Section 4 – Self-Understanding – Values

In Section 3 we looked at each of the motivational forces; Values and Needs. Now we will consider the various values, that mould and shape our whole life of faith as MSC, what Jules Chevalier calls the sentiments of the Heart of Christ. Our starting place is to understand the nature of values and the different kinds of values that influence human behaviour.

Jesus is the perfect model of our consecrated life; his love is our inspiration and driving force. Therefore, our life and apostolate will be marked by a sincere and fervent love of the Incarnate Word. This love will urge us constantly to share the sentiments of the Heart of Christ.

Following the example of Jesus, we will strive to lead others to God with kindness and gentleness, to unite them to him by love and to free them from fear. Trusting in God’s grace, we will be ready, if necessary, to lay down our lives for them.

The spirit of our Society is one of love and kindness, humility and simplicity; it is, above all, one of love for justice and concern for all, especially the very poor.

MSC Constitutions #11-13


            Values are conscious aspirations that we follow because of their own intrinsic good, apart from whether or not they are desired by the individual.  Values guide my rational mind and are consciously chosen through the process of rationally appraising experience.  They always draw or invite persons into action and are never associated with coercion or compulsion.  Values concern decisions that we make regarding what we become and how to become what we desire to become, as well as the meaning we give to our lives. 

I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
    a little child to the cheek,
    and I bent down to feed them.

Hosea 11:4

Values are either:

            Terminal – meaning they concern the final effect we want to attain, or

            Instrumental – meaning they influence the necessary actions required to attain the final effect.

Types of Values

  1. Cognitive – concerning our rational way of acting.
  2. Affective – concerning our source of energy, stimulus.
  3. Conative – the object of reflection
  4. Creative – what we give to life through our personal gifts and talents. Each person possesses specific qualities and is able to show these in the way that reflects their own personality, showing originality and uniqueness.
  5. Experiential – constitute what we receive from life, e.g., the positive reality of beauty, fulfillment, goodness.  Ability to appreciate the good. Experiential. Enriches our life.
  6. Attitudinal – refer to the attitude we take towards life. They give meaning to our life as we accept them in freedom even when difficult and limited. We cannot be fully responsible for our weaknesses, but we can be responsible for the attitude we take to them.
  7. Economic – realities such as prosperity and misery, personal success and failure, what motivates or moves a person to consider themselves and others happy or unhappy.
  8. Spiritual – not directly related to the biological, e.g., truth, beauty, justice, peace, love, joy.  These values are objective in aspect.
  9. Moral – a practical value concerning our human actions and the use of our free will.  These values are the true measure of the human person’s actions to be judged as good or evil.
  10. Religious – based on a belief-system.  These values take the person beyond themselves into the transcendent. As a Christian our religious values are based on the teachings of Jesus.

Two Aspects of Values 

  1. Objective Values: are those aspects of persons or things whose intrinsic importance is the object of human response; such aspects are not the result of human thought.
  2. Subjective Values: are the norms of conduct, more or less internalized, by which the person, in his judgments and actions, responds to the intrinsic importance of objects (persons or things).

Consistency between subjective and objective values is important.  When consistency is lacking then an individual will experience internal conflict.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

Hierarchy of Values

There is a natural hierarchy of values that allows us to objectify the motivation of each subject, as far as the values themselves are concerned.

  1. Human or Natural Values.
  2. Values which are not specifically human:  do not distinguish between animal and human.  Values of sensitivity and of biological life, having to do with pleasure and pain, health and illness, etc.
  3. Values which are human but infra-moral:  Human as distinct from animal, but infra (before, below, the human moral life) because they do not involve an exercise of the liberty (freedom of will) and responsibility of the self.  There are two groups.
    1. economic values (eudemonic):  prosperity or misery, personal success or failure – in general all that moves people to consider themselves and others as happy or unhappy.
    2. spiritual values (not influenced by biological factors): 
    3. noetic values: truth (as an objective value), knowledge of truth (as a subjective value).
    4. aesthetic and artistic values: beauty or ugliness, good or bad taste on the part of the object.
    5. social values: prosperity, cohesion of group, order, disorder on the part of the object, and affiliation, nurturance, domination, respect for order (or their opposites) on the part of the subject.
    6. values which concern the will as a natural endowment:  being firm or relaxed on the part of the object, force of character, counteraction on the part of the subject (or opposites).
  4. Theo-Centric Self-Transcending Values
  5. Moral Value:  concerns human action itself, because it proceeds from free will, and does not concern solely or directly the accomplishment, the work, which is the result of the human action.  Moral value is the true measure of the worth of the human person.

The Nature of Values

  • Values are socially shared ideas about what is right. They are based on what one believes. 
  • Values are learned (as are beliefs and attitudes). They are learned from the people with whom we live and associate. 
  • Values are mostly permanent understandings of the nature of good and bad, of the worth we attach to things, people and events. 
  • Values are mostly embodied (come to life) in moral or religious systems that are found in cultures and societies. 
  • Values define for people the boundaries of their actions; they indicate to those who share them what is desirable, to what degree it is desirable, and therefore what one should strive for. 
  • Values provide people with a ‘guidance system’, which enables them to make the ‘right’ choices when several courses of action are possible.
  • What people value at a given time is based on the needs they try to fulfill at that particular time. (All people need to eat, but they do not all value the same food).
  • A person can hold many different attitudes, beliefs and values, and it is quite common for some of them to be in conflict with each other.
  • Other Values include.
    • Loyalty to friends and loved ones.          
    • Patriotism – value of your own country  
    • The importance of religion           
    • The significance of material possessions
  • These and other values are commonly found in many cultures, but of course there are wide differences in how people interpret these values and to the extent to which they adhere to them or follow them.
  • In small indigenous and peasant societies there tends to be far greater consensus on values, than in large, complex industrial societies. 
  • In a large diverse society, there is bound to be a good deal of conflict over values. For example, some people are satisfied with the way wealth and power are distributed, while others are less satisfied with the ‘status quo’. 
  • Some feel that it is desirable to attempt to improve one’s own well-being and that society as a whole gains when everyone strives to be well‑off.
  • Others assert that the values of ‘individual gain’, conflicts with the values of community and social harmony.  Too great a gap between the well-off and the not‑well off creates suffering, envy, crime, and other problems.

The Function of Values

What is the use of values?  Why pursue them?

  1. They identify the subject, i.e., they help the person realize their identity.
  2. They direct his/her life and aims; the way the person will achieve their desired actions,    they motivate the person.
  3. They give a person a “self-esteem” through a positive direction in their life.

The following article on self-transcendence is an old one from 1982 Human Development magazine but a helpful read for understanding the way in which values help us transcend ourselves.

Next week we continue to explore the nature of Values and in particular the nature of Compliance, Identification and Internalisation of Values. See you then!