Formation I: Reflecting on Roots & Values Pt. 1

Finally ending my unintentional five month blogging hiatus by sharing a couple of experiences that I’ve been reflecting on.

First experience: I was borderline ready to enter a long-term committed relationship with someone who lives back home on the West Coast. Keep in mind, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve wanted to be in any kind of committed romantic relationship with anyone. I shared a few years of history with this person: years filled with horrible timing but plenty of chemistry. Although the timing was still awful given we’d be on different coasts, I personally felt ready to try to give this person a chance. We shared an idealistic passion to help people with the bulk of our energy; a desire and perspective that I have found incredibly challenging to find in prospective partners.

But we didn’t work because we continued to have the same challenging conversation around values.

I hold onto the Catholic values my parents instilled in me: faith, hope, love, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, etc. And with my Catholic faith, I maintain certain beliefs, mainly that a benevolent loving God exists.

This proved to be problematic for my potential partner because he couldn’t reconcile the idea that a loving God could exist at the same time as innocent suffering like natural disasters and terminal illnesses. He couldn’t see a future with me because it seemed impossible and stupid to build a relationship with someone with a different theological perspective. His logic? If we had kids together someday, we’d be teaching them two seemingly contradictory beliefs. (Also, as real and necessary as talking about the prospect of having kids together is…why in the world he wanted to bring up kids so early on in our budding relationship is flabbergasting to me.)

Mind you, I do think the idea of raising kids with someone with a different theological perspective would be challenging. I can’t deny that. Yet, I still believe that if both partners are transparent with one another throughout their relationship and willing to work conflict out, they can cultivate a thriving relationship with each other and their kids.

Second experience: I recently left my job for another also because of a difference of values. My employer, whose mission is grounded in Catholic principles, claimed to not be discriminatory (as does every employer in the country). At the root of Catholicism is a basic belief that God is love. Look at Jesus. He loved everyone that society sent to the curb.

Despite its Catholic roots, my employer made a discriminatory decision by asking someone to leave because of a part of their identity. After the decision was made, my employer continued to claim that they were living out their mission while doing everything in their power to cover up the initial discriminatory decision. But why hide a decision that isn’t discriminatory? Oh wait, maybe because it was.

Anyways, the moment I found a job that aligned more with my value of creating a community culture of love, I took a stance on the discriminatory decision by putting in my two weeks notice. Added story detail: I was asked to leave early since I refused to be silent about the discriminatory decision. Perhaps, someday, I’ll reveal the details of this story.

My good ol’ Jesuit-instilled value of reflection prompted me to make connections between these experiences. These experiences were lived out moments of my values. Which got me thinking: what are my values? Here’s my attempt to articulate them.

  • My faith and belief in love, a divine being and a greater good.
  • Family and more broadly, collectivism.
  • Social justice, a deep belief that we all deserve goodness and love.
  • Transparency, a belief that the truth needs to be named always.
  • Openness and living in some discomfort to keep me socially aware and morally conscious.

Naming my values brings up a new prompt: where did these values come from?

My parents were clearly a main source. I gained my value for faith and love from my father who always told me: “Jesus is your best friend,” “we don’t live for this world,” “lying is just as bad as murder,” and “eventually, only faith, hope and love will remain.” Meanwhile, I gained my value for family and collectivism from my mother. She always prioritized family through her actions. She ensured those in our extended family who were financially unstable were provided with support. She showed up to family functions in sickness and health and defended our family name almost to a fault.

My classes, peers and mentors in high school and college cultivated my understanding and value of social justice with phrases like “remember, intention versus impact,” and “don’t forget to check your privilege.” These same folks helped me grow by convincing me to step out of my comfort zone with articles, books, movies, classes, workshops, rallies, trips to other countries, volunteer opportunities, etcetera.

Now, outside the staged settings of education and parental supervision, I’m discovering how these messages and their embedded values influence the way I react to social situations and navigate the world around me. I’m willing to sit in the discomfort of a relationship where I have a different theological perspective than my partner because of my value of faith, love and openness. And I’m willing to put my job on the line if it means standing up for the truth to take steps toward a more equitable world. The world seems to have a knack for putting me in situations where I feel like I need to compromise my values.

To what point do I continue to live out my values before it becomes a detriment to paying the bills?  I hold that it is not impossible to live by my values… with the knowledge that the world will continue to try to convince me otherwise. This brings me to another question, why do I hold onto my values so tightly?

The answer to that question is lengthy, nuanced and complicated and directly tied to my identity as a Filipinx American and a womxn of color. I didn’t bring up my racial identity in this particular blog post. I hope to make the connection between the values I am watching play out with the intersections of my identity in my next Formation I blog post.

In the meantime, keep living in the questions and let me know, what do you think your values are and where do they come from?

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