“Like a compass, values guide us toward decisions that align with who we are. But a compass only works when you trust it. When you find yourself surrounded by disruptive activities, I encourage you to call on your values and find direction in them. Remember, however, a compass only shows you the way; it is not a GPS that will tell you where to turn. As important as calling on your values is trusting yourself to apply them.”
–Henry Berman, from Exponent Philanthropy article “A Compass Only Works When You Trust It”
Values. Morals. Ethics.
Seems to me I’ve been reminded of “values” everywhere I turn for the last month or so. If I’m not being inundated with it on the news (“family values”), it’s popping up in the novel I picked up to read, it’s in the conversation I had with a friend, it’s the central idea in an article on donor relations… I SWEAR TO YOU I HAVE VALUES I GET IT.
I am old enough to recognize a sign when I see it or hear it. I’ve ignored things like this before, only to have been smacked down with a very clear “I tried to tell you, but you didn’t listen.” I was younger and dumber then – I’m fully aware of the mistakes I made. I’ve come to realize my intuition is a gift and I’m finally in a place where I can embrace it. So when I hear that “little voice” I sit up and take notice. I’ve tried to push back a little and try to resist this dialogue, but clearly, what was once a gentle conversation with the Divine is now a scream in my ear. Almost like a drill Sargent intent on making my objectives crystal clear. I have half a mind to close my prayers with a “sir, yes sir!”
I had to think on the concept of “values” for a while, and what I think the difference between values and characteristics are. Because, I must admit, when confronted with the question of “What are your values?”, I couldn’t come up with an immediate answer. I was thinking about my personal qualities instead of the principles that make up my person. Which was pretty selfish of me, really. However, it’s still the knee-jerk reaction. That the things that define me are traits like my blue eyes, my dry wit, and inability to say no to pretty much any request made of me. I felt like that wasn’t accurate, it wasn’t the core of who I am. If I was blind, mute, paralyzed I could no longer say that those “traits” are who I am. Remember the saying you were taught as a child, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” So, when I looked inside, after some prodding from the influences in my life, I was able to come up with 3 values: Authenticity, Faith, and Love.
Authenticity was the easiest for me. But that’s only because I struggled with it for so much of my life. I understand that everyone has to adapt to different social situations. Professionalism is the first example that comes to mind. We have different roles that we have to play; daughter, sister, and girlfriend are some of my long-standing roles. They might dictate how much I express who I truly am, but they are all still shades of my most authentic self.
I will never, ever go back to being someone who is so out of touch with authenticity, that I appear as multiple different people. I have finally begun to embrace my quirks, my shortcomings, my anxiety, as who I am. I will not change for another unless I freely choose to do so. I will not sacrifice my heart and soul for someone else’s gain. The people I love, and who love me back, love me for me. Call a spade a spade.
Faith is essential to who I am, but I’ve always had a hard time defining it. Maybe because, like authenticity, I resisted and struggled with it for a long time. I’ve since come to realize you can have faith without having religion. My faith is my complete trust in the Divine. Like any real relationship, my partnership with the Gods has gone through highs and lows, but I am better now that I accept that I don’t know everything. That I am here on earth to be a connector, a mentor, a bridge for those who need to know themselves. I will give what I can to be in service to humanity. Manava seva, madhava seva.
Love. Ultimately, my aim is that all of my actions be grounded in love. I know this is a lofty aim, but why not aim for the stars? I won’t say that I am incapable of hate, fear, or selfishness; I am human after all. However, so much of the good things in my life have stemmed from love. I love learning, writing, taking pictures, sharing stories…and so following my heart has never steered me wrong. I chose not to chase a half hearted idea because I fell in love with the man who is my life partner. I chose to follow my heart from retail, back to school, and into a job that has opened so many more doors for me.
Love has come to me in the connections I make with people; some of these people I consider my dearest friends and some were just passing acquaintances. The love that my friends and family give to me drives my decisions consciously and unconsciously. I use that unconditional love as my motivator. I’ve been greatly affected by the love of others an so I’ve come to think – why not use that as my “default mode”? I love life, the good and the bad, and with love is how I should look at others. This is hard, and it tries my patience, but I want to be an example. Love is the language of the Divine and I want to be the interpreter.
It took a lot for me to boil down what my values really are. A LOT. However, I was assaulted by values so frequently that I just couldn’t ignore it. Had I not been pushed to evaluate myself through my values, I feel that I would not have the courage to begin writing again. This is an important part of who I am that I had more or less forgotten about. After I had poured my heart into this introspection, I came across the quote above and knew I should share my values. I knew that it was time to share who I am.
I’m here to share my journey.
Writer, Wannabe Artist, Overthinker, List-Maker, Photographer, Chronic Under-Salter