It is sad how often we try to determine our own value by how much we feel that we have accomplished. There are several problems with this assessment. First, we tend to focus on this evaluation most when we feel the least accomplished. When things have not worked out as hoped in our lives we begin to reflect on our own apparent worthlessness.
The second problem is that the more often we conclude that we are worthless the more likely we are to live as if this is the case. Why try when nothing we endeavor to accomplish works anyway? This notion can be debilitating and can keep us from making progress toward our goals. Hope is one of our primary motivators. With the loss of hope goes the confidence that with time and effort our situation can improve.
The biggest problem with determining our own value by how much we have accomplished is that it leaves us inherently unstable. When we feel good about what we have done we have value. When we seem to fail or when we are no longer able to do what once made us feel accomplished, we are devalued. This ebb and flow can pick us up and beat us back down throughout our lives unless we learn to see our value somewhere higher.
This is especially important to understand during a time when so many are without work and spend many months looking for jobs. Research has shown that a prolonged job search without being hired can have a more devastating long-term effect on the human psyche than almost anything else that we can experience.
For others the challenge is struggling to move up in life while looking around and seeing others within their own age group who are well-established in their careers. This comparison can lead one to the devastating conclusion they they just don’t have what it takes to succeed.
So what is it that defines our worth? While struggling through this issue in my personal life I recently remembered a sermon by Henri Nouwen called “Being the Beloved” that I heard a few years ago. While watching it on YouTube I found strength in the reminder that who we are and what defines is that we are beloved sons and daughters of God.
All our lives we look for our identity, defining ourselves by what we have, what we do, and what people say about us. Each of these things leave us unstable and empty. What truly defines our worth and gives sustained hope is that we are God’s beloved children. This is our identity and our task is to claim it and to live under the influence of this reality.
Only when we understand that our worth is not wrapped up in what we have done but rather in a love that we have freely received, will we be able to break the grip of the idea that we are what we do. Believing that we are more than what we have done will then empower us to live out the value that we have received rather than fighting to prove our worth.