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How Are Your Values Showing Up?

Last Sunday, I talked about people who are operating under a mental model of “fear as motivation.” I think we can see right in our own geographical community people whose core values are shaped by a fear of going to hell. No surprise, then, that when they attempt to motivate people to do things – like vote a particular way – they use fear. I saw even more flyers this week, all using spooky graphics and language to try and scare parents, hoping their manipulated fear would give more votes to particular candidates.

Motivation by fear is deep and old. Some cannot fathom not being motivated by fear of punishment. There is an old anecdote about Hosea Ballou, often called the Father of Universalism in the United States. He was traveling with a Baptist minister, debating theology. The Baptist preacher said, “Brother Ballou, if I were a Universalist and feared not the fires of hell, I could hit you over the head, steal your horse and saddle, and ride away, and I’d still go to heaven.” Hosea Ballou, bemused, said, “If you were a Universalist, the idea would never occur to you.”

As a Unitarian Universalist, what are your core values, and how do they show up in what you do?

I truly believe that all people are born equal. Because of that belief, I wholeheartedly believe that democracy is the best way to run a country. “A government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people” as Unitarian Theodore Parker said, which would later be paraphrased by Abraham Lincoln. So when I go vote, I am living out this core value. My beliefs are guiding what I do.

What are your core values, and how do they show up? What do you believe about the nature of being human, and how is that reflected in your actions?

If you believe that ideally, it is compassion that should drive our actions, how do you put that into practice? This may take large, dramatic forms, like volunteering for Fresh Food for All or other organizations, but it can (and I would argue, should) also take the form of kindness to the people around us, being of service, and responding to challenging situations with grace and forgiveness.

Fear is not necessarily something to be avoided. Fear can be an aspect of our decision-making process. As I wrote for Sunday’s moment of reflection, it can help us to be quick and agile. But I am suspicious of allowing it to drive what I do. I would rather use my energy figuring out how to better live out the religious values I profess to hold, and how to better love the hell out of this world.


Fear can be nourishment
Feeding us with energy and sharpness
Pointing out danger, helping us be quick and agile
And teaching us things about ourself when we dare to ask
Why it has shown up

But too easily, fear is the doorway
Into which others may slip, to pull our strings
Make us into marionettes
Machines that purely react

The key is to befriend fear, and
To strive to know it better.
Know why it does what it does
And who is using it as their own tool
Their own weapon

Hold it within your own control
Dance with it, if you wish, but always lead
Step on its toes if it gets too familiar
And never, ever, be afraid to laugh at it
Mock it, Ridicule it unceasingly
Until at last, petulantly, Fear bows its head
Admits defeat, and returns home.