The Dignity of Work – A Change in Attitude and Definition

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Today, my hands are deep in flour, my oven is preheating, and my house is clean. It’s a rare sight for this household (as for many others) and it doesn’t come easily. But within that clean house and powdery kitchen is a happy heart. I wish I could say I was graceful, poised, and dignified when I was cleaning yesterday, but if I hold to truth, I cannot claim that statement… No, indeed, I can claim the opposite; I have been stiff, agitated, and a shameful ogre. Let me explain…

After a few days of “rest,” in which I was sleeping, having a Netflix marathon, and eating an immeasurable amount of fruit, I was slowly becoming less and less “rested” in the mental and emotional sense, and more and more disturbed. It wasn’t just the TV, or the abundance of sleep, but rather the lack of anything meaningful once I had physically rested my body enough. I think this is where most people nod in agreement and mention something about moderation. You would think I would not have to relearn that lesson over and over, yet with temptations like Netflix around, it seems I must learn it repeatedly to keep myself accountable. Before I could relearn that lesson though, I made my husband suffer through a few days of my ogre side and only let up after forcing myself to get up and clean my poorly tended home. Although he did have to suffer through one nasty phone call from the ogre venting her frustration at her unfulfilled heart through the guise of complaints about how messy the house had become. There was no dignity in my attitude at all…

After a lot of thought and determination, I went to sleep last night with a plan to be productive today and to honor my family and calling to the best of my ability. Having a clean house was like having a fresh start to my attitude and it seemed to give me the tools I needed to thrive. It made me think a lot about my priorities and the point of getting out of bed before noon. It made me realize that though I may not be in a structured environment anymore where everyday I have clearly set goals and tasks, but that doesn’t mean I cannot have structure or goals in my new daily life. I began to think about my calling as wife and soon to be mother and why I was doing both of those things. I realized that my number one priority is becoming like Christ and helping others to do the same. The biggest place that I, personally, will be able to do that right now is from the home. The thought came to me that I am unable to do that with Netflix binges and laziness. I also realized that I was becoming unhappy in my lack of duty, and that I needed a purpose (if even a small one like making my bed upon awakening) and it made me unsettled to have idle hands.

Now I am not saying that I think that I must rush around like mad and clean all the things constantly, or be completely absorbed in tasks and productivity… I just realized that I needed to incorporate more dignity into my day! More virtue! More of Christ. Before today, I hadn’t picked up a book in ages. I haven’t set out to bake for anyone except for my own sugary cravings in months! I haven’t been working with my hands and using the creative talents that I have been given… I REALLY haven’t been keeping up with the advancement of my education at home, whether in spiritual sense, the academic sense, or the creative sense. I’ve let so much fall away due to tiredness and laziness and ultimately, I believe the real lack of work and Christ in my day has led to the frustration I’ve felt slowly burning.

While waiting for the dinner rolls that I am baking to rise, I picked up the book about Pope Francis that I had begun reading months ago and flipped to the bookmarked section where I had left off. The section, appropriately, was about work! Allow me to quote.

“The thing is, at the end of the day, work anoints a person with dignity.”

I read a little bit further and came upon this passage:

“Work opens a door to realism, and in itself constitutes a clear mandate from God: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’ That is to say, be masters of the earth: Work.”

It was after chewing on those passages for a little while that I recalled the dissatisfaction I had been feeling, and the pointlessness I was struggling with for the last few days. It all began to click and I realized that this is the first time in my life that I’ve had to evaluate what work actually means to me without having it spelled out in an employee handbook. What needs to happen in my daily life? How can I do what God has called me to and how can I “subdue” my little corner with work?

Pope Francis went on to talk about balance when asked if we needed to rediscover the meaning of leisure. He spoke of idleness and of gratification and which one we should choose. He conveyed that working people must rest and spend time with their families, and explained what a day of rest actually looked like (and I can tell you that it was not the idleness and emptiness that a severe Netflix binge chosen on my off day offered). It all made sense!

For years I have been spending my days off “recovering” from my workdays. As an introvert, being around people everyday and smiling and talking to them takes a lot of effort and leaves me drained at the end of the day. But the main reason I needed the “recovery time” was because I never knew how to put my family over my job. I never knew how to say “no,” and consequently I overworked myself to the point of not even knowing how to have a decent day off anymore. I never understood that a real restful day didn’t mean turning my brain off from the world. I would come back after my TV or sleep induced coma and feel the same way that I did before my day off! I think that is the case for many, actually, and a big reason people don’t enjoy their work. As with everything in life, a balance must be found. I’ve seen it both ways–work taking over leisure, and leisure taking over work. But with the knowledge that work brings fulfillment and dignity, and the knowledge of what a real “day of rest” looks like, I think more people would have less reason to just survive their off days, and people would thrive. If I look at my role models, I see that every one of them has a healthy respect and even a love of work. Not just the love of one’s job, but the love of working for Christ with a happy, open heart. That is what I want for myself! I think it starts with my attitude and recognition of the value of work… I’m excited for this change of heart.

And seriously, if you’re looking for a thought provoking and interesting read, pick up this book. It might just be the inspiration you’ve been needing all this time.

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2 thoughts on “The Dignity of Work – A Change in Attitude and Definition

  1. I wanted to comment on this post but I was on my phone, and you know how fun comments from the phone can be, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing these thoughts! I read this post shortly before my hub and I went to do an hour of Adoration and I was praying so much about this fact that my “work” at home is this real dignified, important kind of work that the popes talk about, I had never thought of that before and it was really encouraging and motivating to me! Thank you!!!!

    • I totally understand. Phone comments are such a pain! I wish they were easier! Thank you for taking the time to comment though, it really made my day!
      I’m so glad this post helped you! It’s always so nice how blogging can connect two peope in their homes and maybe the thought of one person in her home can be used to inspire or motivate another person. I feel that way all the time when reading other people’s blogs. It is really awesome that my little insignificant blog post can be helpful to even just one and i am honored that you read it! Thanks so much!

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