The Devaluing of America

(Originally written, September 1994)

The emotions were running high as we gathered around the conference table to discuss wage scales, production standards, and pay incentives. The meeting was an emotional roller coaster until someone finally said, “I do believe in your value system, and if you apply it in this situation, then I trust you to treat us fairly.” With disagreements, pressures, and a changing marketplace, solutions can only be found after honest and open communication and mutual trust. We may not always understand another’s opinion or actions, but we can arrive at a workable plan if we can trust their heart and motives. For the last twelve months, I have been challenged because I have come to believe that every action that I take as a C.E.O in business must be based on my value system. What I believe should determine my thought patterns, my words, and my actions. If these do not match up, then I’m living a “lie”. If I have no belief or value system, then I become adrift in an unstable society.

Bill Bennett in his book “The Devaluing of America” points to the erosion of traditional values such as work, frugality, sexual restraint, family, community, freedom, and self-control. This reveals a deficit of moral resources far deeper than our more noted budget or trade deficits. Bad music, art, and books eventually degrade a society. Governments can pass laws, but families, churches, schools, and individuals are the primary agents in the development of a people’s moral disposition.

Chuck Colson, the convicted Watergate presidential counsel and founder of the Prison Fellowship Ministry, discussed this value crisis, in a recent radio interview. He shared that when the intermediate structures of the church, the schools, and the community begin to fail they lose their viability. The government becomes more powerful, leaving the individual helpless. This invites tyranny, and the loss of liberty becomes inevitable when fear becomes pervasive as the result of moral chaos. People protect their economic interest to the detriment of their moral and social freedom. Colson says that history points out that, given the choice, people will always choose “order” over liberty and protect their pocketbook before their rights. As a result of our greed as a nation, we are having our religious freedoms restricted, our families are deteriorating, crime is rampant, and public fear is overwhelming.

Where does business fit into this scene? We see the church retreating, families under great pressure, and schools unable to educate our youth after we foolishly removed our values. For those of us who share the belief that life must be lived under a set of unshakable truths and values, we have no choice but to stand courageously in the tough business world and shine our lights upon the mountain of common values. We must live out our beliefs and encourage others to incorporate them into their families, schools, and communities. Next month we’ll look at values in business and in coming months we will examine ten values that we hope will shape the future of our firm.

Looking for Gems of Value


About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

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