Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Conditions of Value

My thoughts take a philosophical bent today. I am considering what it means when something or someone has value. How do we assign value? Does being viewed as having value affect the inherent worth of something or someone? How does someone who has little perceived value by themselves or by others gain a sense of self worth?
The art of bargaining is based on subjective value. The merchant assigns a certain value to his merchandise and the shopper assigns a value to what she wants to buy. Before bargaining begins the merchant decides what his product is worth and he won't drop his price under that value. The shopper needs to decide what the highest value she is willing to pay for the product. The merchant names his price several times more than what his bottom price is. The shopper counter offers with a price much lower than what she is willing to pay. The bartering goes back and forth. The merchant tries to convince the shopper to buy above his lowest price and the shopper tries to negotiate for lower than her highest price. Both are happy if the agreed upon price is both higher than the merchants final price and lower than the shoppers highest price. The value of an inanimate object is fairly easy to assign and we make these choices constantly.
However, the value we assign to things changes constantly. At the time of purchase an engagement ring has great value. The worth of the ring might fluctuate depending on the price of diamonds, the price of gold or silver, if the ring gets scratched, or if the diamond falls out. The value changes depending on what the person who owns it associates with the ring. If the relationship with the spouse grows deeper and richer over time, the value of the ring may rise. If the relationship fails, the value of the ring drops. A battered ring that has been through years of trials with a person may have much more value than a new one. A glass of water in every day circumstances has little value. It is abundant. An expensive car appears to have a great value especially for someone who drives a clunker. To a person who owns an expensive car, but is dying of thirst, the water has infinitely more value.
Now if we consider the value of people. I work in a helping field. It is common to here someone talk about the "inestimable value of the human soul." Most of us would agree that people have high value, but when we are honest with ourselves we would probably admit that some are more valuable than others. How do we assign value to a person? Do need to like a person to see them as valuable? Are beautiful people more valuable than ugly people? Does a person have to be smart, successful, wealthy, strong, athletic or thin to have value? Maybe value comes because you belong to a family. Does having a husband or a wife give a person value? Does having children contribute to someone's value? John 15:13 says "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." I think a lot of people would sacrifice themselves for their friends, but what happens if a different choice is presented. What if someone gets to choose between saving one of two people or sacrificing themselves in order to save both people? Does it matter who the two people are? How many of us would pick to save the person who has more value to us? Maybe we sacrifice ourselves because we believe we have less value than the other people. What would it look like if we actually treated everyone as if they had equal value to all others?
What do you value in yourself? Do you see yourself as having value or do you have to do something or be a certain way to have value? Maybe the first step in seeing the value in all people is to understand that you are valuable regardless of what other people say or think. If you see yourself as being valuable because you are a person then your will see others as having value because they are people. However, if you see yourself as having value conditionally then others value is also conditional.

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying to learn to value people who are around me, but I don't know them -- like the person walking down the street or driving in the car next to me. I find that I often treat these people as non-inteties. I'm trying to learn to see them as people who are valued by their parents, friends and God.