By definition, our values are the things that are most important to us. Yet, for some reason, we don’t really trust our values. We are constantly apologizing for them or sweeping them under a rug or barricading them behind walls of self-preservation. Our values are the fuel of meaning in our lives. So, why are we so afraid of them? Why don’t we trust our values?
One of the harsh lessons of maturity is that things don’t always work out how we hope. Our values are not force fields against pain and suffering. We quickly lose trust in our values because they do not protect us. They don’t keep us safe. They don’t make life any easier. IN fact, in some ways they make life much harder.
Like a harsh truth, our values can offend us because they are “too real”. We don’t trust them because they haven’t given us what we expected them to. It is a rejection of tough love.
There is an inherent danger in our values. Acknowledging them is an act of vulnerability. Sharing them exposes our soft underbellies. If the most important thing about us is at risk of rejection, reason might suggest that we hide it and never expose it to the world.
Compounding this reality, there are a lot of forces in this world that are ready to offer you a cheap alternative. You want love, but porn is less risky. You want truth but narcissism is easier (and after all, truth is in the eye of the beholder). You want acceptance, but fame is actually better. You want security but you can actually buy that – just make enough money and no one can hurt you. Look pretty enough and you will never have to feel lonely.
We often say that values are something you discover rather than something you come up. You aren’t just choosing values like off of a menu. You are discovering a truth that has laid dormant inside of you. They are there. We bury them deep inside of us because we do not trust them. We believe there is a shortcut. We don’t want to face the hard work that comes with them.
Sometimes I say that people don’t know their values. They are strangers. But maybe this is only partially true. After all, if you are discovering them, they are in there somewhere. If you don’t know them, at some level, how do they get there and how do you ever name them. We aren’t as estranged from our values as we think.
They’re more like family members we have a beef with. They are connected to us forever. We have shunned them, but they are still there. Distant but available. All we need to do is repair a little trust.