There are values.
There are beliefs.
There are principles.
Values are what we are willing to put our lives, our fortune, and our sacred honors on the line to defend, protect, and advocate for. Values are based typically in a moral or ethical code, or standard of behavior, sometimes enforced by society and culture, but much of the time determined privately by individuals.
Beliefs are what we really think, down deep, past the words that come out of our mouths. Beliefs are a core part of the stories that we tell ourselves about the values that we have. Beliefs are about trust, faith, and the confidence in something (typically values) that will come to reality.
Principles are the combination of values and beliefs. Principles serve as the fundamental truths that are the foundation of a chain of reasoning that leads to a set of manifested behaviors that shape our realities. Principles are bedrock, they are eternal, and they sound like positions when we articulate them.
But they are not positions (which are often about personal (and sometimes public) identity or maintaining “face”) nor are they about interests (which are often flexible, negotiable, situational, and impersonal).
There is little productive talk about values using anything but position-based language, designed to inflame people, rather than unite them. There is even less productive debate about beliefs using anything other than language designed to conjure up images of religion, rather than relationship. In both cases, the use of persuasive, argumentative, anchoring language is designed to separate people from each other (which is easy), rather than to engender deeper introspection (which is hard). And too often in our public language, at work, at school, in social media, and other places, we use the language of principles to talk about positions—or even worse–to justify behavior based in mere interests.
Don’t let people fool you. There’s plenty of hard, emotional work in introspectively determining what your values are, articulating to others what your beliefs are, and in figuring out how both of those are walked out in your lived principles.
But there’s no glamour. There’s low (or no) pay. And there’s often no audience. But it’s when there’s no glamour, pay, or audience to put on a show for, that we discover what really lives at our core.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org