The power of tradition

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Traditions. Everyone has at least one, many have several, but no matter how many you have, chances are they’re important to you. And why is that?

Saul Levine, professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, says that by nature, humans yearn for a sense of stability and control in their lives. Given the complexities of life that cause stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, feeling stable and in control of life eludes many people. 

To counteract this feeling of a lack of control, people attempt to create a semblance of order and predictability in the form of – you guessed it – traditions.

As long as humans have lived in families and communities, Levine says, they’ve adopted customs and rituals that strengthen their bonds to each other. Furthermore, traditions help bring people together, which fits in nicely with humanity’s social nature.

Traditions provide participants with experiences of shared values and mutual comfort in a chaotic and stressful world. 

When we participate in a family or community tradition it affords an opportunity to reflect, relax, and find relief from the pressures of everyday life.

Traditions come in the form of religious and secular rituals. Examples of religious traditions include Christmas, Shabbat meals, and Ramadan observances, to name a few. Non-religious traditions, such as civil weddings and graduations, are also commonplace in society.

Levine further claims that if practiced regularly, traditions bring predictability and constancy to the lives of the participants, providing a sense of comfort and relief from a stressful world.

There are four benefits that come from participating in positive traditions, which Levine calls “The Four B’s”: senses of being, belonging, believing, and benevolence.

Being: Traditions provide participants the opportunity to recognize and embrace their strengths and to ground themselves in their core identity, in spite of their weaknesses and frailties.

Belonging: Participating in a tradition provides a sense of comfort that helps people realize that they are an integral part of a group or family. Senses of respect, appreciation, and love often result from participating in a tradition, be it familial or communal.

Believing: Often, traditions—whether religious or secular—bring to participants’ minds the realization that they have a set of “higher” principles and values they’re trying to live by.

Benevolence: This benefit refers to the extent to which traditions afford participants the opportunity to benefit the lives of others, whether they’re friends, family members, or strangers.

Without traditions, Levine says, it would be difficult for humans to meet their deep-seeded need to commune and affiliate with each other.

As the weather gets warmer, the celebration season gets underway throughout the state of Utah. 

Over the next few months, you won’t have to look far to find a community event that’s steeped in tradition. Springville’s Art City Days, Spanish Fork’s Fiesta Days, and Payson’s Golden Onion Days are a few examples.

And then there’s the special family traditions of holidays, birthdays, weddings, and births.

Whatever the occasion or reason, traditions are good things to have in life. (Martinez is a Serve Daily contributor.)

Kelly Martinez
Kelly Martinez
Kelly Martinez is a graduate of Utah Valley University who has written for a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Deseret News. He got his start covering sports and has expanded his writing to cover many topics. His company, Señor Write Inc., provides the platform for him to produce several types of writing.

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