Christian Self Help
The Line In The Sand
(Part 2) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 9f. - Work
There are five basic groups to categorize how we perform our work. One group works because they truly enjoy what they do. It is sad to think that some people are slaves, forced to work for minimal or no personal benefit. To some, it is simply necessary to work because they need money to survive. To others it is a subject to be avoided, completely if possible. However, there are some that dive in, giving one hundred percent, or even one hundred and ten percent to the job.
In the first work category we find people enjoying what they do. They know that what they are doing matters to someone else so they volunteer in some way, or they perform their duties well, or create something of value for others. They are volunteers, servants, and dedicated to their chosen professions. They give into the lives of others through their well-placed efforts. There can be joy and fulfillment through work and when you find that place, you will know it! If you get paid for what you do, so much the better.
Slavery is a subject for another book, except that a particular form of slavery can be a problem in relationships. I, for example, could attempt to control you with fear or withholding to keep the house clean or to keep the yard perfectly neat. Is there anyone reading this who feels controlled or forced, to do something? This is not work that you will enjoy, nor will you feel appreciated for your efforts because you were forced in some way to perform. I realize this is not “work” in the sense of working for money, and yet it is important here because the canyon gets really wide if this goes unresolved for too long.
The third category is filled with survivors. The need to live forces us to work. People in this category will sometimes select a job that simply pays enough money to survive. Usually, any job will do. This kind of work will wear at you and wear at you until you burn out. You probably won’t like what you do and the effects of your dislike for your work will pass through into your relationships. You might come home and complain about a bad day, or about how you hate your job. When you bring this to your relationship to receive comfort, empathy or pity, you are bringing a burden to the line and saying to the other person, “Listen to me because I’ve got it tough.” You may have it tough, or not, and the other person in the relationship must now choose how to respond. At this point, the line in the sand becomes fragile. By bringing the “problem” to the line and dropping it there, the complexity of handling the situation grows. The more the same “problem” comes to the line, the more difficult the situation gets. You might complain to me about your job a lot. I then have several choices. My first choice is to try to fix the problem. My second choice would be to give you advice, because I surely know how to handle your situation better than you do. My third choice could be to ignore you or distance myself from you because I can’t do anything to help you fix it. Fourth choice could be to say, “Shut up, quit whining, and do something about it.” Fifth choice could be to comfort you and walk the walk with you. Whatever the choice, the canyon is likely to grow unless there are changes made to rectify the “problem.”
Work evasion... Now there’s a crime. Paul admonishes us all to work, to earn our keep, so to speak. (2 Thessalonians 3:10) "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: 'If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.'" This is truly a relationship crusher, a high-volume, rock-breaking canyon maker. “You lazy so-and-so!” There is nothing good that can or will come from the laziness of man. When I am lazy, as I sometimes am, important responsibilities that are under my care will be neglected. I will neglect to work and neglect to pay the bills. I think we all get the picture here.
The last example in this illustration is the person who digs in and makes work very important in their life. Let’s explore this concept a little deeper. It would seem that this category would be second best, just behind the first example, where the person completely enjoys the work they do and it is in service to others.
The illusion of hard work can be just that, an illusion. I can, for example, work twelve hours a day and achieve much by growing my business to be successful. I can work long and hard to become successful and reach high financial goals. I can remain focused on the business, whatever it is, and work up the corporate ladder to finally become the much-admired CEO of a highly visible, multi-billion dollar mega-company. I can work sixteen hours a day in my own business and make my business so successful that other companies want to buy me out. I can sell it and start over again. There is a common thread running through these examples, "I."
I can focus on the vision of my work or job for so much time each day that there will be nothing of any significant value left by the end of the day. What is the true reality of this approach to one’s life work? The answer is very simple, and yet complex at the same time. If I place my self worth upon the foundation of what I do, I am standing on shaky ground. If I place my faith in the fortune of money and property that I have amassed, I am looking to things for my security. The reality is just this: (Matthew 24:35) "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Everything except our Creator and His Word will be gone at a time of His choosing.
