What do you value most?
Whatever it is, how would you like it if you met someone who shared the same value? One (or more) of three things may happen:
1. You become good friends.
This essay is about point 3. Because it’s a grand paradox.
There’s a moderately famous person who I wanted to meet. Last month, I sent him a mail -with my brief discourse on how I plan to change the world. So, would he be okay with my need to pick his prefrontal cortex over a meal?
He promptly responded with a single line that defied the basic rules of English grammar: “sorry my plate is full” And I hopelessly scrolled down to see if he had anything more to say, but that was it! That one-line pun is all I got in response to my 500-word email.
I spent an hour fuming over that response: what a boorish-snob! But, I know this person is very busy and has many important responsibilities. I reached out to him because when I first met him, we shared similar ideas. I remember him telling me how given all his responsibilities, one of his biggest values was time.
And I shared the same value too.Oh, the sweet paradox. How many times had I declined meeting invites with Shakespearean-like responses like ‘cant maketh it.’ I didn’t intend to be a snob, just thought it would be ‘nice’ to let the other person know I can’t make it because my plate was actually full – whatever that means.
Inspired by Steve Jobs, a lot of us have greatly started valuing ‘being different’. We all want to be a special snowflake in our own flaky way. The way we dress, talk, walk or even work. But, the being different value turns into a value-judgment when we see someone else is different. Now, they all become attention seekers and wannabes.
This paradox plays out not because we are misanthropes, but because of our inherent tendency for self-hatred. We think about all the reasons why we are not successful or not making enough money or not being able to write well or -heck – not having a girl/boyfriend and conclude that: we must be pathetic losers. So, when someone like us shows up, we feel both threat and hatred at the same time. What does s/he want, we wonder?
Take love, care, and respect. These are some of the most common values for a lot of us. But, when we meet someone who embodies these values, we can’t help but wonder what pretentious sycophants they are.
I would go around telling people I am honest and like to call a spade a spade and tomato a fruit and all that. Then, one day, my boss sat me down and told me some of my work lately has been “shoddy”. (WHAT!!!! WHAT DO YOU KNOW???) Okay, sure, thanks for the feedback. As I left, I was still seething; who says things like that? Why couldn’t he have been nicer? I think we all know why: spanked by my own spade!
The thing with some of our important values is that as much we love to live by them, we find it hard to accept everyone else who embodies them. We don’t want to be at the receiving end of our value.
Think about the last time someone said you look great and you mistook it for flattery while when you said it, you were ’embodying’ love. We don’t like to share values. If respect is our shared value, we take even the smallest of slight as a sign of disrespect. And then we believe the other person doesn’t love, care or respect us as much as we do; that our values are far superior.
Values are very important. You need to identify ours. You must be very afraid of not living up to them sure. But, what you should not be afraid of is people who use your very values against you. Because they will. You will! Because some of your values overlap to different extents. Understanding that is the only way to become comfortable with your own values, and sharing them, and hating yourself a little less.
Values play a big role in relationships. And there will be times when your all-similar values conflict. A colleague recently told me to marry a girl who shares my values. She said it with the same ease with which you would teach someone to make Maggi noodles. Values become more important in relationships because there’s always more love, more respect, more care (and more crap) to give.
The stakes are higher because you have checked off point 1 (good friends) and point 2 (love/married) from the shared value checklist. Point 3 (similar value hatred) will play a lot of knock-knock jokes on you. You can open the door, let the hater in and let it wreck your values. You could fight over whose values are deeper, and stronger or deepen and strengthen your values.
You could let the shared values shape you both as individuals or let those values obliterate you and your relationship into nothingness. Because, remember, sometimes, you will become for others what you don’t want them to become for you. And the only way out of this paradox is through acceptance. To accept the values not just to be compatible, but to be considerate. To accept the values not just to measure, but to matter. To accept not as the end to misery, but as the beginning of something beautiful.
To accept is the answer.