VALUES: YOU, ME, US AND THEY

Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity of attending several lectures on ‘Good Governance and Corruption’. The learned speakers delivered brilliant talks on these issues, citing numerous instances from the world over as to how seemingly all-pervasive is the cancer of corruption. Acts, Laws, Rules, Regulatory and Supervisory bodies – all in place, but no solution. Each of the speakers was asked this question – ‘How can we get rid of corruption?’

The answers they gave were similar –

Inner attitude has to change.

There has to be a change within!

Be it in any part of the world, certain values are imparted to all from childhood so that they learn to internalize them and live by them as they grow. Some values are deliberately taught, while some others are picked up from observation. However, this does not lead us to conclude that values are not inherited.

The role of genes in the transmission of values is significant. Genes are the carriers of values, the very same way as they carry certain physical or psychological attributes from parents to children.

However, genes are not the sole kings!

The values we have today are the products of the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. And, it is case-specific as to whether the environmental factors or factors of inheritance, have an upper hand.

Recently, I heard of two sisters in their late teens. Their father is an alcoholic and without any employment. Their mother does odd jobs to somehow help the family pull along. The environment that the two girls are exposed to is highly non-conducive to the development of sound values. All they get to see and hear is their drunk father hurling abuses at their mother and them. Despite such an environment, these two girls are extremely well-mannered, helpful, reliable and excel in their studies.

How did these traits develop?

There may have been other external influences (teachers, society, friends) who have impacted the two girls. They may have had the inner determination to rise above their circumstances. I heard some people say – ‘How on earth these two sisters are so good?’

Second case in point –

The son of a highly respected official was arrested for the rape and murder of a young girl. He absconded for years together, settled elsewhere using fake identities, but was eventually nabbed a few months before. His family which was once considered to be disciplined and having high ideals, was shattered.

How did this son imbibe such qualities?

It may not be easy to give a precise answer.

My grandfather was a man of high principles. In his memorial service, many people young and old shared how they had observed his traits of being God-fearing, extremely disciplined, non-compromising, straightforward, impartial, truthful and loyal. Some values which he has taught me are –

Always walk your path in the fear of the Lord; and fear no man. Man cannot destroy your soul.

Always be truthful. It may make you uncomfortable at times, but you will be on the safe side. But if you lie, you are digging a pit for yourself into which you will fall sooner or later.

If God has given you the means, give to the needy; don’t stack up things for yourself.

Besides these, some values which I have picked up from him are the values of being meticulous in his work, punctuality and cleanliness. He was never late to any place and didn’t keep anyone waiting without reason. He was a cleanliness freak; but didn’t go around ordering people to clean up any mess that would be around. He would start clearing the mess himself.

Consciously and subconsciously, I have imbibed many of these values. Genes, yes, would have a role to play for sure. But, I can vouch for what I learned by being taught and by observation.

How we are is being observed by others – both those who are close to us and those who don’t mean much to us. What we are teaching others would impact not only those individuals, but also a few more generations. So, in a way we regulate the genes by possessing certain values. Afterall, these genes would be transmitted to our offsprings. And, we are also in control of the lessons we teach. Apart from the self-concept that is unique to each individual, what is taught and what is inherited shapes a person.

The Bible says –

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The onus lies on us!