“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product…if we should judge the United States of America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs, which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”Robert Kennedy, Univ. of Kansas, March 18, 1986.
What we measure indicates what matters most. It’s clear that measuring economic growth does not equate with a general sense of wellbeing.
Wellbeing does not depend on making more and more, consuming more and more. Happiness is not a good indicator of wellbeing either. The New Economics Foundation 2006 defined wellbeing as developing as a person, being fulfilled, and making a meaningful contribution to the community. We are all familiar with the experience over the last 30-years of making more money accompanied by a sense of growing poorer. The sense of growing poorer is not a simple measure of the money we make or the lifestyle we live. It’s an indicator of the gap between the way we measure wealth as GDP and the experience of genuine wellbeing as measured by quality of life indicators. Between 1950 and 1973, GDP and a sense of quality of life increased together. Since the early 70’s all measurements of quality of life – genuine wellbeing show a steady decline.
Where are our values – the things that are worthy and good that lead to making choices that are good for us and others?
- What makes you happy? Reflect on your personal, physical, spiritual, family, work, and community life. Give each a score from 1-8
- What makes you sad?
- If you could wish for anything that would improve your own, your family, your community life, what would it be?
- What matters more to you – increase or sustainability?
Values are the invisible DNA that structures the kind of choices we make. If you can look through my checkbook and my calendar and see nothing that sets my life apart from my neighbor who does not believe in God then my belief in God is not a real belief in God. How we spend our time and energy should be very different from those who do not follow the Christian way. Christian stewardship and discipleship is all we say and do after we say yes to God.
Can you plot a direct connection between your values and higher principles and your experience of wellbeing?