The aggregate of these values can perhaps be said to constitute the culture of a society.
All great civilisations have been built on the edifice of certain fundamental human values, namely honesty, piety, justice and so on. These values are candles that have kept the flame of human civilisation glowing. Any attempt to extinguish them can only hasten the extinction of our civilisation. Denis Goulet argues that most civilisations that perished had no external threats but crumbled due to internal strife triggered by the breakdown of fundamental human values. These values are the cardinal principles preached by all religions, civilisations and cultures, and form the marrow of a civilisation. Every society, in the course of its evolution, garners certain ethical and spiritual values. The aggregate of these values can perhaps be said to constitute the culture of a society.
Values are intrinsic to our lives. They add to the strength of our character and the righteousness of our beliefs. All of us must understand and internalise our duty of being promoters and protectors of these values. Values need to be lived and not merely taught and preached, to make them a pulsing and vibrant current of the civilisation. Good organisations are those that craft a process that embeds these universal principles into meaning for people in their day-to-day context.
For us to live our lives with worthwhile values, we need to be able to differentiate between right and wrong. This is not the kind of understanding that we are inherently born with. We learn as we go along. Institutions such as one’s family, school, neighbourhood or community help form and nurture our values. In turn, our values act as a glue for our families and societies. They help a child become a good adult, go on to become a good spouse and finally a good parent. A good and responsible parent would normally turn out to be a good citizen.
These eternal values fortify all decent people as they seek clarity and coherence in a confusing world. They provide a moral compass for the chaos that exists around us and are good in the long haul — that our principles are good for all seasons and good for all ages. All people share a core hunger for creating a rich fibre of values.
We derive the greatest value not by seeking to build a better case for ourselves. Instead, we do so by understanding better what we value most — meaning, what we stand for most deeply and who we really want to be. We then use that conviction and those skills in the service of others. This understanding gives birth to gratitude.
Gratitude comes both from the heart and the mind. It is a reflection of the feeling of awe at the wonders of God’s creation — it creates perspective and discernment that leads to critical capacity and critical awareness.
Gratitude has been said to mould and shape the entire Christian life. Martin Luther referred to gratitude as “the basic Christian attitude”, and today it is still referred to as “the heart of the gospel”. In almost all religions, gratitude is an essential part of the act of worship and an essential ingredient of every aspect of a worshipper’s life.
We can build into the lives of family, friends and colleagues by providing nutrients of love, kindness and gratitude. If a tree is given minimal nourishment, it will live, but it will not grow. But if abundant nourishment is given, the tree will live and grow, even producing fruit. In an individual’s life, nourishment comes in the form of the blessings of fellowmen.