Can modern society benefit from old-time Shaker values?

What’s not to love? What’s there to argue with? Where’s the debate?

I know that the topic is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. In fact, a lot of people would say that this is a non-issue because we already have Shaker values. Shaker values, of course, involve tolerance, open-mindedness, and hard work. It also involves a focus on planning and sacrifice. Throughout the whole spectrum of Shaker private and public values is the unmistakable strain of delayed gratification.

What’s not to love? What’s there to argue with? Where’s the debate?

Well, here’s the thing, people talk a good game. People say all sorts of things. In fact, in many cases, people say the right thing at the right time, at the right people to produce the right outcome because they’re trying to fit expectations.

They’re not much different from actors reciting their lines. They’re supposed to recite these lines. They’re supposed to say certain things at the right time to produce the right emotional effect in the audience. That’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

And this is why, in this context, people talk a big game about hard work, sacrifice, commitment, tolerance, open-mindedness, innovation, and living for tomorrow. People talk about discipline a lot. In fact, that word gets so used, that it almost lacks meaning because when you compare it to how people actually behave, it’s actually quite rare.

I raise all of these, because if we look at the Shakers and how they lived their lives, and how they interacted with other people and other faith groups, one distinct pattern comes in, it’s all about independence. Basically, their point was, if you work hard, and you confront your fears, and you build yourself the kind of life you want to build for yourself, no man owns you.

No man has a say in your life. No man can dictate to you. And the same applies regarding your relationship to other people. Just as it’s wrong for them to dictate to you, you shouldn’t dictate to them as well. Let them live their lives, as you live your own.

That’s how our society can benefit from Shaker values. We become more tolerant, because in this day and age of political correctness, it’s very easy to be intolerant. It’s very easy to think that because somebody subscribes to a certain point of view, that somehow, someway, they are the devil.

On the other side of the equation, old-time Shaker values also involve hard work. Hard work, the last time I checked, did not involve talking about it. Instead, it involved being about it. We’re not just talking about doing hard work, we’re also talking about being hard workers. And that’s the key difference in Shaker values.

Shakers were really big on hard work. Because they understand that hard work transforms people. At worst, it enables people to get out from under the fear and paralysis that they suffer from, when they’re debating whether they should work on todays task or not.