What are YOUR most important values? How do you communicate YOUR feelings? How do YOU tend to feel toward people who are different than you? Ask all of these questions and more as you try to increase your level of Awareness about your personal culture and worldviews. How do these converge and diverge from the cultural influences within which you were raised?
My most important values are faith, education, diversity, open-mindedness, vulnerability, authenticity, creativity, acceptance, hard work, knowledge, stable/healthy relationships, family, career, meaning, convicted civility, conversation, spirituality, and success. As far as counseling goes and why I chose this field, my top values are financial stability, wealth, altruism, personal development, and security.
I do find that many of the values I have diverge from my upbringing in my family prior to being introduced to multiculturalism via Mt. Mission School. My family, while perhaps valuing wisdom and knowledge, did not value education nor did I until my college years. My family certainly does not have a spirit of diversity within it, so I find that my primary influence of becoming diverse and culturally aware came by attending Mt. Mission, which had Hispanics, a large Ethiopian population, and other ethnicities I was not aware of as a young Appalachian boy coming through the doors of Mt. Mission. Learning about Ethiopian culture was the single greatest eye-opening means of my becoming more diverse and culturally aware. I can say the same thing about becoming Orthodox once upon a time because Orthodoxy has so many adherents worldwide from so many diverse places.
In addition to those, I would say my becoming interested in counseling and pursuing a career in the mental health field has drastically shaped and impacted me for the good. The progressive nature of the mental health field coupled with being a divorcee has really brought me to a place of compassion, love, respect, and appreciation for the LGBTQI community. My ex-wife was very kind and loving towards the community to begin with, but after having gone through a divorce with her I found myself being opened up to knowing more about them and their struggles for love, healthy relationships, and equality. Our field has helped to equip me to understand things like sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender a lot better than I had before. The field is preparing me to be able to serve this community well and be an advocate for their political and civil rights.
I feel a lot of my values, beliefs, and principles have come through just living! I had a very atypical childhood, a broken home, and unique situation to be in as a child. I have come across so many people, so many ideas, so many beliefs, and so many ways of thinking about and engaging with the world that to pinpoint it to one thing would be impossible. My desire to always learn and grow coupled with my ability to question everything makes me very open to things. I use to not be so attune to learning and being shaped by many forces! I use to be rigid, inflexible, and closed-minded due to my stubborn ways and tenacious spirit. I have out grown that and realized my experiences have shaped me to be open, respectful, kind, explorative, educated, aware, and willing to see what others may think. I have learned that I am not always right and my way of seeing the world is but one among billions of ways because we all have a unique set of lens through which we see the world and try to make sense of it.
If you have kids or have thought about having kids, consider what messages, teachings, and values you emphasize most. What would/will your children say about the culture you create? How has your decision to pursue and time spent training within the field of professional counseling impacted these things? How does the culture of counseling and our professional ethics code contribute to the mix?
I do know for now that I want to raise my children in the Christian Faith, however, I do struggle with that notion because there are some things that I myself do not accept about the more conservative aspect of Christianity’s moral teachings. I also know that I can find value in raising my children to embrace faith on their own, to raise them in such a way that is within the general, historic, and apostolic fence of Christianity, but to take into account reason and experience. I would want them to be strong people of faith, but to embrace faith and make it their own. Much of this is hard for me to answer because I am unmarried and do not have kids. I want them to wrestle with faith, doubt, meaning, ontology, religion, belief, and such. I want them to question, explore, learn, and grow in a multicultural-sensitive home that values civil discourse, convicted civility, shame resilience, healthy relationships, and education. I would want them to love and accept all people for who they are just as they would want to be loved and accepted. I would want them to not be judgmental, condemning, hateful, close-minded, or narrow in their thinking about love, life, relationships, religion, and the world. I would want them to value non-violence, peace, love, non-intervention foreign policy, and sensitivity and respect for all human life. I do not know what they would say about these values I would want to see them embrace or the culture within our home, but I would hope that it would be positive, encouraging, and grateful. I would want to see them adore and love their mother and me for the way we would raise them to be.
Counseling and our ethical guidelines influence this a lot because we are taught to be respectful of other worldviews, to embrace the fact that we do not know it all, and that we are first to do no harm. I think that is a great approach to parenting too! To do no harm to our children by the way we raise them. I believe the skills one learns as a counselor in working with families and such also aid greatly to the parental process! I know that I do not want to parent from a place of dysfunction, shame, or instability. I find the skills I am attaining as a student help to prepare me to become a good father coupled with the self-growth and personal development I am doing. I am not ready to become a father right now. I value completing my education and gaining financial stability before choosing to become a parent, but I do know what I am learning and the ways I am growing as a person are things that will impact my children; I can only hope that it will be for the better.