How do you measure success? Is there a dollar amount that reflects success to you? Is there a particular house, boat or car that shouts, “I’ve made it, I’m successful!” to the world? Is it a club or membership that signifies you have made it to the top? When you get to the top or achieve your goal, what happens next? Will it be enough to satisfy you? Will you set your goals even higher so you can experience what it feels like to really be successful? Will you look at someone who is wealthier or has a bigger house, or a brand-new sporty luxury car, as more successful and better that yourself? Will your house and car be good enough to hold onto for a while? Would you sacrifice anything to reach that lofty goal? Would you be willing to compromise your values to make your work become successful? Would you lie? Would you cheat? Would you steal? Would you abandon other important things to make success a reality?
Wow! That’s a lot of questions. Let’s look at each one to see how our belief system affects the way we perceive our work.
How do you measure success? What is success anyway? A dictionary definition states:
- The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted;
- The gaining of fame or prosperity, and,
- The extent of such gain.
I cannot define what success means for you, however, you do have some idea of what it means to you. As you ask yourself the questions listed here and then meditate on them in deeper thought, you should become very aware of what success in your work means to you. It is my hope that you walk away from this dialog with a renewed spirit with regard to God’s perception of success for us. I believe He would want us to invest in that which is eternal, such as God, His Word, and His people.
Is there a dollar amount that reflects success to you? Many people view success in a monetary way. “If I have that income, or that amount in the bank, or those investments, then I will be successful.” It is true that money makes it easier to get through certain aspects of life. It is also true that one can provide nicer things with more money. It is also true that the things that we desire can become the purpose for pressing on to monetary success. When we elevate our comfort and our possessions to be the reason we drive ourselves so hard, we lose sight of our true purpose in life, that is to be significant in someone else’s life. Having money is great as we all know, but significantly touching the life of some other person in a positive and meaningful way, is greater still.
Is there a particular house, boat or car that shouts, “I’ve made it, I’m successful!” to the world? When you are able to get that new car, the feeling is wonderful, almost euphoric. I have never owned a boat but I have desired one. If I got that boat and used it a lot for fishing and skiing and trips out on the lake, wouldn’t that be nice? Would it be big enough? Would all the accessories be just right? I know myself. I would want more and bigger and faster and newer. What is it about the dwelling we live in that provides us with a feeling of success? If you paid cash for your house and moved in, would you be able to settle in as though this was it? Would this house be enough for you to feel like you have finally succeeded? The truth about these things is that they are simply material things, objects of our desire or need. When we place these things at the top of our list, we will continue to long for more. The bigger house, sleeker boat or more luxurious car will be lurking out there just out of our grasp. We will keep reaching for those things. We can never be successful in our quest for the best things because something better will be waiting for us. Our relationships won’t be as important as the drive to acquire things and therefore the relationships will suffer as a result.
Is it a club or membership that signifies you have made it to the top? Prestige is another motivation to achieve success. You can belong to or be a part of something bigger than yourself if you achieve a certain monetary level. You can run in the elite circles and hobnob with people who have a social standing. You can become like them and live in luxury. You can separate yourself from the less fortunate. When you have reached the pinnacle of success there will be so much distance between you and the lower class that you won't have to concern yourself with them. You can then isolate yourself from the hurting masses and live your wonderful life. Wait a minute. When you are at the top, are you happy? Are you at peace with yourself? Are you not concerned about your wealth being stolen? Are your relationships fulfilling and overflowing with goodness and intimacy? Will your relationships at the society club or in the yacht club be open and honest?
When you get to the top, what happens next? When you are at the top, where can you go? I don’t know about you, but I hope I never get to the top because the next step is down. I will be satisfied with what I have earned and help those less fortunate than me who have made it to the top. They need our support so the next step will be gentle. To me there is nothing to look up to if I am at the top, and it's important to have something bigger than me to look up to. I confess I haven’t found that something at work, but I have found it in my creator.
