Why do we work? What is it that makes me want to work hard?
This is a question that is really hard to answer, because if I am brutally honest with myself the answer is pretty ugly. Often times, I don’t work hard for very pure and noble reasons. I work hard to be noticed. I work hard to be praised.
Michael Scott from the TV show The Office put it this way – “Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not! I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked, but its not like this compulsive need to be liked…like my need to be praised.”
A little less funny version of that quote can be found in Ecclesiastes 4:4 – And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Often times, I don’t work hard solely because I want my work to be good. I want my work to be good so that I can be noticed. This, as Solomon said, is a chasing after the wind. It can’t be grasped, and the more I chase after that approval the more it slips through my fingers.
Its in these moments, where I find a lack of success to be a grace. If I was successful at something that could ruin me, then life would be pretty miserable.
I’ve gone through several seasons in life – one of them was a gym rat phase. I remember pouring over blogs and articles to find ways to “hack my body.” During this time, I did get quite a bit healthier. I started the process at around 190 pounds. I ended at around 165 pounds.
Despite the health benefits, there were some really bad tendencies in me. I became obsessed with how I looked. I would compare myself to other people online who had washboard abs. Even though I felt great, I was at the lowest weight I had every been, and the strongest I had ever been, I still didn’t have washboard abs. It was something that I didn’t want to admit was probably never going to happen, at least without surgery.
I also received many compliments from friends during that time, “Matt, you’re looking big!” I would start wearing shirts to show off my arms, and I took pictures of myself flexing and posted them on Facebook. I was obsessed with the gym, looking good, and the approval of others.
Every time I go through a phase like this, I always pretend to know what I am talking about in conversations, too. People would ask me what I was doing, and though I was honest, I acted like I knew it all. I didn’t. I just really wanted people to think I did.
I don’t exactly remember when the switch flipped. There were times when I remember sitting at my work desk and thinking about all of the supplements I was taking. “Is this really good for me?” I’d ask myself. Some of them were weight loss supplements loaded with caffeine. Whether it had validity or not, I had the thought – If God has ordained the number of beats my heart has, am I just using them up on “looking good”? In the end, am I still destined to die an early death because of the stuff I’m putting into my body?
The funny thing is, that last question was very similar to the same question I asked myself while eating a cheeseburger meal from Sonic at 230 pounds.
My journey to healthier living began with that question – both times. It was a journey to not just physical healthier living but spiritually healthier living. I’ve gained a fair amount of weight back – now 180 pounds. However, I want being healthy to be about something more than just myself. When I started, it was because I didn’t want to die at an early age and leave the people I loved way too early.
My desire to be healthy wasn’t born out of the the need for approval of other people. My desire to be healthy was born out of a love for other people. Shouldn’t that be at the center of everything we do?