Starting 2021 my goal was to continue to focus on a Values Mindset – I brought up my Values of Focus for the year being Grace, Perseverance, Creativity, Health and Candor.
I was thinking of my post last week and realized that there wasn’t a lot of Grace written in or extended to the values explored. I wanted to take a beat and try and dive into the why someone might hold the three values of Wealth, Status and Power. Hopefully gaining some empathy for the individual vs. the actions.
Part of the reason why I rely so heavy on a Values Mindset is because I believe it is essential to be able to separate a person and their actions, especially when making judgements on the person as a whole. Now I know the argument can be made that we are the sum of all our actions however it is unfair and unreasonable to not allow for missteps. Part of the reason why I can maintain a relationship with my parents is that I know their actions aren’t always a reflection of who they are as a whole or what they truly value. So I focus on the values of a person instead.
Before looking at the three Values specifically I want to bring up the understanding that there are two ways to view your world, I know this is stating things are this or that, right or wrong, black or white when in fact there is a ton of grey but there are some instances where these exists – one instance is that you can either view your life with gratitude or with discontent, there really isn’t an in-between. Now I know this seems overly simplified and it is a bit, but what I mean is that you can choose to focus on what you have or you can choose to focus on what you don’t. It’s that age old question of is the glass have full or half empty.
My most favourite and relatable example of this, is taxes. So often when I have spoken with people with Wealth, or those with high incomes they have an obsession on how much they pay in taxes. Here is the thing, something I think that often gets forgotten is those in the highest tax bracket only pay that high tax rate on the money they made ABOVE all the other tax brackets. That means that everyone else underneath them also paid the same amount for the brackets below and they didn’t have anything else left over above that to get taxed.
Also people forget or might not realize if you are in the lowest few tax brackets, it can be really hard to max out your tax reduction contributions because more than likely you are using your entire income to pay bills. But I am digressing and can/will I’m sure visit this thought another time – the point is, that those complaining are doing so because their focus is on what they are losing, not on what the get for those taxes or even more importantly what they get to keep (which is much more than those in lower brackets).
The mindset being grateful for what you do get to keep, of focusing on what you have is one that can make a difference in where you place these three values within your life and priority list. Remembering that we all hold a great many values but that where, and how we prioritize them comes out in where we spend our energy and how we make our decisions.
Let’s look at the Value of Wealth, a large part of this obsession comes from the Capitalist structure of our society. The miseducation of the masses on pure capitalism, socialism and communism. There are nuances and the lines are not black or white, here there is a lot a grey.
The necessity of a free market and having healthy competition is essential to business and an economy. The issue is that as a society we need to have some things be collective, think of roads, water filtration, health care, recreation centres, etc. There are so many things that we get from giving collectively that no one really thinks about, that giving, is in the form of taxes and this equals some form of socialism. Most of the Western world is Capitalist based with shades of socialism including the United States. They pay taxes too, it’s what you get for those taxes that show the underlying values of the society as a whole. In the U.S. they do heavy spending in their military and police forces in the name of Law & Order of their country so it would stand to reason that the lines of spending follow the values of Status and Power.
In other countries that have different values such as Equality, Education, Health, Compassion, Humanity – their spending is placed differently. It does generally cost most to fund more but it does all come down to values.
One issue with Wealth as a value, and this line of thinking is that Wealth is merit based and that we live in a meritocracy, when we most definitely do not. One thing the pandemic has made glaringly clear is that those working essential jobs are the ones that are forever taken for granted (health care workers) and quite often paid the least (retail, customer service, grocery).
Capitalist society demands and requires that we consume in order to keep things going. This consumption leads to Materialistic values, the need to keep up with the Joneses vs. reflecting on what is actually necessary. The thing about Materialistic values is that they can leave one feeling empty because often there is a purpose missing. When one does not have the means to have, they find purpose and joy in different areas, ones that aren’t reliant on consumption.
