News and Tribune

July 11, 2013

MAY: Determining your own value

Local columnist

Whenever we were about to do something easy or pleasant — especially in comparison to more difficult things we had been doing — my father used to say that it would be “a walk along the beach.” Maybe that is the reason to this day my favorite vacations take me to a beach. A walk along the beach perfectly captures serenity, renewal and enjoyment for me.

What is it that makes some experiences “a walk along the beach” and other experiences a slow drudge through a hurricane? Do we have any control over the outcome?

On the way to work this morning, I got caught in a traffic jam on the interstate and came to a complete stop. The first thing that popped into my head was, “This is not as enjoyable as being caught in a traffic jam on the way to Florida.”

We spent 10 days vacationing in a little Gulf town near Destin, Fla. On the way down in Alabama, we were caught on the interstate in a traffic jam. The delay did not faze me one bit. We grabbed drinks from the cooler, turned up the music, and chatted about what could be causing the delay, wondering how the beaches looked, planning what we would do once we arrived.

When the traffic eased up this morning, the flow of vehicles guided me to the Ohio River bridge and I remembered thinking, “This is not as fun as crossing the bridge over the Choctawhatchee Bay heading to Santa Rosa Beach.”

As I continued the journey to work, I began to think about “why” I enjoyed — valued — the other experiences more. Obviously it was a vacation — I was not going to be dealing with the challenges and stresses of work. I placed a high importance and value upon that week of getting away from the daily routines. The scenery was different — prettier perhaps because it was not familiar —but no more a part of God's creation than the scenery to which I have become accustomed. The difference was the value that I placed on it … a decision made inside my mind.

During the normal work week, I tend to allow value to be determined by those around me. I crave to be respected by my peers, to do a job that is important and valued by others, to make a significant difference in my family and in the lives of others. And I often allow my opinion of my value to be solely shaped by those around me. If people are critical, if my boss doesn't seem to appreciate what I do, if some take advantage of my good nature, I become disenchanted with my job, my family, my life. But it isn’t my circumstances that have changed. Often it is my perception of my value in the eyes of others.

Over the next several weeks, let’s look at those valued, treasured experiences in life. I will describe them as a walk on the beach, but you may substitute your favorite vacation experiences. My brother-in-law will envision the slopes of Colorado’s grandest mountains. A colleague will imagine quiet morning moments in nature, his bow and arrow primed and ready.  

I will vow to make this one change immediately. I will determine value from a standard outside of myself or the opinion of others. I will seek the important things of God on a higher level. I will see the work that I do, the husband or the father that I am, not in terms of the immediate or the urgent, but in terms of the things that are important.  I will not rely upon the opinion of others to shape the value of my job, my effectiveness or my enjoyment of life.

Those are far too important of concepts to be left in the hands of others.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.