“In the past century, the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings—from necessity to meaning.” Derek Thompson Staff writer at The Atlantic
“So… what do YOU do?”
How many times have you been asked that annoying question?
I say “annoying” because the implications are obvious (as well as disheartening): Our essence as a worthy individual seems to be predicated on what kind of work we do, especially if we can add titles like founder, president, VP, SVP, or CEO. The inferences are clear: such titles mean that we are most likely educated, industrious, competent, and successful. We are worth listening to.
I wonder how Jesus or Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela would have responded to “what do you do?” I imagine they might have been a bit befuddled. (Although all the Prophets above could say, “I am a Peace Maker.”)
For decades we have grown into a society that measures worth by a metric other than fundamental values such as peacemaking and service and kindness. Instead, we value money! And in harmony with money comes status.
Called to Work?
We’ve created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work. We tell young people that their work should be their passion. ‘Don’t give up until you find a job that you love!’ we say. ‘You should be changing the world!’ we tell them.
And then Derek Thompson adds,
The American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.
It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? I am one that holds “work” in very high esteem—but it is not so true for every worker in every job. Some “work to live” while others “live to work.” It seems to me the real issue is about “how you live” or “how you work.” When living is about selfishness and when work is solely about money, both are questionable.
When talking about calling, I doubt the intention of the concept is centered on work itself—even if one works in the service of others. It’s about how one does that work. If done with character, with honor, and with humility then one’s work is a reflection of what the Divine has called you to be.
Therein lays the Good News (i.e. Gospel).
Perhaps Peace Maker may be the best of callings.
It’s Not About WHAT You Do
It’s About HOW You Do It
Photo courtesy of m-gucci at istockphoto