The 7 most important human values: what they are and how to develop them
It may seem normal to us today, but to consider that all human beings have a series of inviolable rights is something relatively new. Until not so long ago, slavery was still allowed and enjoyed good social acceptance, and racist theories are used as an excuse to discriminate flagrantly and in full view.
The entrance onto the scene of human values it has been one of the factors that has precipitated the change in the last decades. The popularization of this notion, which goes hand in hand with human rights, has helped us to create a frame of reference from which to judge whether people are treated with dignity and whether their integrity is at risk or not. Let's see which are the main ones and in what way we are affected by the fact of having them present and keeping them present in our day to day life.
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What are values?
To understand what human values are, we must first understand what values are in the context of philosophy and ethics. These are the set of ideas that guide our way of thinking and set goals in relation to the impact we must have on society and on the environment in general (and, by extension, on ourselves, given that we are in that environment). So, it is a set of beliefs that tell us about how things should be. They serve as reference to know what is right and what is wrong, and therefore have a great importance as a common element by which a society decides which are the principles that govern it.
Human values, in particular, are those that they are a fundamental and necessary part of the existence of societies in which as many people as possible are comfortable and can live well. They are the guidelines that serve as a guide to behave in a way that benefits the maximum number of human beings.
Since they are very important, many of them appear in many cultures, although in different forms and being applied to different groups.
Therefore, human values go hand in hand with human rights, since they establish a framework of minimum requirements necessary to create social fabrics in which no one is excluded a priori and in which the only thing that defines how we are treated is how we act: if against others or in favor of their well-being.
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The main human values
Although there is no objective and rigid way to categorize different human values, in general it is understood that the most important are the following. In the following list you can better understand what each of them refers to.
Humility is not just a matter of maintaining a pleasant public image for others, away from arrogance. It is also a value that helps us to promote the appearance of changes to better both in our lives and in those of others.
In the first place, it helps us because its presence means that we do not rest on our laurels, that is, that we assume the fragility of our successes and the way in which a change of context can make those progresses disappear. In other words, it helps us to be proactive and at the same time to reinforce the projects we undertake, making mistakes and setbacks not cost us so expensive.
On the other, this is one of the human values that favor others by providing motivation. Maintaining humility means being human at all times, so that the rest can identify with us more easily and will be less likely to feel intimidated when embarking on a similar path.
Responsibility makes us assume the consequences of our actions, and that among these consequences we contemplate the impact that what we do can have on the lives of others. In other words, it helps us not to do things that have a high cost for the rest, which obviously benefits those around us but also us, since it facilitates us to create social bonds.
Honesty leads us to create bonds of empathy with the rest and, at the same time, to share with others the relevant information that we have obtained from our experiences. In this way, information flows through personal relationships, and that serves as a glue of social cohesion, essential to create environments in which cooperation helps us not to leave anyone behind .
Respect leads us to create a climate of communication in which no one feels attacked. This seems a minor detail, but in fact it is relevant, especially in relationships where there is not too much closeness. In the face of uncertainty, it is very easy to get defensive and create conflicts from nothing , which is especially risky in societies where there are no mechanisms to prevent the onset of violence.
This is a human value that leads us to want to compensate in some way the forms of altruism, so that the latter is promoted. Much of what makes us progress is based on favors performed spontaneously , by the simple recognition of the appreciation we feel for another person.
Prudence leads us not to rush and to consider the pros and cons of an action with significant consequences , which is important if we bear in mind that acting without foreseeing what can happen can negatively affect several people and destabilize environments.
It is what leads us to connect with others taking into account their fears, their needs and their beliefs. It is a value of damage control, which prevents us from accidentally damaging others, from the adoption of their point of view.
- Gelfand, Michele J. (2018). Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World. Simon & Schuster.
- Tetlock, Philip E. (2007). Thinking the unthinkable: sacred values and taboo cognitions. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7 (7): pp. 320 - 24.