We see our own value reflected in almost everything around us. How we choose to arrange our bedroom, who we choose to go for an evening drink with, our Christmas card list. It’s somehow fundamental and yet beyond our reach at the same time.
It is easy to be deceived as to what it is that is our true value. In the first instance, it is easy to believe that value and career success are somehow intrinsically intertwined, as for many people the two are muddled. Or worse still that our value is a consequence of our wealth.
I think I started thinking about this when I went to visit my Gran in a slightly run-down area in the north of England. To me, her house is a symbol of love. The little bungalow carries with it many childhood memories. The little model planes my Grandad used to make are everywhere around the house. The rows of carefully labeled home videos they used to shoot when we went on holiday. The run-down caravan. As I stared round the dated living room, the old record player gathering dust and the gas fire now barely working, I was struck with the sense that we are not judged by how much we made or even how much people loved us. We’re not judged by our popularity or even our skills, though the latter is important. We are judged by how much we loved along the way. The little photos of my uncles, cousins and now nephews, as well as the cross-stitch marking my brother’s birthplace all, attest to this. Here is a woman that is now close to death, and though every day is a new struggle she has chosen to surround herself with the people, places and things that she loves.
I guess in a way how much we love – albeit in familial relationships or relationships more generally – is one of the clearest measures of our value. It shows that we are willing to accept others no matter what their background, and are prepared to give no matter what is asked of us. Which brings with it a further notion of value. It is related to how much we choose to give to others.
We can choose to live our life clinging to the objects and possessions that we believe will make us happy or we can choose to live a life that is rich in generosity. This is not purely from a sense of duty but, in my belief, it is the strongest way to feel fulfilled and content.
This should be understood from our present circumstances. It is a sad reality that living a life full of generosity can often be in contest with the capitalist requirements that are placed on us in the current social context. By this, I mean that, as an example of loving, forging a living and raising a family often requires us to accept jobs and work that is not perfectly in line with causes we find most important to us. The challenge is then to create life given these demands and practicalities.
So while our value can be a slightly ethereal concept, loving more – whether it be family, friends or those on the periphery of our social bubble – is a good indicator that we are on the right path. Kindness and generosity, while not unrelated to love, are important aspects of realising our innate value.