This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
Continuing from last week the conversation about money and value… and expanding this week to get interpersonal. Let’s look at our relationships and at appreciation.
Just like how we get sucked into the detached space of “pure monetary value” and readily lose sight of what something is personally worth to us, we also very much collapse the idea of compensation (ie, money) with displaying appreciation.
Hank Green mentioned this idea in a recent Vlogbrother’s video: “John, you are aware of my appreciation deficit theory. It’s this idea that I have, that by turning all transactions into something that can be quantified with money, that we have lost the ability to feel as if there is value that can be transferred that isn’t measured?”
Acknowledgement, gratitude, and connectedness… they all get lost in the same morass of the reductive dollar value.
And so, when we pay someone for something, we think that’s all and good. They did this thing for me – could be a big thing, could be a small thing, could be a pleasant thing, or it could be a terrible stinky hard thing – and we paid them, then that’s well and done. That is enough. We paid them, right? That should show what it’s “value” is to us, right? *
But that’s compensation, a transaction, a payment to make a living to do a task for us. It is vital part of the economic engine we work within. And it should not be confused with appreciation.
It gets weirder when there is no explicit money interaction.
When a friend does something for us, its value may not even register for us, since it didn’t have a dollar value attached to it.
Or maybe we do think about it, but since friends don’t charge friends for things, what to do? Buy them a gift, which is, effectively a payment by another name? Mark it in a ledger to do a return good deed later on? Or simply say thanks and move (awkwardly?) on?
Compensation is a quick transaction. It takes moments to stuff a few bills across the physical space between two bodies. It’s also impersonal, valuing something only in comparison to arbitrary figures of an autonomous numbering system.
Appreciation requires presence. It takes time, contact, and connection to cross the personal spaces between two human beings. It’s intimate. And it’s about what the true value of something is. “What is, deep down, truly, this worth to me?” And if the answer is “a lot”**, then appreciation is letting the other person know.
“I value you. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for what you’ve done. You have made a difference in my life. Thank you for being part of my life.”
* And the reverse as well. Our boss gives us a task, and we do it well, and they simply sign our paycheques every week; is that enough?
** Remembering that people all over and in so many roles are contributors to our lives… as we are to theirs.