I grew up Dutch Reformed which, besides being its own particular flavor of Christianity, is also a culture. Lots of strong families, strong work ethics, and strong community support. The food runs bland, the faith runs studious, and on Sundays you made sure not to mow the yard for fear that the neighbors might think you weren’t taking a true Sabbath.
My attitudes towards work were imminently shaped by my home culture. Protestant work ethic certainly was fundamental (work hard). While not formally spelled out (at least at a young age), the idea of “domains” (home, church, and work) was very evident. Each domain deserved your time, energy, and sometimes money.
When it comes to what type of work (or the question of “what am I suppose to do in this life?”), I remember two specific messages from two different pastors.
The first pastor said “God doesn’t care. You going to be a ditch digger, be a ditch digger. Going to be a doctor, be a doctor. What matters is that you’re giving Him glory in whatever you do.”
The second pastor said essentially the same thing. He also put some historical context on the question of profession. “This is modern problem. For most of history, you did what your parents did, which was farming.”
This message contrasted with the message often heard during my college years and, I confess, often given to my students when I was in the classroom (at least to a certain degree).
That message was that in choosing your work profession, make sure to do what you love.
There are problems with the message. And Miya Tokumitsu does an excellent job of explaining those problems in her article “In the Name of Love Elites embrace the “do what you love” mantra. But it devalues work and hurts workers.”
An example of a good takeaway quote:
DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.
As I work on a series of posts and a presentation on how technology is radically altering the labor market, I found this article to resonate because many of the jobs left in this current economy are service jobs. Boring, repetitious, non creative, jobs (fast food, dependent care, big box stores).
And sometimes it’s good to remember that work is just work. Not a higher calling or a reflection of who you are as an individual.