In staff devotions this morning we heard words that summed up the human condition quite succinctly.
We all have within us a desire to matter, a desire to have our value recognised, a desire to be approved.
This got me thinking – where does my belief in my own value or worth come from? If I’m honest, often it comes from the wrong places.
Now I’m going to make a bit of a leap here readers and use inclusive language and say that often we seek the acknowledgement of our value and worth in the wrong places and in the wrong ways.
We seek it based on a variety of different things; our appearance, our possessions, our careers, our wit, our intellect, our talents, our fitness, our finances, our friends, our reliability, our family heritage, our children, our abilities.
Very few of us remember to seek our value from the source that has actually already validated us, the one place and person who will approve of us without needing to see a resume or a bank balance or a family tree or even a referee. Maybe you’re really familiar with John 15:16 maybe you know it really well.
If you are, that’s great! There are a great number of people who aren’t. There is a world of people seeking for value in all the wrong places.
We live in a world that celebrates and rewards those who put themselves forward… we celebrate the brash, we celebrate the new, we celebrate and pursue the fleeting and the artificial.
We mourn and sometimes rage against consumerism, but sadly it is fuelled by our need to be validated by things and people outside of ourselves.
We are designed to be dependant on Someone, this is true. We are designed to draw our worth and value from Another.
There are I think, two main causes of heartache, one occurs when we believe that the sense of value/worth is something we can earn and the second comes when we accept that validation from the wrong sources which ultimately will not ever satisfy.
In Robots, a movie that I’ve watched many times over, as it used to be my son’s favourite the message is quite clear. The “bad” characters are trying to remove the old, outmoded and the unconventional in favour of the new, these characters set about creating a need in the general populous. Their slogan is simple “Why be you, when you can be new?”
I would argue that it’s a slogan that has been used for a long time now.
Why else do we need the latest new phone – when the one we have is working? Why do we need new shoes when the ones we have are fine?
Why do we need to upgrade our cars when we have one that’s fine? Why do we need a brand new home, a bigger kitchen, a new ……? (You can fill in the blank with the thing you clamour for to bring you acceptance.)
I’m asking these questions of myself more than of you because in true blog writing style this is a bit of a stream of consciousness exercise.
We see it in our kids “I need a new pencil case” I was told on the way home from school today. Why? “Mine has a hole in it.” I suggested that one of the 5 others at home would do. The response was a fairly definitive “NO, they are old”.
Simple, isn’t it?
If we get our value or worth from possessions then there comes a time when they need to be updated in order for the individual to maintain worth/value … toy manufacturers know this to be true. If you’ve bought one product from a 10 product Lego series you’ll understand this!
Unfortunately the kids aren’t the only ones who fall for this: a fair number of the adults raising the children are also on the same track.
The middle aged woman who hasn’t realised yet that her value is not based on society’s view of what is attractive… after all society doesn’t really have much of a view of an attractive middle ager. Advertisers are too busy telling her how to “fix” herself to remind her to celebrate herself. And if she does accept the offered standard; what is she teaching her daughter, or the young women at her church? Mimicking the standards that 20 year olds follow doesn’t work for most 20 year olds, it really doesn’t work for a woman of maturity who should be modelling a dignity that comes with age and a knowledge of self, that gives those 20 year olds hope for the future. She should be valued because of her age and because of her experience not valued based on her ability to conceal and hide it. This doesn’t mean that she can’t take pride in her appearance. But she matters now, she has value now – but how much more could she didn’t feel pressured to feel uncomfortable in her own skin. How much more could she matter to others if they were her focus. I speak to myself on this one … especially as the greys begin to multiply. 😉
I’m saddened by the number of women and girls who feel that they have to alter themselves in order to be accepted, in order to be approved. I am angered by the people who encourage this – people who tell girls that “you would look pretty if you lost some weight”, or that “you could be pretty if you wore more make up”, or that “no one is going to give you any attention if you don’t dress like this”. Because ultimately that’s the big thing wrong with what girls are learning, “attention equals value/worth”. “Fitting in is good” – yep, sure it’s good if you are fitting in with a healthy ideal and healthy people. Never mind encouraging a girl to be comfortable with herself, best point out to her all the ways she isn’t like everyone else (cause she really needs them pointed out!!) and instead of celebrating those differences, make them her focus now for why she’ll never be accepted. As Natalie Merchant alluded in her lyrics it is something girls seem to “know” no one needs to give voice to these thoughts.
Now throw in the next problem – the teenage boys (and often men) who think that their value comes from finding what society has defined for them as the “hottest” girl. What the advertising industry, music industry, billboards, tv shows, and porn industry have failed to warn him of is that the “hottest” isn’t going to provide him with the value he is seeking, and he’s not going to be able to provide her with what she is seeking either. If she seeks her value and worth from attention, well then his attention is going to be enough for how long..?? With the boys pursuing unrealistic standards, no teenage girl is going to be able to measure herself against those standards and think that she is enough. This sets a pretty awful cycle into motion. I do believe that we are doing both the girls and the boys a great disservice in allowing them to think that these standards are worth attaining to or measuring themselves against.
Too many are placing their value, worth and “acceptability” in the hands of others who are equally damaged. They need to be told, “you are valued”, “you have a worth in yourself but that this worth cannot be fully realised as long as you resist the Maker who is the source of your individuality.”
This is something that bothers me massively, and working with teenagers everyday probably brings it more to the forefront. I guess the main reason that I get so annoyed/fired up about this is how often people tell us that we can get our value from things, and how often we believe them.
I diverted a little from my original intent for this today so maybe in closing I’ll leave you with a couple of questions.
Are there any teenagers in your life who could do with some more information about where to seek value and worth?
Can you yourself identify where your value comes from?
Does your value come from the number of activities you are involved in?
Does it come from the amount of service you are doing?
Does it come from your ability to make others serve you?
Does it come from your appearance being acknowledged?
Does it come from attention?
Is the accumulation of possessions important?
Is it a sense of moral superiority that makes you feel worth something?
Is it that you know that you have read John 15 and know the following to be true for you?
You are loved – As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
You are chosen – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit..
You have joy – These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.