Metaphors can often help us see when we can’t find the exact words to say. When it comes to integrity and more precisely core values, I have come to find increasing value in the gift of metaphors as I try to share the insight and wisdom I gleam from others who are digging to their core.
Metaphors are never precise. Their value isn’t found in black and white, either/or structures. They don’t tell you what something “is” — but rather share with you what something is “like.” They are known to leave room at the margins for you to finish the script in how it speaks to you. Metaphors don’t tell you what to think.
They invite you to explore.
A word that wasn’t amongst my vocabulary, has recently found its way to the tip of my tongue and seems to appear at most every turn: ineffable. Webster defines ineffable as an adjective incapable of being expressed in words — a definition that is a paradox of sorts if you really think about it.
As I’m able to walk alongside mature, smart professionals, I witness the struggle they experience in their sincere attempt to dig to their core values with well-intentioned precision. I continue to search for explanations of universal struggle as many continue digging — or choose to stop.
In my search, I continue to expand my own reading on how our brain and mind work — exploring when they are useful in our dig and perhaps when they can get in the way. Could it possibly be our rush for precision in naming our core values that might be getting in the way? It may also be our desire to grab what is familiar and comfortable. Describing behaviors, wants and needs — especially important behaviors, wants and needs, that we deeply value, can derail us. They tend to be more top of mind, precise and sometimes pose as a charade of our core.
It seems the rush to precision doesn’t serve us well in the dig to our core.
Maybe the very essence of metaphors has something to teach us. Perhaps it is a metaphor’s vagueness that helps us understand that we will not find what we are looking for, but rather what we are looking for will find us. Richard Rhor captures a valuable truth — every metaphor limps. They are not meant to be literal and lose their value when we try to make them so.
Eventually digging with patience and persistence, leads us to words that, at best, describe what our core values are like. It may serve us well to initially think of these words through a metaphor — our values are not a destination to be reached.
They are each a doorway.
The word we choose is our first step across the threshold. In walking through the doorway we just begin to understand a bit about that value. It is in living the value that we come to know it — initially seeing what it is like in numerous scenarios that present themselves as living metaphors.
Over time, what we will likely find is that these values will come to life in living color as they dig their way into our needs, wants and behaviors. And sometimes, we will discover they deserve a new name that more precisely describes how we have come to know them best.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!