Thursday, January 18, 2018

Values

The last few days have been making me want to take stock of what I value: not abstract concepts that can be thrown under an umbrella term and merely alluded to like “integrity” or “kindness,” but rather specific qualifiers or expectations that serve as the foundation for the relationships I actually want to maintain. I wholeheartedly believe that accountability is impossible without specificity, and community values cannot remain strong without accountability.

What I think a lot of people forget is that exclusivity is a two-sided coin: it can be both an unwarranted, bias-driven effort and a means of protecting the people you care about from emotional harm. I, for instance, don't want people who engage in kink-shaming anywhere near my friends and reserve the right to deny access to the spaces I help cultivate for individuals engaging in such behavior. The problem here is that when values are vague, it becomes easier to conflate invalidating or dismissing someone due to bias/preference with objectively determining they are not living up to said standards. This is how, to some, women are just somehow *never leather enough.*

There are a lot of folk very upset right now about more people trying to have a seat at their table. Their concerns are things like “they don't belong here” or “things used to be different,” and they often willfully forget that they, too, were learning once and might have engaged in similar behavior. It should not come as a surprise that these folk mysteriously remember this fact and find patience with some, while ruthlessly refusing any leeway with others - never stopping to question why one person merits patience and the other does not. They have turned the denial of knowledge and experience into a weapon meant to keep anyone they wish out of their spaces, while making no effort to consider who may just need to feel loved to grow into an amazing person, ally, and rebel. A lot of us have been dealing with rejection our whole lives, and unfortunately some people would rather perpetuate than break the cycle.

I refuse to accept a worldview that emboldens selfishness, and I can think of few things worse than being incapable of making trivial sacrifices to support others in their pursuit of mental health and happiness. Sometimes these small sacrifices surmount and become significant - and there is nothing wrong with being unwilling to abide that - but it is inexcusable to deny that even minuscule sacrifices can yield substantial benefits to others.

About a year or two ago I started a list of rules to live by: things I want to aspire to in all my actions, and standards I wanted to have for the company I keep. It wasn’t meant to be a guide to perfection or even a full list, but rather a deliberate attempt to consider my values to avoid turning into someone who holds people to different standards. When I think of these as it relates to others’ behavior I try to see deviations from these goals as teaching opportunities instead of failures; it’s often easy to see mistakes as inexcusable, but sometimes we just need to be reminded of what we feel is important to realign our priorities. Call me naive, but I truly think most people really do want to be good people, and we all need reassurance from time to time that it is an okay thing to aspire to; many were taught from a very young age that being nice is lame and weak and deserving of ridicule, and for someone with that upbringing it’s an easy thing to forget.

Here’s some of the things I was able to isolate. I recognize a few may seem redundant in some ways, but that’s less for lack of thought and more for underscoring importance:

Do your best to find others’ worth and capabilities; without doing so you cannot possibly recognize their potential for growth.

Be gracious of anyone brave enough to invite you into their life: never belittle the value of another’s time.

Vigilantly compare the degree to which something negatively impacts you with how much it positively benefits others. Failing to do so renders you incapable of making meaningful sacrifices.

If you don’t have a good reason for disliking someone, there’s no reason or basis to convince others to agree.

Recognize that you do not have to understand what brings someone joy to support it. Without this mutual support we cannot share and build things that make life less bleak.

Respect that both our words and our actions can cause demonstrable harm, so it is our responsibility to minimize this potential whenever possible.

Be mindful of the line you draw between someone you don’t have the energy to help and someone who can’t be fixed; if you don’t have the energy, someone else you know may and they deserve the chance to try.

Respect that when we weigh the risk of an action against its potential gain, everyone affixes a different potential impact to each risk and a different value to each gain: disagreeing with someone’s conclusion may simply mean you have different priorities.

There are no set rules, only mutual agreements between the parties involved.

Criticism should always be reasoned; making fun of things does literally nothing but cause pain.

Have the integrity to admit when helping someone better themself is worth more than asserting your distaste of them.

Change is scary. It terrifies me and keeps me up at night, and I understand why people are so averse to it. But in terms of remaining happy and trying to continue helping others to be happy, I think it’s a good exercise for people to take time to be cognizant of what they value, and I implore all of you to make a similar list. Think about why you enjoy the company of some and detest the company of others; there’s a chance you might not like the answer to that, but knowing is half the battle. Incidentally, I’d love nothing more than to have people contribute to this list after reflecting on the above.

I figure if I'm going to be bitter in 20-30 years, I want it to be because there are no more spaces where I feel people uphold these ideas, and I don't want to lose sight of fostering spaces where they can thrive.

You're all amazing, and your continued patience is appreciated more than you know.

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