Preferences as a Path to Understanding

We don’t have to care about the things that other people care about, but, if we want to be of service, we should still care about fact that they care about those things.

We each like and care about different things for different reasons. If we want to be effective, useful humans, we must look past the superficial preferences of those around us to see the why behind them. We must ask ourselves what hope, need, desire or fear drive these preferences in the person or group we aim to serve.

Every preference we have comes with a story. It is a story about why we like or dislike something and what that means about us and the way we relate to the world. The clothes we wear or don’t, the food we like or dislike, the music we listen to or never listen to, all of these things make up some part of the story of our self.

When another person expresses his or her likes or dislikes, especially if they are extreme, we have the opportunity to gain insight into that person’s story, influences, and motivations. We may not like or dislike the same things as this other person, but, as long as we remain open-minded and non-judgemental, superficial preferences shouldn’t matter with regards to how we treat them.

What matters is, beneath these preferences, there is a human who loves, fears, laughs, and cries just like we do, even if for different reasons.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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