Readability

Work vs. Purpose


My wife is frustrated.

Over Christ­mas break, I watched her con­stantly work­ing. Despite the hol­i­days, she would get up at 5:30 in the morn­ing and was work­ing con­stantly until 8 pm. At that point, she col­lapsed onto the couch next to me, maybe mak­ing it through an episode of “The Man in the High Cas­tle,” and then going up to bed right after.

After a few days of this, I saw an oppor­tu­nity for us to just sit together and enjoy each other’s com­pany. Her response was “I need to dust upstairs.” Now, I’m sure there are some dust bun­nies hid­ing in the crevices, but over­all our house is fairly clean, and cer­tainly dust­ing wasn’t on the pri­or­ity list. So I asked her to nix that. She looked stressed, which I didn’t get. I mean, I just STOPPED her from doing work so we could relax together. How is that not…relaxing?

My wife’s reply was telling. “If I’m not work­ing, I feel lazy. But if I work all day, I’m exhausted and tired.”

A catch-​22 if I ever saw one, exac­er­bated, I think, by social media.


Social media has done great things to con­nect peo­ple. One big prob­lem is that it is only a snap­shot in time. For every cute baby pic­ture there are a thou­sand moments of baby’s cry­ing, scream­ing, puk­ing and oth­er­wise doing things you DON’T post on Facebook.

Every par­ent of mul­ti­ple chil­dren knows this. Every new par­ent that grew up with social media does not. We mis­tak­enly view our friends social media as the truth and com­pare our­selves to this ideal con­stantly, despite know­ing that not every­thing on the inter­net is true. It isn’t help­ing us one bit.

The other bru­tal truth is that work is not the same as hav­ing pur­pose. We con­tinue to tell our­selves that if we just made enough money, or had a nicer house, or did a bit more to dis­ci­pline our kids, or what­ever, then we would be happy. And yet, we can spend our entire lives work­ing hard and never get any hap­pier, even if our income rises.

So we get stuck in a nasty loop. We’re told that our suc­cess is mea­sured by hav­ing the per­fect kids, per­fect house, per­fect job, etc. And yet, none of us do, and what’s worse, we see oth­ers that we think “have it all.” So we work harder, dri­ving our­selves fur­ther into the neg­a­tive rein­force­ment loop. Are we sur­prised that Face­book makes us sad?

This isn’t new, in fact, it’s as old as the Bible:

As they con­tin­ued their jour­ney he entered a vil­lage where a woman whose name was Martha wel­comed him. She had a sis­ter named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet lis­ten­ing to him speak. Martha, bur­dened with much serv­ing, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sis­ter has left me by myself to do the serv­ing? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anx­ious and wor­ried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has cho­sen the bet­ter part and it will not be taken from her.” — LUKE 10: 3842

We can get pur­pose out of work, but that requires plac­ing work as an offer­ing to God, as a way to find mean­ing. We short cir­cuit this when we use work to ele­vate our­selves over oth­ers. We get into a com­par­i­son war, even if it’s only in our heads, and we always wind up as the loser.

Martha vocal­ized her com­par­i­son war. Jesus reminded Martha that work is no sub­sti­tute for pur­pose. We all likely need this reminder more often than not.


My wife is frustrated.

Over Christmas break, I watched her constantly working. Despite the holidays, she would get up at 5:30 in the morning and was working constantly until 8 pm. At that point, she collapsed onto the couch next to me, maybe making it through an episode of “The Man in the High Castle,” and then going up to bed right after.

After a few days of this, I saw an opportunity for us to just sit together and enjoy each other’s company. Her response was “I need to dust upstairs.” Now, I’m sure there are some dust bunnies hiding in the crevices, but overall our house is fairly clean, and certainly dusting wasn’t on the priority list. So I asked her to nix that. She looked stressed, which I didn’t get. I mean, I just STOPPED her from doing work so we could relax together. How is that not…relaxing?

My wife’s reply was telling. “If I’m not working, I feel lazy. But if I work all day, I’m exhausted and tired.”

A catch-22 if I ever saw one, exacerbated, I think, by social media.


Social media has done great things to connect people. One big problem is that it is only a snapshot in time. For every cute baby picture there are a thousand moments of baby’s crying, screaming, puking and otherwise doing things you DON’T post on Facebook.

Every parent of multiple children knows this. Every new parent that grew up with social media does not. We mistakenly view our friends social media as the truth and compare ourselves to this ideal constantly, despite knowing that not everything on the internet is true. It isn’t helping us one bit.

The other brutal truth is that work is not the same as having purpose. We continue to tell ourselves that if we just made enough money, or had a nicer house, or did a bit more to discipline our kids, or whatever, then we would be happy. And yet, we can spend our entire lives working hard and never get any happier, even if our income rises.

So we get stuck in a nasty loop. We’re told that our success is measured by having the perfect kids, perfect house, perfect job, etc. And yet, none of us do, and what’s worse, we see others that we think “have it all.” So we work harder, driving ourselves further into the negative reinforcement loop. Are we surprised that Facebook makes us sad?

This isn’t new, in fact, it’s as old as the Bible:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” – LUKE 10: 38-42

We can get purpose out of work, but that requires placing work as an offering to God, as a way to find meaning. We short circuit this when we use work to elevate ourselves over others. We get into a comparison war, even if it’s only in our heads, and we always wind up as the loser.

Martha vocalized her comparison war. Jesus reminded Martha that work is no substitute for purpose. We all likely need this reminder more often than not.