Counselor's Corner: The values beneath attitudes

By Fred Cavaiani

The other day I heard on the radio that some political celebrity was asked what should be done if an illegal immigrant was brought to a hospital dying. The answer was "let him/her die." This answer was based on the attitude that because illegal immigrants are here illegally they really have no rights in this country. With this attitude their answer is actually logical. It is the same with those who favor the death penalty. A person should be punished for his/her crime. Death penalty advocates believe that killing people who have killed someone will deter further killings. War is based on the same attitude. If I kill my new enemy it will deter them from killing me. There is logic based on this attitude. Yet what are the values beneath these attitudes? Are there values beneath attitudes anyway?

Have you ever asked yourself the question "What are my deepest values beneath my political or world viewpoints?" If you have a religion or theology of life, does it give you a value that helps you form attitudes? Do your attitudes about people, places and things and your political attitudes originate from values deep inside of you? Does your philosophy or theology of life permeate your actions and your words?

I remember someone who professed a deep religious fervor walking by a poor man who was asking for an alms. This religious person walked by the beggar, gave him nothing and said "he who doesn't work, shouldn't eat." I remember another religious person having only five dollars to his name and giving a dollar and fifty cents to a poor beggar. Both of these people certainly had different values and they expressed them in their attitudes toward a person less fortunate than they were at that moment.

Attitudes of love are based on fundamental values about life. Attitudes about condemnation and punishment are also based on fundamental values about life. Our fundamental values influence our choices. Our fundamental values influence our choice of religion or choice not to have a religion. Fundamental values about life influence our choice of political parties and political people. Fundamental values influence how we live and also the friends we choose.

One of the biggest contradictions for each of us happens when good fundamental values are not allowed to permeate and influence our attitudes and actions. We may have been taught to be kind to everyone but our actions indicate that we really do not believe this. So do our choices. We can act rude and judgmental and moralistic yet deep down we know that our values are better than our attitudes and actions.

Personal tension and personal conflicts become deeper and more painful when we minimize our values and allow our attitudes and choices to dull our values. When a community, township, city or country does this we jump for the quick, shallow solution which doesn't take into consideration the long term benefits for all. When our own personal comfort motivates our decisions and attitudes without considering the benefit for others we live in a myopic, narcissistic world which often stifles the deep values we may have held or been taught. If we have been taught superficial values we will quickly discover that they do not lead to a sense of peace or a sense of compassion toward others. When there is little peace or compassion in our lives we need to challenge ourselves to either find some new values or return to the positive values that we may have had.

Psychologically and spiritually, life is much better when we embrace positive values and base our lives on these positive values. When we depart from the basic values of love, integrity, humility and compassion and a sense of community, we depart from making the world a better place.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.

Published: Tue, Oct 11, 2011

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