Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

What Values Do We Model?

As part of her college ethics class, my daughter was asked to list the core values she was raised with. Here is her list:

Always tell the truth
Work hard for what you want
Be kind

Wow, I thought, she really was paying attention when she was growing up! I was glad to see reflected back to me values that I hold dear in my own life, and glad that these were among the values she has carried with her into adulthood.

But what really stunned me was her answer when I asked her how she learned these values. She said that she remembers that this is how I behaved. She had some very specific memories as examples, especially of kindness. Some of the examples I didn’t even remember. But she was watching when she was a little girl, and learning not from what I said, but from what I did.

She told me that she sometimes thought my standards were unfair, especially when other kids were held to a lower bar. I remember one time when she was crying, asking me why I had such high expectations for her. I told her that these were just the basic expectations for being a decent human being – we had not gotten to the high expectations yet. Ha!

But now I see her teaching these same values to her children. And she says she is grateful that I taught her how to be a good person.

So this made me think about all the ways I model values for other people. Am I modeling kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity, courage, responsibility, accountability, tenderness, trustworthiness, understanding? Not all the time, I’m sure. But now, with a new generation coming up in the family, I’m more aware that little eyes are watching, and little ears are listening. And I am more careful.

Her list was an assignment for class, but I think I’m the one who learned the lesson!

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. ~James Baldwin

14 thoughts on “What Values Do We Model?”

  1. Beautiful post, Galen. Thank you for sharing from your own experiences. It's timely for me, because my first grandchild is coming very soon (induction at 5AM tomorrow). Many of my friends have been grandmothers for decades, but God has perfect timing for each of us. I hope and pray that all of us are faithful to pass on those important core values to the next generation.

  2. Galen, this says it all! The young ones do look to us to model right behaviors and conduct. It's not what we say, but what we do that will stick with them. This is, if possible, even more important to me now that I have grandchildren. Praying God will make me the ideal model they need in their lives.
    Blessings, my friend!

  3. I will never have grandchildren, both of my sons are gone from this world. But I would be so proud if they would ever have said such things about me when they were little. But then again, I was a fickle, unaware person for so many years, it would have been a miracle. I am a much better person now, having learned much from friends like you. 🙂

  4. I am far from ideal, and was even farther from ideal when my kids were growing up, but somehow I did enough modeling of these values to instill them in my daughter. Lesson is that we don't have to be perfect, but at least good enough–ha!

  5. You and me both, DJan. I am a bit perplexed about how my daughter absorbed these virtues, since my own memory of parenting involves a lot of impatience and yelling. But apparently, even with my faults, I lived according to principles that she witnessed and took as her own. Like you, I am a better person now, at least I'd like to think so.

    That reminds me of an argument I had with my older sister some years ago. She was dredging up stuff that I did as a teenager, which was all true, but I looked at her and asked, "Haven't I gotten any better in all the decades since then?" Sigh.

    I know about your tragic losses, and once again, you touch my heart. But we are always modeling our values through our words and actions, whether to children, grandchildren, family, friends, or our community in general.

    Always good to hear from you, DJan.

  6. This is so heartening to read. Wonderful! Values are everything, but I only learned this later in life – that being they can guide us above all else. Cheers, Galen.

  7. Thanks, Lynne. I've been thinking a lot about values since my daughter shared her list with me. Sometimes we learn them by embracing values that were modeled for us. Sometimes we learn them by embracing values that were NOT modeled for us. Hmm…

  8. I read your post a couple of times. Its an amazing story. It shows how we transmit or convey who we are to our children, family and others, simply by acting it out in our daily lives. Our words obviously have impact, but what seems even more powerful is the subtle transmission of our life impression upon the other. This idea of transmission is a term used when a great teacher transmits a spiritual energy with wisdom unto the student. As parents we are transmitting our values and life essence onto the next generation. This brings great meaning and responsibility into our lives. I used to tell my children, that I was their parent ,not their friend. They got the point. A good parent will point, a child, to the way that leads to a meaningful life, even if this truth diminishes the short term happiness of the child…a friend may not do that.

    I guess we are are all role models. That should humble us. It is a great responsibility and it has great meaning. Meaning gives us purpose. Happiness is fleeting but meaning grounds us to reality with depth. What greater meaning can there be in life then to be the best role model, we can be, for our children and others. We have a whole community out there watching us, we are transmitting our very life outward. WoW! That is a great responsibility.

    a good thought provoking post , Galen.

  9. Yes, we have to be very conscious of what they are and that they are authentic to us. Interesting that there is a cross over here with my ego post!And thanks for your comment!

  10. That's not the first time you and I have crossed paths in our blog topics. That is interesting indeed. Thanks for commenting, Lynne. By the way, I'm still enjoying my painting. I love the fact that it connects us across the ocean.

  11. I've used that parent/not friend line a few times myself, Brian! I love the way you put this in the context of the transmission of wisdom teachings. I hadn't thought of that, but I see your point. It is a great responsibility. And you are right that we are not just modeling to our families, but to everyone we come in contact with. Thanks for commenting.

  12. Wow, this was an awesome post. I loved reading what values you taught your daughter. All the values you listed are the best. I fear sometimes, that we aren't teaching our children as good of values any longer. However, I do think being a good example is the way.
    Thanks for this one! Blessings and hugs for you~

  13. I know what you mean. My daughter thought that my values were too high when she was growing up, but I thought they were just basic decency values. Not something that is modeled for us all the time.

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