Will it be enough to satisfy you? What is it anyway? "It" is all the things you are seeking and scrambling to acquire. Will all these things satisfy your quest for success? Or, will you just keep plugging away to hold on to what you do have and to maintain your status level or lifestyle? Again, when we set our sights on the material possessions and our social positioning, we find ourselves unable to overcome the burden of our quest for more. It will never be enough!
Will you set your goals even higher so you can feel what it feels like to really be successful? The quest for more and more will consume you. There will be nothing so important as the quest, not your spouse, not your children, not even God. Oh, we surely can attempt to justify the quest by placing the people in our lives as the reason we continue the quest. Does this sound familiar? "I just want things to be better for my wife and children than it was for me." If I place you as the excuse for ignoring you then you have the responsibility to keep things together while I abandon you for the quest to provide you with more. More comfort in your surroundings, more things, and more entertainment, but where am I? And, what is the state of our relationship? Ouch!
Will you look at someone who is wealthier or has a bigger house, or a brand-new sporty luxury car, as more successful and better that yourself? Relative depravation is loosely defined, "You have something bigger, better, prettier, faster, or more expensive that me so I must have one better than, or at least as good as, you." This attitude simply feeds the quest for more. When I make decisions based upon this definition, I will potentially force myself to get what I want at the very high price of damaging or destroying my relationships.
Will your house and car be good enough to hold onto for a while? Will you be satisfied with what you have acquired? Will you use these things to build your life together? Will you spend the needed quality and quantity time with your family in your home? Will you care for it and keep it nice? Or, will you look at these things as not good enough and press on to bigger and better?
Would you sacrifice anything to reach that lofty goal? If the quest becomes the object of your desire, then you will give your life up seeking the quest. Some people believe they're OK with that. When we sacrifice our time and energy in pursuit of things to the detriment of our core relationships, we truly sacrifice more than we can afford. The truth is that by investing little in the important people we have in our lives, we sacrifice much of our potential future influence. How is it possible to determine how our investment in the people around us will play out in the future? Are you willing to ignore your core relationships and sacrifice that potential?
Would you be willing to compromise your values to make your work become successful? What are your core values? I've had to re-evaluate my core values and shift the importance of things as simple as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Yes, these are fruits of the Spirit as referenced in Galatians 5:22-23. Where are you when you compare your life to these ideals? Just remember, as you ask yourself this question and reflect upon the answer, we all have areas we need to work on, (Romans 3:23) "for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."
Would you lie? I desire to be trusted. If I lie, I can't be trusted. If I make you think I am telling the truth and you believe it, I cannot be trusted. I am sad to say that I have lied at work to get ahead, or to preserve what I already had.
Would you cheat? Just like telling the truth, cheating can be placed as important, or OK because I need the certification, or the license to keep moving up the ladder at work. I might even need the certification or license to keep my current job. Is it worth it? I thought so at one time. My values were such that I didn't care if I cheated to get a license that was required for employment. I went ahead and cheated. I got the license. I kept my job. I am now stuck with the thought that I am a liar and a cheater. Are you willing to stake all you are on the foundation of a lie?
Would you steal? Have you ever taken anything from your workplace? What was it? How many times? It is possible to steal items or intellectual property to improve one's chance of success. Whether it be lie, steal, or cheat, many of us are willing to excuse our behavior as acceptable. In any of these situations, the end result is compromised trust. BOOM!
Would you abandon other important things to make success a reality? What did your last performance appraisal say? How does it compare with the true state of your heart? Does it say that you are dedicated, so dedicated in fact that you stay at work and leave your family waiting for you to come home and have dinner with them? Does it say that you are an upstanding employee even though they don't know the stuff you stole from the office last year? What are you willing to give up or abandon for your success? How do you measure success now, with all of these questions rolling around in your thoughts? Success is simple, look for it in your core relationships, with God, your spouse, your family, your friends, your co-workers and any other persons you come in contact with.
With all that said, work is a relationship destruction factory if you allow it to be. It will take some work on your part in order to make work not be so intrusive. You will have to set some boundaries. Without clear boundaries, the canyon will grow enormous.