Value Cycles (Or, Why Work Doesn’t Define Us But We Need To Work)

I sat down for a moment at work the other day to soak in the fact that I had been running from one end of the building to the other pretty much since I had arrived earlier that morning. For a majority of the day, there hadn’t actually been much to do, but I still found myself going back and forth for a while in the quest for productivity.

I had to stop and sit down in order to take all of this into consideration. I mean, I had just gotten back from a week of vacation time, and to be quite honest, I was getting a little frustrated on Sunday that it wasn’t Monday and it wasn’t time for me to get back to the office. And in the earlier moments of the day, I was frustrated that I just hadn’t quite found anything productive to do with my time. When I actually was given a task, I turned to a co-worker who had noticed my restlessness and proudly proclaimed “I found something to do!”

Sitting on that bench for a moment shed a great deal of light on the motivation I was acting off of. Not just the motivation I was working with on that particular workday, but a greater motivation that seems to live on in all of us.

Something I’ve been learning about myself in my young adult life is that I thrive off of productivity, even if my personality loves playing video games for hours on end. It’s the productivity that makes me feel at the end of the day that I can go to sleep and it hasn’t all been a waste. I’ve wondered if maybe I just enjoy a high work rate. If maybe I simply enjoy productivity for the sake of productivity. It’s probably something deeper than that.

“I do video and tech work at a church”. That’s the answer when people ask what my job is. “I do video and tech work” isn’t a lie. My title is “Videographer” at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. But I willingly choose to answer that way, ignoring the fact that half of my job isn’t video and tech work. Half of my job is in youth ministry.

Yet, the common perception is often that youth ministry isn’t as important a job. To the outside world, youth ministry can be a punchline. It’s the people that “actually do stuff” that are more important. And that’s why I answer the way I do. I want to be important.

When I am productive, I feel like I matter. When I accomplish things, I feel like people would want me around. I can honestly not care about the numbers and statistics surrounding my social media life, but if I can cross off just one more task from my To-Do list, then I am validated.

There is an insatiable thirst to be appreciated. To be valued and to have value. That’s what so often actually drives me when I am in the workplace. That’s what drives us in nearly everything we do. We have an ingrown need of value and importance and we don’t know where it’s supposed to come from. That’s why so many people dream of being rock stars and actors. They don’t feel the appreciation from those around them, but they see the appreciation that those around them heap onto celebrities.

I sat on a bench at work the other day as an unknown, non-celebrity, who does video and tech work and youth ministry. And I had to be reminded that there is value in what I do, but my value doesn’t come out of that.

That’s probably what we’re not taught enough in our society. Yes, we live in a world where “Everybody is a winner!” and participation counts just as much as being the MVP. Yet, in that, we aren’t teaching anybody why it’s important to participate. And to actually participate, to actually be productive.

Maybe it’s a cycle that we often overlook. Maybe we only see one side at a time. We either see life as being all about succeeding and that if you fail, you are meaningless. On the other side, we see just simply existing as the point of life, and we are owed recognition even if we haven’t worked to earn it. As it is with most things, the truth probably sits right there in the middle, completely ignored by us, and we can’t see that our value is ours simply because we exist, so we should be productive in order to make that value fully whole.

There is value in what you do. Don’t ever act like there isn’t.
Your value isn’t in what you do. Don’t ever act like it is.


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