valÂ·ue: to regard or esteem highly: He values her friendship.
cherÂ·ish: to cling fondly or inveterately to: to cherish a memory.
deÂ·voÂ·te: profoundly dedicate; consecrate
After many declarations of “I’m not going to use the cheap blogging trick of using the dictionary for content,” I’m now going to use the dictionary for content.
However, it’s a necessity born out of caution. I want to get this right. A long while ago these words started floating around in my mind, sort of dancing there saying Hey, we’re important! The differences between us are significant! The draft of this post has sat in my computer for well over a month, looking at me with big googly Write me! eyes.
Have you ever tried to deal with the guilt that big googly idea eyes can instill? Leads to insomnia, discomfiture, and the shakes. Plus you begin to lose your eyebrows.
So I guess I’ll write it.
What’s the Diff?
In my mind, before I got the definitions, I had already separated the three words mainly based on the relationship of the individual to the object of the verb. To value someone or something was the furthest remove, to award something importance and attention based on its utility. In some way that which is valued improves your life. Perhaps it makes it more beautiful; perhaps it makes some task easier or does it for you altogether. Perhaps it conveys status, or changes how people see you.
But it’s very separate from you, and the relationship is more with the service it provides rather than it’s intrinsic existence. I value the opportunity I’ve been given this month to review the Dirty Yoga Co, but it remains to be seen how much I’ll value it at the end of my free month. They value my willingness to review their product, but I suspect they will value me even more if I’m willing to pay their subscription fees (and frankly, they’re so reasonable I think it’s likely). But if I’m not, I don’t think it will be especially onerous on either party. We’ll part ways, having valued the experience of our interaction.
Cherish is the Word
When you cherish something, the connection goes beyond the utility of a thing and into its actual existence. I have a cigar lighter, for example, that is kind of a pain. The flame is not very intense, it doesn’t have a very large fuel tank and so requires frequent filling, and there are any number of torches and matches that would light my sticks more efficiently and stylishly.
Know what? I don’t care. The lighter was a gift to me from someone significant, and every time I hold it, whether I’m making flame or not, I get a flashback of what was good about that relationship, about the lessons learned and the joys shared and more. I cherish that lighter because of the fact that it exists, not because of what it does for me. It takes a little more time to light the cigars, it may take a flick or two before there’s a steady flame, but because I cherish it, it’s worth the trouble.
It could even be argued that because it takes a little extra work, I am being changed by the act of cherishing. Learning a bit more patience, perhaps. Taking better care of my things (it’s a very small lighter, and traveling as much as I do, it’s a miracle it’s not lost). At the same time, it is not intrinsically necessary to my own identity. If I did lose it, I would be sad…and I would start looking for some other cool lighter.
Before I ever looked up those definitions, I had this instinctual idea that devotion was the one of the three which was the most complicated. I felt that the thing about devotion was that it incorporated both value and cherish…but it took the investment beyond the simple existence of something else. Instead, with the act of devotion, that which you are devoted to becomes intrinsic to your own existence.
When you devote yourself, it changes who you are. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – change is not inherently good or bad, it simply is, after all – but it’s rarely comfortable. It’s usually scary, because you don’t really know for sure who that new you will be. That definition above talks about not just dedication, but profound dedication. Not just focus, but an all-encompassing focus.
It also uses another $10 word, and when I looked up the definition of that word everything about these ideas went click and it all came together:
consecrate: making a solemn commitment of your life or your time to some cherished purpose (to a service or a goal)
There it is: you find a purpose, a person, a role, an idea that has value. The more you explore the value, the more you begin to cherish. The use becomes less important than the joy that is.
The more you cherish, the more it changes you. Eventually, the separation between you and the cherished disappears…and you realize you’ve become devoted. If the cherished disappeared from your life, it would change everything.
Now that I’ve made you feel all gooshy, I’m going to throw the bucket of ice water. The problem with these three concepts, at least for me, is that they are instinctual, not deliberate. When I have tried to devote myself to something because I thought I should, it doesn’t work. The things which change me, which alter the fundamental nature of who I am, are rarely the things I choose.
A good example is my role as a father. It can’t be denied that the moment my daughter Ashlei came into the world, I changed. I was a young man; suddenly I was a young father. As the years went on, I became a single father with four beautiful daughters, and yes, I believe I was devoted to them.
Occasionally people would express admiration for the fact that I had custody of my children, that I took an active role in their lives and did whatever was necessary to provide for them. They found it unusual that a man would stick around after a divorce, much less take custody of four infant children.
I never really understood those compliments. Yes, I know thatÂ the weekend father is a more common thing in our culture. I can’t judge that. I know that I shouldn’t be admired for “choosing” to take care of them. It was never a choice. I never said “Hmm, should I stay? Or is that too much trouble?” I was their father*. That was that. I was devoted, and as hard as it was – and make no mistake, it got miserable – there was never a choice involved.
On the other hand, I’ve tried to become devoted to other things, like “making money” and “yoga”, but at best I’ve been able to value them. Maybe Dirty Yoga Co can help with the latter, at least.
The moral of the story, I guess, is: enjoy the act of cherishing, and what it does for you. Be mindful of the things you value.
But be careful of devotion. That’s some strong stuff.
* By the way, I still am.