- UNDEFINED VALUES: You understand what values society holds in high esteem, but you don't understand what your personal values are. (For instance, people say "Don't steal" but you aren't entirely sure if all stealing is wrong. What if I'm broke and I really need to snack on these restaurant crackers later or perhaps the buffet cookies would be a perfect midnight snack?)
- NEGLECTED VALUES: You understand what values society holds in high esteem and you understand how your personal values differ from society, but you act in a way that goes against your personal values. (I cheated on my boyfriend. I feel really bad.) Acting this way is self-harming and you will never feel good after acting outside of your personal values. (I insulted a gay person, even though I'm secretly gay, but my church hates gay people.) In this case you adhered to your micro-societies values but you didn't adhere to your own. This also feels terrible and will never make you happy.
- ADHERED TO VALUES: You have learned that not listening to your values sucks and causes you pain, so you have finally decided to live up to your values even when they diverge from other people's values. You try this on for a while and it takes a bit of practice. (I went to third base with my boyfriend on the first date. I'm 23, but still, my mom would kill me, but personally, I'm fine with it.) In this case you adhered to your values even when they diverged from societies values (your Mom's). Hey, what Mom doesn't know, won't hurt her.
- ANGER AND REJECTION OF DIFFERING VALUES: You have now fully owned your own personal values and you are good at keeping to them, but you believe your values are the best and other people with different values suck. You are pissed that they do stupid things that go against your personal values. (I can't believe those people eat meat, that man is homophobic, that woman is pro-life, that man fired someone who has cancer.) In this case you adhere to your own values but your mad at other people who don't adhere to your values.
- ACCEPTANCE OF THE INFERIORITY OF OTHER PEOPLE'S VALUES: After a while of being pissed, you eventually begin to understand that not everyone can be as great as you and have the perfect set of values. Most people are pretty good and only suck in small ways, but no one has the perfect set of values you do. (He cheated on his wife who is at home with their disabled child all the time, so that makes him a snake, but it was only once and he treats them well and provides for them.) In this case you sadly wish other people's values could be as perfect as yours, but you aren't angry about it anymore.
- ACCEPTANCE THAT YOUR VALUES ARE NOT PERFECT: Eventually, after you accept weaknesses in others, you will look at yourself more closely and realize that your values are not exactly squeaky clean all the time. (I believe we should annihilate every group who practices genocide. Wait, isn't that genocide too? Maybe we should just kill all the leaders. I'll sit at home and let the guys in the army do it so my conscious is clear. Wait, that kinda sucks too, doesn't it?) This stage can be a bit twisty, but don't worry, you will come out okay.
- TOLERANCE TOWARD ALL VALUES: At this point you understand that all people's value systems have some weaknesses, yours included, and you understand that everyone is at a certain point of growth in the development of their value system. In fact, whole groups of society are at different points of growth and are developing slowly together. (The pope now acknowledges that child abuse does occur in the church and says it isn't okay. The United States is slowly developing the value of accepting the LGBT community and they are beginning to gain rights. African Americans are still struggling for equal treatment. Women's equality in the workplace is still out of whack.) You may wholly reject certain values, but you have empathy for limited thinking of the person who believes that value system and you try to see how they might have arrived there. (If I walked a mile in their shoes . . . ) At this stage you try to gently guide the people you can toward a more developed value system while at the same time knowing that you have some growing to do yourself. You are also able to honestly evaluate if other value systems have merit over your own. You may switch values at this point. I believe that to achieve this stage, you must have acquired some humility along the way. You understand at some level that you are progressing along with everyone else.
- STAGES I HAVE NOT ARRIVED AT OR GLIMPSED YET: Anyone want to fill me in?
The great news is that reading helps you move along these steps as you get to see into the minds of so many characters and try on their value system for the space of a story.
So what stage are you at in your personal development?