Controversial topic warning: When speaking about this recently a number of people involved were quite offended and became both defensive and hostile. It’s very easy to see why because without full context and patient perspective it easily sounds like one is trying to say “some people are worthless”.
In short: we can become so. However, those I refer to are not the same individuals thought of by the offended. The qualification for the label, much more difficult than they supposed and the reasoning for measuring worth in the first place, having a much more edifying purpose than casting judgement. Allow me to illustrate…
Step 1. Let’s unite worth, value and usefulness.
As they are so intertwined, I suggest that…
- Nothing can be entirely useless and remain valuable or of worth
- Nothing can be entirely worthless while it remains useful or valuable to some extent
- Nothing can be entirely valueless if usable or of worth to some extent
If you can think of a scenario where any of the above isn’t true, please be sure to comment and let me know what I’m not seeing, because I’m a big fan of new sights 🙂
Step 2. Let’s divide being of worth from being worthy.
The former is a state indicative of one’s potential capacity to be useful or contribute value. It is as limitless as the observer’s ability to imagine potential application. Since it’s relative to ‘potential’ it doesn’t even need to be currently in or of use to be considered of worth. If there remains a possibility of good use in the future, such a degree of worth remains.
Being worthy however, is much more bound to the present-tense. It requires a bench-mark of qualification which means the worth is relative to the benchmark and not one’s potential. It remains as narrow a gauge of worth as whatever benchmark is used at the time. Since benchmarks usually change and are changed with desired application, time and circumstances, such a term applies to a specific event or point in time. For example, when at the Olympics, having the potential to win gold is of little value to one who fails to qualify in their heat. A competitor of worth yet proving unworthy of gold.
We can be simultaneously unworthy and of worth. Currently unqualified yet potentially invaluable. Presently ill-equipped yet with limitless potential. One can easily be unworthy of something and remain to be of immeasurable worth.
Step 3. Let’s segregate actual from perceived worth.
They’re clearly not the same and the moment the contrast is discussed all would agree, yet in our day-to-day conversations we all too frequently and easily forget the difference and thus shortsightedly undervalue most of the people and things around us.
Understandably so, we all speak and live from our own shortsighted perspectives and paradigms and as such we’re incapable of valuing the things around us from the perspective of all people in all circumstances. Therefore we will all, nearly always, undervalue everyone and everything.
Step 4. Let’s separate diversification appreciation from the necessity of continual improvement.
We’re not all the same OR equal in every way and it’s unedifying to believe we are. Positive and proactive utilisation of the differences between us (including past/future versions of ourselves) usually requires that we first identify those alternative contributions, ranged values and varying degrees of usefulness we possess in differing areas.
Applying such a concept to gauging others is something I think most of us understand to one degree or another. Diversification appreciation. Being different doesn’t mean we’re of less worth and usually means we could be of even more worth due to the potential value-add that wasn’t there before.
Something I feel too few of us grasp however, is the differentiation of this concept from the mouldability of worth and the requirement for constant improvement. Such necessity being particularly evident when applied to gauging us against ourselves as opposed to other people. Just because we were once considered worthy of receiving something we now have, doesn’t mean we can’t improve our worth by making better use of it. Similarly, just because we were considered unworthy of something in the past, doesn’t mean we can’t prove our worth by making the most of what we now have.
Yes, gauging another’s worth to determine if they’re worthy of something will only ever be as accurate a depiction of worth as the perfection in the gauger’s perception and even still remains relative to the worth of that which they’re being bench-marked against. Thinking others are worthless, therefore, will nearly always say more about us than them.
However, I feel perhaps too many of us use this realisation as an excuse to disengage from an opportunity to evaluate our potential improvement. It’s easier to say there’s a fault that lies in someone else’s perception than in us but such shouldn’t result in justifying our need for improvement as unnecessary. Perhaps we could all spend a little less energy being offended and invest that into self-reflection. Let both theoretical perp and victim become better in such situations.
Perhaps too often we all use the fact that ‘a judge can never perceive perfectly’ as an excuse to hate the judge for their short-sighted perception and lack of “diversification appreciation” instead of using the experience as an opportunity to self-evaluate whether, independent of how right or wrong their judgement call is.
