It is easy to talk about what we value, but living a life that reflects those values requires more than mere talk. If we want to be congruent beings, our convictions cannot be separated from our actions. However, in order for us to integrate them, we must be willing to exert effort as well as sacrifice.
This is where the real rubber meets the road. This is where we each get to choose how much of our life reflects our values. The reason this is important is because if our values aren’t guiding everything we do, then they aren’t values at all. They are just empty rhetoric.
Talk is cheap, but standing up for what you value is always going to cost you something. For some, like Martin Luther King Jr. and those who stood with him, the price they paid was their lives. However, I find it interesting that we can pay homage to them for courageously fighting for justice, while we conveniently ignore our own injustices.
Bridging the disconnect
In an effort to bridge this disconnect in my own life I am pulling my head out of the sand. No longer willing to live in my own bubble of false tranquility, I have spent the past few months becoming voraciously informed. What I have discovered is my ignorance may feel like bliss to me, but it is far from it. To those harmed by injustice, my ignorance may be the very thing fueling their suffering.
I came to this disturbing conclusion after watching two particular documentaries: Food, Inc. and The True Cost. Although I was aware that greed drove most big corporations, I wasn’t prepared for the true heinousness of their crimes. Neither was I prepared for my response.
After seeing clearly the abuse and devastation to both lives and landscape that our food and fashion industries are engaged in, I was moved to unrestrained tears. Weeping aloud, I cried out to God to forgive us and to heal our land. No longer could I separate myself from this sin that loomed so large and lurid before me.
As long as I participated in the system, it was clear I was helping to feed the monster of injustice. The question was, what was I going to do about it? Was my life going to reflect my values or ignore them?
Embodying my values
Already a supporter of locally-grown organic whole foods, I saw there was still one area where my life could better reflect my values. If my body thrived on a vegan or vegetarian diet, I’d be an herbivore in a heartbeat. Since it doesn’t, I’m only going to support farmers who raise their animals humanely and sustainably. (Check out Polyface Farms for a truly inspiring farm model that deserves to lead the way to a better world!)
It will cost more, to be sure. Yet, what is much more difficult to reconcile is how big agribusiness can breed chickens with such over-developed breasts they can only walk a few steps before falling down. Yet, it isn’t just about the animals that suffer abuses. It is also about the impoverished poultry farmers enslaved by this sick system.
Obviously, the food conglomerates don’t believe in win-win scenarios. Neither does the fast fashion industry. All they care about is making money. But if all I care about is saving money, I’m no different.
After being educated about the true cost behind the clothes that currently hang in my closet, I no longer think a new dress is a “steal” at $19.99. Now, I see it as an all-out rape of humanity. That may seem harsh, but after watching The True Cost there was no other conclusion to draw.
The laws of supply and demand are not complicated. By foregoing products made by big corporations operating entirely without a conscience, and supporting only those business models that bring dignity and prosperity to everyone involved, I am voting my values with every dollar I spend. It is important to me, then, that I spend them wisely and thoughtfully.
Integrating my convictions and my actions isn’t going to be easy. I know it will cost me something. It’s about time it does, too, because until our lives reflect more of our values, the true cost of ignoring injustice is ultimately to our own souls.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.