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How to Explore Ethics and Values with Your Community

How to Explore Ethics and Values with Your Community

Some believe that truth is generally black and white – either something is true or not. Others insist that truth has many gray areas. Folks disagree on whether it is always moral to tell the truth or whether there are higher morals than the truth. How can you collaborate with others to reflect on meanings and values from a reason-oriented perspective?

Benefits of an Ethics Discussion Meeting

I run a number of such meetings in my role as President of Intentional Insights, a nonprofit devoted to popularizing science-based strategies to reach our goals and succeed at life. You can set up your own ethics discussion, and participants gain a great deal from attending these events:

On the feedback sheets passed around after one of our events, one participant wrote: “I gained greater insight into how other people navigate difficult discussions regarding truth and values, when not all parties agree.”

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Another wrote that now they will “always question ‘my truth’” and will engage in “thinking more about what I hold true.”

A third wrote that “building a sense of community is what I gained.”

Reflecting on purpose, meaning, values, and morals together with others in your community and social circle provides:

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• A venue for reflecting on deep life questions
• A means of building and cultivating social and community connections
• A way to help others, through assisting them in finding clearer answers to life’s big questions

Thus, participating in such discussion groups offers a trifecta of elements to help people gain a sense of meaning and purpose in life. During these discussions, it is especially beneficial to write down how the helpful thoughts expressed by others informed and changed your thinking. Research shows that writing these down helps you remember and understand them better, while also minimizing distracting and unhelpful thoughts about unfulfilled plans.

Organizing a Meeting

If you are interested in attending an ethics discussion meeting, you can often find local meetings online. Humanist Communities often hold such meetings as interfaith, reason-oriented venues for people to reflect in a community setting on life’s meaning and purpose and on their values and ethics from an evidence-based perspective.

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But let’s say you didn’t find one around you and want to organize your own meeting. The first thing that you want to ensure is to create a safe and open-minded environment. Ensure that people listen actively and offer empathy to each other.

To do that, it helps to open the meeting with social time for folks to get to know each other. We used a potluck, so that people eat together. This helps people get to know and become comfortable with each other. Having that comfort helps people trust each other and be vulnerable, which is vital when discussing ethics with each other.

During the discussion, consider the needs of diverse participants, both extroverts and introverts. To ensure they can peacefully coexist, create a moderation structure that gets people to speak one at a time. Prevent cross-talk and back-and-forth in your moderation. Discourage advice-giving unless someone asks for it, and cut debates short. Talk about an expectation of privacy: whatever is said at the event stays at the event.

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Pick the topic in advance, and provide some readings for folks to get them into the spirit of things. Readings will help introverts get into the materials and prepare their thoughts before they speak. At the same time, readings will structure the discussion in a shared setting, providing a baseline for everyone to refer to in their comments.

In our meetings, we had some great discussions on topics such as: celebrations, both traditional and self-created ones; life transitions, such as moving, becoming a parent, and retiring; friendship, including how to develop friendships, how to be a good friend, and how to deal with conflicts in friendships; responsibility, including responsibility to oneself, one’s social circle, and one’s society; meaning and purpose; and many others. Intentional Insights has put together some sample readings and topic plans to get you started.

I hope you have a great experience at your meeting!

Featured photo credit: Richard Foster-CCBYSA 2.0 License via flickr.com

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Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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