Feeling Alone? It's Not Your Preferences, it's Your Values

Standing Alone for Change Have you ever felt that you just don’t belong? I mean, not only in the room, not only at the event, but that you were meant for an entirely different time in history? If you feel like you don’t belong in this world, that’s a good place to be. It means…

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Standing Alone for Change

Have you ever felt that you just don’t belong? I mean, not only in the room, not only at the event, but that you were meant for an entirely different time in history? If you feel like you don’t belong in this world, that’s a good place to be. It means you’re a potential agent of change.

There’s a scene in the movie “Lincoln” that hints at this beautifully. Lincoln is about to transmit a telegraph that will have a significant impact on the outcome of the Civil War. It’s the middle of the night, and two aides await his message for transcription and transmission. Lincoln gives the message, and pauses right at the end, he then asks a question to his aides, one of them named Samuel Beckwith:

    Lincoln: You think we choose to be born?

    Samuel Beckwith: I don’t suppose so.

    Lincoln: Are we fitted to the times we’re born into?

    Samuel Beckwith: I don’t know about myself. You may be, sir. Fitted.

It appears this question caught the aides off-guard. We don’t always expect such transparency from our leaders. Lincoln was feeling like an outsider, and he was sharing his feelings with those close to him. He felt this way because he was standing for change. It’s a lonely and emotional place to be. In fact, the source material for the Lincoln film deals almost exclusively with one act of his presidency: the passing of the 13th Amendment. This was in fact the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Seeing this historical dramatization helped me realize something. That the experience of feeling that you don’t fit in your own time is common for people who are standing for change.

Preferences v. Values

Now, I feel I can identify with Lincoln’s emotional state, but why? I’m not a US president, I’m not pushing for the abolition of slavery – what makes me so unique?

I haven’t always known the answer to that question, even though I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life. I used to think it was because of external things, like the way I dressed and acted. I carried myself in a unique way because I was different. That’s mainly because of my love for skateboarding, indie rock bands, and obscure art and movies. But as the years went by, I went to other places and had new experiences. I encountered more and more people who shared my appreciation for those same things. Still I felt out of place around them, even more so.

I realize now that I wasn’t the outsider I felt I was because I love skateboarding, indie rock, and obscure art and movies. Those things are my preferences. And I was (and still am) an outsider not because of my preferences, but because of my values.

Preferences are based on short-term desires. Values are based on truths that have been around longer than us. Somehow my heart awoke to these ancient truths, and I chose to align myself with them. In fact, throughout our lives, we get faced with choices that reflect our values. Sometimes small, sometimes great – these are the choices that end up shaping our lives.

Breaking the Demographic: How having 8 kids changes the world

So what are these special values of mine? Believe it or not, it took me quite a while to figure them out. Maybe they were obvious to others around me, but they weren’t so obvious to me. I would like to talk about one of them here. It has to do with why my wife and I have eight children. That’s right – eight children. I had a revelation recently in regards to this particular value.

Having eight children, you can imagine that home life can be hard from time to time. Indeed it is – very hard. But it isn’t enough for me to just say, “well, look how many kids we have!” It’s hard to have one kid – even having no kids is hard. I’m interested in really finding out the reasons behind why it’s hard to have eight kids.

And here’s what I realized: we live in a certain demographic. Our entire society is built around having only a certain amount of children. Once you exceed that amount, you literally “break the demographic.”

Having eight children in Israel means that you have a family 3.05 times larger than our nation’s average. (Israel’s fertility rate is 2.62 births per woman as of 2014). It finally hit me that this is effecting everything. It appears in subtle ways, like the experience of being expected to help your child with homework. That’s a fine and normal thing, right? There’s a certain involvement that is expected of a parent in a child’s schooling. But we have five children doing homework now. What would be reasonable for about two children gets more than doubled for us.

But it doesn’t end there. The size of your car, the monthly budget you set, the nature of your evening schedule. Even the amount of hours you can work in a day are all effected by our choice to break the demographic. And I feel like an outsider as a result.

Why? Not because we had a particular preference for having eight children. But rather because we have a value in regards to promoting life, and having children is how we express that value. My family and I are standing for change. Even if it means breaking the demographic.

So if I feel out of place, it’s understandable. Perhaps you feel out of place because you’ve chosen to base your life on your values and not your preferences. Only then can you be a true agent of change.

Welcome to the club.

Below is an infographic showing some key fertility rates in the world: