Values are the things that we hold close, that inform our sense of right and wrong. They tend to be things that tell us what an ideal person will be or do.
The Boy Scout Law is an example of a values system: "A Scout is: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obeidient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent." These are values I grew up with and still hold strongly to (well, perhaps not so strongly to the "obeidient" one anymore, but even that's still there). Once a set of values is instilled, it has an orienting force on our decisions.
Values are a sort of starting point for morality: "If someone is not worthy of trust, they are immoral" we might hear a Boy Scout say. By comparing an action to a value, we can tell if it was moral or not: shouting at someone who doesn't understand your directions is not courteous, so it would be immoral; likewise, showing someone how to do something they don't understand is a moral action. Understanding what your values are is the first step in making moral choices.
Values can be individual or societal (Thompson, 8). Depending on which value set you are looking at, an individual can do something moral while society considers it immoral, or else one person can be faced with a moral dillemma where another person who does not share their values may not be faced with any dillemma at all.
- Thompson, Mel. "Teach Yourself Ethics." Blacklick, OH: McGraw, Hill Companies, Inc., 2006.