Values Aren’t Always Visible


Values Aren't Always VisibleThis year, Walmart devised an initiative to recognize the dedication and sacrifice of our servicemen and women with a green light bulb. Lots of green light bulbs, in fact. The idea being that Americans across this great nation would traipse out to the store Walmart, scoop up bulbs, and replace their traditional bulbs on Veterans’ Day. We did not buy one. On November 11, two of our neighbors quickly pointed out this unpatriotic behavior in the neighborhood message forum on NextDoor*. 

Values Aren’t Always Visible

These two people were quick to forget that they do not see light bulbs of any color outside our house. Aside from the rare occasion on which I want to illuminate our address numbers for company who may not recognize our house in the dark, our carriage lights stay dark. I do not wish to waste the money; I do not wish to waste the electricity. Patriotism has nothing to do with it. For the better part of my entire childhood and adulthood, I have proudly recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning with a classroom of students who are learning to do the same. The mascot of my place of employment is a patriot, so I don red, white, and blue every Friday and encourage my students to do the same. I participate in Operation Support Our Troops. I give to the Wounded Warrior Project. But because you don’t see my green light bulb, I am unAmerican.

You Cannot Always See Someone’s Character

In the wake of the tragedies in Beirut and Paris, I opted not to change my personal profile photo or the profile photo for this blog to the Paris flag. And it took all of about twenty minutes before someone called me out on it. There are myriad reasons why I skipped the flag overlay; the primary reason being I was too busy. I was too busy overhauling two days worth of lessons plans to figure out how to explain to seventy twelve-year-olds what happened, why fear is not the answer, and what they can do to send a little more love and acceptance out into the world. But because you do not see a flag in my profile photo, I am unfazed by these tragedies.

Snapshots Aren’t the Whole Picture

If the past week of current events has underscored anything, it is the human tendency to dismiss what we do not understand. While it is easy to paint the political sphere as judgmental, it is alive and well in personal finance too. I will be the first to admit the Judgy McJudgerson inside of me is awakened when I see a McMansion, a Ferrari, or a Michael Kors purse. As if that one snapshot of a person encompasses her entire being. Sure, someone might be in debt up to her eyeballs thanks to an affinity for designer bags. Or maybe she brings in enough money that a $200 purse is her version of a $40 Target bag. I have no way of knowing. But I judge her anyway.

I am not alone in my propensity towards judgement. We are all guilty of it to some degree. But if nothing else comes from this past week, let it be the lesson that someone holding a different value system than you does not give you any high ground upon which to perch.

Offer advice. Proffer suggestions. Lead by example. But for the love of all things human, don’t assume that if you’ve seen someone’s watch and wallet or light bulbs and profile photo that you really know who they are as people. You don’t.

*If you think there is drama on Facebook, you should see people flip their ish when someone takes a pot shot at siding ideas or leaves a negative review a beloved lawn service on NextDoor.

So Tell Me…How do you work to see the bigger picture? 

Values Aren’t Always Visible

7 thoughts on “Values Aren’t Always Visible

  1. It is totally human nature to judge, to form instant opinions that make it easy for us to totally understand every facet of our environment and the people that inhabit it. You’re right, we all do it. There are many who claim that they don’t judge, but of course it’s nonsense. We all judge. We do it without a conscious thought.

    Seeing the bigger picture can be difficult at times. If I’m out, I usually just recognize that I *won’t see the bigger picture* because I don’t plan to spend enough time within that environment, so I go on about my day. More times than not, it’s this – I implicitly judge, but then realize that there is probably more to it than that, and I mentally shrug and tell myself “whatever”.

    Seeing the bigger picture just takes time. The more experience we have at something, the better positioned we will be to accurate judge what is going on. There is nothing that we can do to hurry time along…it just happens, bringing whomever is near along for the ride. I don’t rush it.

  2. This is so true. And social media has caused our society to compartmentalize so easily into tiny snippets of life. Instead of knowing people completely, we know them as the “over-poster,” the “lady with the new car,” the “guy who posts annoying things about fracking,” etc. We each have our things. And our things are different. Because they are different my thing is a “terrible idea” but you don’t even realize you HAVE a thing because it’s part of you. We’re really bad at comparing ourselves for real. And really good at just saying “I’m not as good as her because…” or “I’m better than she is because…” – no one is ever the same as us. And that divides us.

  3. I love the way Walmart wanted people to prove their patriotism by buying something that serves no other purpose. Much better to use the same money to make an actual donation to Wounded Warriors or something similar, as you did.

    I also hate Facebook posts that say “Repost this if you love your momma/hate cancer/don’t want others to think you’re a terrible human being.” The tricolor flag feels like the same thing.

    It’s really hard not to judge others. It’s really hard not to feel indignant when you think others are judging you on irrelevant “evidence.” Even people who you think know you pretty well can come up with completely wrong assumptions.

    It works the other way too, though. I love members of my family, but before Facebook I was able to pretty much ignore some hard core political views amongst them that I strongly disagree with. Now those views are in my newsfeed daily, along with the family photos and news and cute kitten pictures that remind me why I love them in spite of it all. Do I hide them from the newsfeed to get rid of the extreme stuff they share, or put up with it even though it disappoints me greatly?

    Too bad we can’t turn on an automatic filter for civility and understanding.

  4. Your posts are always so thought provoking, thank you. When thinking of studies – it ranges from 1/10th of a second to 7 seconds for people to make a first impression of someone. To me that is quite heart wrenching to realize you have such a short amount of time before someone determines their thoughts about you. Unfortunately, I feel this translates to pictures, social media, words, actions, etc. as well. We are bombarded by so much that we find ways to shortcut the time it takes to make a quick decision, which can lead to untrue evaluations of people. I try to maintain curiosity. I know that my worldview & experiences varies deeply from the person standing next to me. I attempt to ask questions from a positive standpoint, instead of giving in to comparison effect & judgment. It’s challenging, and I am nowhere near perfect at this. I try to evaluate my inner feelings & what I’ve experienced and realize that a stranger may have experienced 20 times more than I have. The problem is when people don’t stop to evaluate & pass quick judgment, negativity can ensue. It’s difficult to justify your actions, choices, values ultimately that are decided by you & only you. Thank you for this!

  5. Rue says:

    I try my very best to not judge based off first impressions. I just decide to be indifferent to everyone until they prove themselves otherwise 😛
    But judgment and perception is something I work very hard on, because it’s something I’ve always been very aware of and you only have to see how other people see you to realize how differently everyone sees things.
    I’m sure you see that as a teacher a lot, different things motivate different people for different reasons.
    It’s why I always love backstories in TV shows 😛

  6. I want to give you a hug and tell you to ignore all those self-righteous bullies. Don’t they remember, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”? It often seems to me that those who call others out are usually the most morally flawed, but are trying to look perfect by pointing out what they see as others’ shortcomings. Either way, it’s a huge shame. And good for you for not giving in, but knowing deep down that you’re making a difference in ways that matter more, even if they aren’t so show-offy. Either way, stay strong! You don’t have to answer to those pushy neighbors or Facebook folks.

  7. It’s so easy to feel superior and judgy…until I hear the rest of the story and then I feel like a colossal jerk. You would think I’d learn, but somehow I need to keep learning this lesson.
    We never know what’s really going on in people’s lives.

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