By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
Just the other day my son was packing up to move in to his apartment near the college he is attending. This is his senior year. As we were talking about his final year and classes, he became visibly frustrated.
He said, ”You know dad I have spent a lot of energy to get my degree in a field that will still require many additional years of resume building after college to be successful. Quite honestly, I don’t know if the degree is even worth the piece of paper it is printed on.” An honest question to be sure.
After a little more discussion I realized that my son thought we wanted him to get his degree only for the sake of having a handsome document to hang on his office wall one day, even though Evan is already very passionate and accomplished in his chosen field of study.
I said, “Evan, your degree is primarily for you. And your education is not just what you learn in class nor the parchment that will hang on your wall. It does include those things, but it also includes the experience of college itself. You have met amazing people both professors and classmates from many places that have challenged and expanded your thinking. They have helped you to grow as a person. More importantly you have learned how to ‘learn,’ which will serve you well for the rest of your life.”
“But the most important benefit of getting your degree,” I said, “is self-respect.” As he took a moment to let that sink in, I said, “Self-respect is not the same as self-esteem.” Evan is a very capable young man and is very confident so I went on to share with him the difference between self-esteem and self-respect.
I said, “As Christ-followers we get our self-esteem through knowing deep in our hearts that God loves and esteems us, even in spite of ourselves at times. And He proved that through the gift of His Son Jesus. So our self-esteem comes from the hand of God. However, with God’s help, our self-respect comes from our hand.”
I went on to share with him that God even expressed this idea in the book of Genesis. After He finished creation He looked around and realized it was missing something: us. So He created Adam and gave him the Garden of Eden to take care of. I believe the garden was Adam’s gift from God. God gave Adam something to derive great personal pleasure and satisfaction from, the work of his hand.
Think about it, in situations that are for the most part under our control, when we put our best effort into our work we feel great and when we do a poor effort we feel, well, poor or at least unfulfilled. And we cannot respect ourselves if it’s not our best effort.
I believe once we learn how to “get” self-respect and not depend on others to give it to us, we become free. Free to enjoy our family, friends and even coworkers without putting unreasonable and unfair demands on them. Free to enjoy our relationship with God, knowing He wired us this way and loves to see us succeed and experience the feeling and fulfillment of self-respect.
I’m not saying we should not depend on or need others in our lives. That’s a whole other lesson in itself, but I am saying that God loved us so much that He gave every human on the planet an amazing gift—the ability to enjoy the work of our hands—and feel good about it.
Here’s my personal example of this principle. I have had the honor of writing this monthly article for about three years now without pay and on rare occasions do I get to talk to you (the reader) about the articles to see “How I’m doing.” Those I have chatted with have been delightful. But to be very honest, I just love writing the articles. Seeing the work of my hand and knowing I put my heart and soul into these—very satisfying work—to me.
If you have been reading my articles for a while you know I usually have some type of ‘call to action’ as I close and so I don’t disappoint my regular reading friends, here it is.
What are you doing that is creating self-respect? Are you helping your homebound neighbor, feeding the poor, writing your first novel, learning a new skill or leading an amazing team? Whatever it is—take time to enjoy the work of your hands. If you are doing something and don’t feel good about it—ask yourself—what could I do differently that would make me feel good about it?
To your spiritual health,
Alex E. Anderson