Wealth is something many either aspire to or are born with. When you are born into Wealth my feeling would be that it is hard to imagine life without it. I know from my own privilege that it makes me sad knowing I currently am not in a position to give my kids all the opportunities I had simply due to the fact that I don’t have the same income as my parents and live in a different, more expensive time. I can understand why the value of Wealth would be high then because it could mean feeling or being less than what you were born into, that it can feel like failure.
For others its perhaps that they saw their parents struggle financially as kids, or they were always the never haves. Meaning they never got the new ‘it’ toy at Christmas or they never got to go on that Mexican vacation. Maybe it’s that they truly struggled and had food or housing insecurity so that now they see Wealth as security and live in a state of fear of living insecurely again.
The concern I have is many confuse Wealth with security, it is not one and the same. It can mean Financial freedom but not really security. Freedom to buy anything you wish without worry, or help friends out or be philanthropic. Security is knowing that you are safe, that everything is or will be ok; Security is something totally different. Many people will spend or take on higher debt with higher income, hence the lack of true connection to security.
When valuing Wealth it is important to know the end game, to what end do you want to reach? Is it paying off your home, your children’s education, travelling – what is the goal? Hoarding Wealth is a problem, you can’t take it with you when you die. Wealth doesn’t give you kisses goodnight, it doesn’t hold your hand when you’re sick, it doesn’t do good when hoarded – so be sure if this is a value of yours that you know to what end.
The second two values I really struggle in exploring with no judgement, is Status, the reason being is that I am someone that doesn’t value either Status or Power in any way. I am incapable of truly understanding Status as a value, I can theorize and that’s it, because to me it means that someone is more/better than another. It is the exact opposite of something I value greatly and that is Equality. I would argue that you can not value both Status and Equality because that are antonyms.
Those that value Status like hierarchal organizations. Hierarchy is familiar, it is comfortable. When we are kids there is a natural order, or levels. The adults in your life have a perceived Status of authority and knowledge above your own. I have always been someone that bucked that tradition, and being a lucky parent, my daughter has followed suit (this is me joking because it is the root of most of our clashes). I believe in mutual respect and care for everyone. I’m genuine to everyone because I live my life valuing all not just those that I feel like have something to give me. That until someone has shown they do not deserve my respect, they get it, it is based on behaviour and merit. The opposite way to interact is by making Status as what determines respect. Status can also provide a feeling of control or perceived control over others.
Maybe those that value Status might do so because they felt like they didn’t have enough control in their life growing up, this could have been in their family or in a social setting. I would hazard a guess that they are the kind of individual that feels better when they put others down vs. lifting them up. Those that value Status believe in Superiority and this can come out in many ways whether it is through religion (my God is better than you God), or power seeking; they believe that it is good to be ‘above’ others.
The thing about Status is that meaningless, it is only in the eye of the beholder. I have felt this often in work situations, where many times ‘bosses’ have tried to put me in what could only be described as ‘in line’. The thing about someone that doesn’t value Status at all, is that this approach will not work, you must gain my respect through shared values. I have seen many a time a meme of the difference between a boss and a leader – picture this – two images one on top of the other – in one the Boss sits behind their desk, on a pedestal, giving orders to those below. The second image is of the leader, in the front of line of those below working with them to pull the load above.
Religions, mostly Christian have been founded on the need for Status. This isn’t my interpretation of living Christian values but it is the reality of many churches and Religious organizations. From the hierarchal structure to the very idea of Heaven and Hell, there is status everywhere. When you look at the teachings of Jesus, he believed in the value of every person and held no one of higher status than another. Power and desire for Status was created by man in the form of Religion and has created issues within our own humanity and ability to live a Christ like life. I need to bring this up now but can’t dive in fully and will need to, at another time, but I think it is important to bring up how Status plays into religion and to ask you to reflect on how it ties to your own faith and behaviours.
The sad thing about Status is that so many aim to reach a certain level, in their head they might have a goal of a certain amount of followers, or a certain income or a certain level of job title but they do this without really evaluating whether or not it is aligned with their values or something they really want or need, and to what end. Similar to Wealth, as a value, to what end does Status get you?
