As a city planner in San Diego I was invited to be a part of a gang/police summit in a rough cetral city neighborhood. In the course of a series of testimonials, a former gang member rose and said the following. “Everybody talks about values. They value this, they value that. Family values, Christian values. Values, values, values. Here’s the thing, though. It’s not about ‘values.’ It’s about the other ‘v’ word… ‘virtues’. Beacuse I don’t care what you ‘value’, I only care about what kind of person you are.
He was right. It does not matter what anyone chooses to believe, or not believe. It only matters what kind of person has resulted from that process. It only matters how they conduct their lives, how they treat others, if they are honest, fair, compassionate, and tolerant. If they are a person of merit it does not matter if that is the product of a deeply religious set of beliefs, or a life conducted without any religious foundation.
We should encourage and embrace any human who is virtuous, and not challenge their beliefs. It is the product that we experience, and the product that matters. We are all the result of unique manufacturing processes. There is no single path to virtue. As long as someone achieves it… let’s celebrate and not try to impose our values on those whose virutes outshine our own.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.