The Flower Next To Me

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

Zen Shin

In 1724, a German physicist living in the Dutch Republic proposed a comparative scale for measuring temperature. He based his scale on three points: the low point as the freezing temperature of an ammonium salt brine solution (0), the midpoint as the freezing point of pure water (32), and the upper point as his estimate of the average human body temperature (96). This was the first standardized temperature scale to be widely used, called the Fahrenheit scale and named after Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit.

All measurements are comparisons—comparisons with known and agreed quantities or physical characteristics. We measure the width of a room by comparing it to a tape measure that is the same as everyone else’s. We measure a gallon of milk by comparing it to 231 cubic inches (for which we can use that same tape measure.) We measure our days by comparing them to a unit of time based on an atomic second, which is based on the vibration of the cesium-133 atom.

That’s all fine and good for stuff. Not so good for people. In Vision 2030 we say, “We let ideas compete instead of people competing against other team members.” That is an important part of our culture.

We need to measure (compare) items, ideas, and intentions. Judgement is not a dirty word. We need good judgement in most areas of life. Good judgment is not just the ability to compare things, it is also knowing what to compare them to.

When we measure an item in the shop, we use a tool that has been calibrated to a known standard. When someone has measured something with the appropriate tool, we can all be certain of the veracity of the resulting measurement. That is fairly easy with items but not so much with ideas and intentions.

Ideas must be reviewed through an orderly process that attempts to discern the resulting outcomes and associated benefits and costs. We must remember that all decisions have an emotional component, and we must be willing to acknowledge our emotional attachment to our own ideas and our biases against others. In the final analysis, we may have to try some or all of an idea to verify if it has the value we believe it has.

Intentions (motivation) are more important than actions. In fact, many actions are amoral, neither good nor bad, until they are attached to the motivation of the doer. Before recovery, I did many things that looked good and even benefited people, but my intention was my own glory and a need to achieve. For me, those things were not good. We always want to align our intentions with our core values. Those are the “known standard” that we want to calibrate to. If we can honestly say that we are trying to be good stewards, protect families, and maintain our good name, all while honoring the Lord, then our motivations measure up.

We should not measure (compare) an individual’s family, features, and faculty. When we try to measure the unchangeable attributes of a person, we are being judgmental. The problem with judging people this way is there is no acceptable and agreed upon reference for comparison.

Where a person comes from is something they have no control over. No one gets to choose their family—their parents, their place of birth, the color of their skin. Additionally, there is no way to objectively say one is better than another. You can’t put a caliper on a person’s family and say it is in or out of range. People are affected by their origin, but they are not (and shouldn’t be) defined by it.

What a person looks like is also something they have little control over. We can choose our clothes and the way we do our hair and such, but many of our features are beyond our control. Gender, skin color, size and proportions, just to name a few, are all pretty much beyond our control. Again, there is no scale on which to measure a person’s features, not that society hasn’t created many over the years. Unlike a part that is either correct or scrap, people are individual works of art.

We shouldn’t judge people based on their inherent capabilities. We may elevate one person because of their particular capabilities while denigrating another for some supposed lack. While hard work that leads to mastery is to be recognized, everyone has some things that they are suited for. Acknowledging that all humans are valuable regardless of their particular gifting helps us refrain from being judgmental.

A community where we measure items, ideas, and intentions and accept people’s family, features, and faculty is a safe place where the flowers of creativity and innovation are allowed to grow without the weeds of envy and judgmentalism. When I am able to bloom without competing with the flower next to me, I have found a fertile garden and The Kimray Way.