How We Value Ourselves

by Martin Poehler

You might have heard it said that Western Society is getting more and more materialistic. People have more goods to enjoy than in previous generations. And as we have more things, we often desire to have even more of them. When people mention "materialism," they usually aren't talking about the benefits of abundant material goods, but about the danger these goods pose to us. It seems material benefits subtly tempt us to deal with each other in a different way than we have previously. With so many disposable things around us, we may begin to treat each other as disposable too.

For example, in the past, large companies would often see a responsibility to provide for their employees throughout their working lives. This unspoken understanding of a guaranteed job for life provided a secure basis for relationships between employees and employers. It brought stability economically and therefore socially to many people's lives. This brought ease in relationships between colleagues, whom we viewed as friends and often greatly trusted. Similar friendships often formed between the spouses and children of colleagues who worked together. But today with many businesses dealing globally, tough competition demands that a company have high profits to satisfy its shareholders and so to survive. Cost-cutting often makes employees "expendable", even if they've given long faithful years of service.

Challenges to Our Self-Value

When people lose their jobs, it causes their economic stability to be shattered and leads to tension in relationships - and in society as a whole. The basis of how we see and act towards each other is being redefined. When your company institutes massive job cuts, friends you worked with for years may now be viewed with suspicion as you each vie for one of the scarce remaining available positions. Companies are starting to judge people to be less important than profits. Some people may measure our worth by our usefulness only - not by some inalienable value we have as people in our own right. We on our part sometimes feel like a piece of a machine instead of like a person.

Certainty of Our Self-Value

Most of us would probably say, "Something is wrong here." We ARE valuable, whether we're disabled and can't work, or whether we are near the end of our work-life and no one gives us a chance for a job, because they don't think it will pay off for their company. Something in us says, "We're not just part of a successful machine, a piece that can be replaced and discarded when judged no longer useful. What we add to a business can partly be measured by our visible productivity, but includes something that is hard to define, yet unique, within each one of us."

The Source of Our Self-Value

Why do we all feel deep down we have great worth, even when societal forces turn on some of us and say we are unproductive and worthless? What is the cause of this greatness we are sure is within us? It's interesting, isn't it? Try as they may, what others say can't shatter our certainty that we are special and we were made to do great things. The writer of one book says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." 1 This suggests the answer to those questions. We are sure we were made to do wonderful things, because we were made with greatness within us. This is because God who created everything made us a "copy" in some ways of himself.

Being made like God keeps us from accepting the notion that we are worthless. It makes us feel sure there is some purpose in life, even during the times when everything seems confusing to us. It explains why we rightfully refuse to let our worth be valued by how employers see us. We are valuable and we know it - because we were made like God and by God. This great truth, if we seriously consider its implications, can guide and even radically change our lives.

1 Gen. 1:29; The Bible.

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