Power could be argued that it is similar to Status, there are important differences though. Power can be insidious. Unlike Status, Power is something that can be wielded regardless of whether or not the affected group buy ins. Power is something that doesn’t need to be earned. I am realizing now in writing that Power is something so much more complicated and problematic, as it, like Money, is not based on merit but is misconceived as such. Power has been handed down from those that have to those that have, time and time again and any effort to equalize things has been faced with backlash.
It is understandable how an obsession with Power would come about if one grew up with little or no control. The need to gain some semblance of autonomy is natural for humans. Power for kids can be something small like being able to make your own decision on what to wear or eat in day. Imagine not ever being given choice. The secondary scenario I can imagine is almost the exact opposite, never being told no. When a child is given complete Power over the decisions of their adults, they would have a hard time not understanding that they can’t have everything they want, this breeds Narcisscists. Setting boundaries is important and ensures that Power dynamics don’t get out of hand.
When Power has always been held, it is hard to to imagine life without it. Power without merit is the most dangerous kind because it will do anything to continue, it requires ruthlessness because it knows it is not earned, that without oppression and suppression it won’t be able to maintain it’s hold.
White Supremacy is a clear example of Power getting out of hand. One where people are now desperate to hold onto the status quo. Part of it is Status, but that Status part is rooted in the Power of knowing privilege. I think subconsciously more people are aware of their privilege than they are willing to admit. They know the privilege that comes with being white provides a power that isn’t provided to other races. The events at the Capital on January 6th is a prime example of white people using their privilege and assumed Power to commit heinous crimes. The Power has been left unchecked and because white people are so scared to lose their own Power (no matter how small and insignificant feeling) within their own lives they are willing to let others continue to spread dangerous rhetoric and act recklessly.
Power is a fragile ideal – the reason I say it is insidious is, as in my example of white supremacy, most white people like to believe they are good, me included, but when it comes to ensuring equality like say for example trying to have more representation in a workforce or education program white people are the first to cry fowl. The reason being, is this below the surface, subconscious, unrecognized level of power we have over minorities and any giving away of that power feels like a loss, even when it’s not. Even if it is a personal loss, like maybe you personally lose a role to someone of a different race, someone that is capable, that can but maybe hasn’t had the same opportunities as you so is less ‘experienced’ (I say this as experience is relative), due to life circumstances/race, isn’t it the right thing to give them this opportunity?
It’s a fact, that there is an over representation of white males in the top corporate seats. When you look at population stats vs that of the top CEOs and Leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies there are stark differences. One can argue that it’s because women take maternity leave, that these companies owners inherited their positions or whatever other factors they want to put in but the reality is that white men like to keep white men in Power because they are alike, it continues the cycle and that makes it possible for their own children (like them) to succeed.
The sometimes subconscious, I’m sure it’s actually conscious at times, thing is that they equate giving up space in their world to losing their position of Power. It’s the mentality of having to keep people down to hold themselves up. Or even more so that if someone else succeeds it means I won’t – this is not a correct or healthy line of thinking; It’s dangerous, it’s harmful. Giving or sharing Power with others actually gives energy and can allow for support, innovation, and other awesome things.
You can see where Power gets out of control and understand where it comes from – the key is that it can’t be a guiding value. Wanting the Power to make your own decision is fair and right. Wanting the Power to control others is not. Absolute Power or wanting Power to subdue others is vile. I was almost going to say wanting Power to lift others is good but Power is not the value you would want – Leadership or Influence quite possibly would be.
Having spent a bit more time diving into these Values has been good, albeit there is still so much to say and explore. I hope that it’s added some food for thought for you. My intention genuinely was to give more Grace and I hope I did that at least a little bit, but I am well aware that this definitely wasn’t all there. The thing about Grace in reflecting on Values is that I can provide it to individuals like I do my family but when thinking on the Values themselves it doesn’t work. For Values, and how we apply them, rank them, make us who we are. So there is the grey…. the none finite… Values may not have wiggle room but people need it.