Step 5. Let’s contrast
It’s gratifying to believe we’re useless, I agree. However it’s also gratifying to believe our choices don’t effect our worth. Both are dangerous and the answer to either should not be another extreme.
If our infinite worth is determined by our infinite potential, then surely the choices we make that can so clearly increase or decrease that potential usefulness or value-contribution are going to have an effect on our worth.
Although I agree in the priceless worth of every person on this planet, I don’t believe we are all of equal worth or even can be. Worth is had by degrees that are simultaneously so minute, ranged and innumerable it’s foolish to think any of us have truly identical value even in micro-niche ways.
Although I don’t believe gauging the worth of others to qualify for either our kindness or hatred to be a beneficial exercise (in most situations due to the fault in our own perception being so large), I do believe gauging worth is extremely valuable especially when comparing, benchmarking and tracking self-improvement.
Although I don’t believe somebody’s worth can be perfectly measured by us (imperfect people), I do believe it’s changeable and can be both increased and decreased. Such changes are sufficiently measurable so tracking progress/improvement becomes identifiable.
We can move closer or further away from both worthlessness and pricelessness as we track both our choices and the resulting changes in our potential. The power to measure such, even if imperfectly done, resides in our own hands and therefore so does the power to change our worth.
Step 6. Let’s get real
Appreciate that if we’re not feeling very worthy of life or anything good that there’s things we can do about that. The power to change our potential usefulness and value remains within us as long as we live. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy or that one doesn’t need help, but it does mean it’s doable and that the way you feel in dark moments doesn’t have to be and most likely won’t be permanent.
We need to appreciate also that such feelings are much more likely a reflection of perceived worth than actual worth. As one overly focuses on the limitations of their potential they become genuinely blinded to the limitlessness that remains in that potential. Such flaws in our own perception are much more damaging to us than the flaws in the perception of others.
If we want to believe the good we’ve done so far or even the good we might do in the future automatically qualifies us to rewards unearned in the present, we’re deceived. Worth is changeable and what was or what will be is different from what is.
If we want to look down on other people believing we could never stoop to their level, we’re also deceived. Again, worth is changeable and those believing either greater or lesser worth is beyond them, are foolish and handicap their own progress when holding on to such beliefs. Perception of worth is vastly more changeable than actual worth and as such is likely to have a much larger effect on one’s life. #asamanthinketh
I completely agree that everybody who thinks they’re worthless because of mistakes or wrongdoings in their past is dangerously wrong.
But I also feel that it’s dangerous to propagate the idea that the choices you make in life don’t have an effect on your worth when they so evidently effect your potential usefulness and ability to contribute value to your world.
Absolutely, people are capable of becoming invaluable or useless to the world around them and that journey is made one step at a time through a long series of choices.
I’m also not saying that just because the world around you feels you’re worthless or invaluable that such is an accurate diagnosis as it could easily be flawed due to the aforementioned failings in perception. Simultaneously however, I think it would be rare to reach either extreme without there being a mountain-load of honest evidence to indicate some degree of truth in the perception.
Step 7. Let’s conclude
Why is it important to appreciate that one’s worth CAN be changed through the choices they make? Because it’s essential that no matter where we metaphorically stand in life, that we move forward in a hope to do and be more good than we are, increasing our worth by increasing the edifying value of the choices we make in our daily lives.
Anybody intentionally engaged in such a mission will undoubtedly live a happier, more fulfilled life while simultaneously helping all those in their world of influence to experience the same. Anybody who fails to adopt such a mission not only lacks those benefits but can too easily become a dangerous stumbling block for themselves and the world around them.
Instead of downplaying the effect our wrong choices have on our worth and consequently desensitising ourselves to the seriousness or reality of our errors, call them as they are then refocus on the more important influencer of worth: engaging in that hope & mission to continually do and become more good.
We are capable of changing who we are. Including our worth, our natures, our desires and default responses. We do so by changing the consistency in the edifying value of the choices we make throughout our daily lives.