A Difference of Values

Part of the wonderful beauty of the human experience is how different we all are. Different shapes, sizes, perspectives and beliefs all help to create a colorful and incredible (mostly) life. Yes, it can also lead to some pretty uncomfortable situations, especially when we bump into a difference of values.

Over the years, and a specifically a couple of times recently, people have suggested that I haven’t done, or don’t know how to do, shadow work. It makes me think of that meme from The Princess Bride:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”

Of course, then I question myself – maybe I don’t know what that word means…

What is shadow work?

From a psychological perspective, our shadow is the part of ourselves that is outside the light of consciousness. These can be positive or negative traits, habits, beliefs, or parts of our personality. Some say it is the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to show or acknowledge – our “dark side”. Here is a pretty good article about the shadow and shadow work.

I do a fair bit of self reflection. When someone makes a comment or observation about me, I take them to heart, and then run them through my head, my journal, and sometimes my friends and my counselor to see how accurate the reflection is.

I read more non-fiction than fiction, much of it personal development works. And I often ask the question, “What am I not seeing?” Especially when I get a reading done for myself, or consult my own tarot cards.

The people that are suggesting shadow work are not ignorant or stupid. They are most likely suggesting it out of care and concern. So why does it feel more like an insult?

A Difference of Values

After quite a bit of reflection and prayer, I realized that it came down to a difference of values. Or a difference in the perceived values of other people, and how those values are expressed. I’ll give a broad example from Wicca.

A difference of values

One of the values that most Wiccans can agree on is that we are stewards of the earth. The actions that individual Wiccans prioritize to express that value can take many forms:

  • Picking up trash
  • Growing a garden
  • Lobbying against deforestation
  • Installing solar panels and/or rain barrels
  • Protesting animal cruelty
  • Cleaning up trash in the oceans
  • Keeping bees
  • Helping with an animal rescue
  • Being a vegan
  • Reducing plastic usage and increasing recycling
  • Bicycling or walking instead of driving
  • Buying local and/or organic
  • Investing in renewable energy sources
  • Donating money to one of the causes that supports any of one of the many ways we can be better stewards of the earth

This list is by no means exhaustive! There are about as many different ways to be a steward of the earth as there are people. I know people who can check off several items on that list, but I don’t think I know any one person who could check off ALL of them. There’s too much that can be improved.

The actions that we prioritize may change as our circumstances change. They may even change from moment to moment, as the world around us changes. That’s okay! We need people who are passionate about different causes working to make improvements because those who are passionate about something will make a much bigger impact than someone who is just jumping on the bandwagon.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~ Rumi

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.” ~ Rumi

When I don’t choose the same action to express my values as you do, it can seem like our values aren’t in alignment. When you prioritize a different value than I do, it can seem like we are on different pages.

In reality, I am not in your head, and you are not in mine. Each of us might think we know what the other person’s motivation is, however, we can never truly know that. Getting into black/white, right/wrong thinking puts us in judgement of each other’s actions, and causes misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

I wholeheartedly believe that each person is doing the best they can. Even when it seems they are not living their expressed values; even when they make choices that I dislike or feel are harmful; even when I think they ought to know better; I believe that others are doing the best that they can because I am doing the best that I can.

And I’ll keep doing my own version of shadow work to improve myself.


1 thought on “A Difference of Values”

  1. Any time someone quotes that particular phrase from Rumi – I know we are on the same page. Well said Mary. As always, from the heart.

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