"Prohibition? HA! They tried that in the
movies and it didn't work."
Ok, so Homer Simpson wouldn't be
considered a deep thinker by most people, but this quote
struck me anyway. I immediately thought of values
and the difficulty many people have trying to live according
to other people's values. Prohibition is a prime example. In
1920, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution
enacted one of the most sweeping efforts to change the
social habits of an entire nation ever recorded in history.
The values of one group of people were imposed upon the
country in the form of a law.
Value conflicts come in many disguises and
from all directions. Consuming alcoholic beverages was part
of the everyday life of Christians for hundreds of years,
and nearly all used wine as a part of their celebration of
the Eucharist or Lord's Supper. The Bible and Christian
tradition taught that alcohol was a gift from God and made
life more joyous when used in moderation. Opposing groups
emphasized personal holiness, and even perfectionism, and
campaigned for the outright elimination of alcohol. This, in
turn forced a major change in Christian practices. But it
wasn't only the values of the practicing religious; other
groups were placed in a value conflict, too.
When the law was passed, 1,520 federal
prohibition agents were given the task of enforcing the law.
Prohibition quickly produced bootleggers, speakeasies,
moonshine, bathtub gin and rum runners. In 1927, there were
an estimated 30,000 illegal speakeasies―twice the number of
legal bars before Prohibition! Clearly there were conflicts
raging over this issue. Al Capone, the notorious gangster of
Chicago's crime syndicate, was dedicated to bootlegging and
smuggling liquor during the 1920s and 1930s. His organization
alone is estimated to have taken in $60 million dollars in one
year. The cost of enforcing Prohibition was
very high; eventually, in 1933, the 21st Amendment
repealed the law.
You may be asking why I've
chosen Prohibition to represent conflicts over values. Yes,
there were religious conflicts over the idea, and many
industries were in conflict too. For example, tea merchants
were big supporters of the law because they saw new business
opportunities. But the piece of this conflict that I am most
taken by is the amount of force that was required to enforce
one law--value--that was in conflict with other values. The
federal government devoted tremendous resources to the task;
supporters went to great lengths to promote and uphold their
dominion over the country; and yet, the power of the
opposing values won the day. Powerful stuff, these values!
Values are the fuel for
your engine. When you are living with the freedom to choose,
coupled with a consciousness of your values, you are a force
to be reckoned with. It's obvious to us when a value is in
conflict due to the passing of a law. Riots and chaos are
visible for all to see. But when a value is in conflict
within you, the riot and chaos are just as
powerful―they're just harder to identify.
Our first experience with values is with
the guidance of our parents. They teach us what is right
and what is wrong; how to be "a good person" and what
honesty and integrity are. They define these values for us
in their words and actions, and support our adoption of
them through the power of their position. As we get older,
values are handed to us by many others: teachers, books,
advertising and peers all chime in with their values and
support our adoption of them with their influence and
social acceptance. At some point there comes a conflict
between what we hold as valuable and what we are
supposed to hold as valuable. When that happens,
the internal conflict begins. It can be expressed
externally in many ways: low energy, depression, feelings
of worthlessness, confusion and indecision, among others.
I'm not suggesting that all depression and all indecision
are the result of internal conflicts over values; there are
many other possible explanations. What I o suggest is that,
before thinking there is a deficit in you, or that you're
not "a good person" because you enjoy something that others
have said you shouldn't enjoy, check in with your values.
Ask yourself curious questions and expect answers that are
non-judgmental. Regardless of the true reason for your
external symptoms, this peek inside will prove a worthwhile
exercise and just might prevent you from looking any
further for your joy.
What do you think? Can a person have different values than
those of his or her parents? If yes, at what age will the
conflict become apparent? Email me with your thoughts at
The thoughts I receive are very insightful.
"Prohibition? HA! They tried that
in the movies and it didn't work."--Homer Simpson
Life and fitness coach and author Lorraine Esposito has
been featured in broadcast, print and online media and is a
public speaker regarding personal leadership and empowered
parenting to community and school-based audiences. Find out
more about Lorraine at www.Peacemaker-Coach.com
and her latest book at http://www.morningpeacemaker.com
The Morning Peacemaker, How to get your kids out the
door on time without saying(nagging) a word. If you have
kids ages 2 to 12 you'll LOVE this book