values we feel are important, no matter who we are, and those are the values we want our children to respect when they grow up.

You can help make this world a better place by promoting values. Or help The Foundation For a Better Life promote values by sharing it with your friends and family.

Along the same lines is another resource I'd like to tell you about. A group of well-respected psychologists, mostly top researchers, decided that the whole field of psychology has spent the vast majority of its effort and research money on getting rid of what's wrong with people. The DSM (the standard book psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose their patients) is all about mental illness. It's about how to help people get rid of problems. There is a place for that, of course, but this group of psychologists wanted some of that funding and research effort to go into building human strengths. They wanted to strengthen and encourage the best in people. What about a "DSM" for mental health?

The question is, how do you define sanity? What are its "symptoms?" What constitutes mental health? Can character be strengthened? And if so, how?

Using scientific methods and very thoroughly studying the questions, they came up with a list of virtues or character strengths. They call these strengths "values-in-action." They are universal values. They studied history and an enormous number of cultures, they looked at polls, scientific surveys, every major holy book of every major religion, etc. They narrowed the list down to only those character strengths that are universally admired and aspired to. They used a strict set of criteria to determine which character strengths to include and which to leave out. You can read their Classification of Character Strengths here: Values in Action.

They also wrote a book to sit beside the DSM on every mental health professional's shelf. This is perhaps the first book of virtues with scientific authority. The work is based on research — on what is known. There is very little speculation, and when it occurs, it is clearly admitted to be speculation. The book is over six hundred pages and it's expensive, but if you're interested, here it is: Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification.

If we promoted universal values, and focused on the values themselves that we hold in common as human beings, perhaps people of all faiths and nations and races could find a very important common ground. It would certainly be a good beginning.

The promotion of values successfully requires some skill in influencing people. Learn more about influencing people with integrity here.

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