Recently I have been thinking a lot about how much we are defined by our production or doing. We have numbers all around us telling us whether we are doing a good job of accomplishing our own or other people’s goals for us. I have to admit I like many of these numbers. I enjoy recording on goodreads that I have finished another book and seeing my number of books for the year go up. I like that the Bible app I often use for reading my Bible records how many days I have read scripture in a row. I have a goal for the number of steps I walk/run each day, I have a goal for how much money I save throughout the year, I record what I do for work, etc., etc., etc.
These aren’t bad things – in fact, sometimes they help motivate me to be who I believe I have been called to be.
But being who I have been called to be is the key.
We aren’t what we produce. I am not the numbers that I can record. Instead the numbers I record should help me to live out who I am. The opposite is so often the way we are viewed and, even worse, how we view ourselves. We accept the lie that we are what we produce and that our value comes from the value of what we accomplish/produce. Thus our companies, decades ago, moved from departments of personnel, concerned with the people who the company employed, to departments of human resources, concerned with making sure that the humans who are resources to the company are most effectively used just as the materials department is concerned that the company’s material resources are best used for the company’s goal. You are not just a resource to be used.
I think determining our value by our production is also why we usually first ask a person what they do for work when we are introducing ourselves. “What is your production value?” “Well I am retired now, BUT I used to produce this and it was of high value.” Or we ask our spouse and kids at the end of day “so what did you do today”, as if what was done is the most important part of a day. You and I are not just the value of what we do.
Our value comes from the One who loves us and created us, not for the numbers we produce. Still our choices do help us to live out who He proclaims us to be. I am a father, my choices help me to live out being a good or a bad father. I am a son, my choices help me to live out being a son. I am a friend, my choices determine what type of friend I am. I am a child of God, my choices shape what type of child I am.
I like something that the Danish Philosopher and believer Søren Kierkegaard wrote on the subject. He wrote,
“Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”Søren Kierkegaard, Papers and Journals, Page 295
I like the quote because it acknowledges that we can’t make free choices without God’s help (scripture says we are slaves to sin) but that the goal of His help is to enable us to make choices that are consistent with who we are and who we are becoming. We aren’t just our production, but what we produce should be consistent with who we are (or as I understand it, who we have been proclaimed to be by a gracious and loving God). The numbers in our lives aren’t bad, but they can become so when we think those numbers are who we are. You are so much more than those numbers. You are claimed by God. I am the brother to the Lord.
I believe one of the saddest things of this whole situation is that using our production to determine our value actually robs us of the joy and pride that we should be able feel when we accomplish something. Instead of feeling a sense of accomplishment, we immediately feel the need to do more. Rather than being able to recognize that we just accomplished some good work, we see the faults that are present and believe we must still improve on our work. When your production determines your value then your production has to be of ultimate value … and that is something that nothing we can produce can ever give us. Ultimate value being placed on things that were never meant to provide ultimate value destroys not only our joy, but also the portion of joy that those things used to be able to provide us.
One of the parenting things that Pam and I did when the boys where significantly younger was to teach them that advertisements would often promise things or make claims that the product could never deliver on because the promise was for a need that the product wasn’t design to meet. For example, if you buy this truck you will suddenly be the type of person who does work requiring a truck. If you buy North Face gear then you will become someone who spends lots of time outdoors. If you buy this product the your family will begin to love spending time together. So much advertising uses values that are way beyond the product, to try and sell the product to us. This product will bring you community, hope, meaning, etc., etc.
Nope, it won’t
So we taught the boys to shout out at the TV “That’s a lie!” when they saw a commercial that was obviously saying it could deliver something that was beyond’s its scope. I hope it helped them learn that many things make promises that they could never fulfill. I know their tiny voices screaming at the television helped me learn that lesson.
This Adam Sandler SNL skit is along a similar vein.
So maybe when we begin to feel the need to define ourselves based off what we produce we need to remind ourselves that our production can’t determine our value. Therefore, our work is not who we are, our hobbies don’t have to be productive, we don’t have to be using every second effectively, we did a good job (not a perfect job) and that is okay. You and I are so much more than what we produce and do. So be comfortable with just being, rather than always doing.
As the old cliché goes, “You are a human BEING, not a human DOING.” It is clichéd, but it is also true.