Finding your Value
Do you get your value because of what you can do or because of who you are?
The truth is that we as people and the societies we live in really revolve around a quest for value. Wars are fought, empires born, governments lost and lives forever changed by our sense of “value.” Both the ancient and modern worlds are defined by societies that believe they are better or more valuable than their neighbors.
A distorted sense of value causes us to look on others as being less than we are. On a societal level this translates into competition between nations that often ends in war. Among individuals the idea that one person is better than another will result in gender bias, racism, religious persecution and economic slavery. Our societies today struggle with marital/sexual violence, economic exploitation, fraud, street crime, substance abuse and addiction – the list is endless!
I was a NYS Supreme Court Justice for eighteen years. As I reflect on those years I begin to understand that the whole system of justice and law in our societies is driven by people seeking “value.” Some illustrations:
- A person is injured because of the negligence of another. They seek to be made “whole” by a system of justice that puts a dollar value on their physical and financial loss!
- A husband or wife want to end their marriage because they are no longer valued by their spouse often without regard for the consequences to their children, who then question their own value.
- Another person takes what they want from someone else because they want to have that object of value for themselves.
- People assault and even murder one another because they place no value on the other person or group of people.
- People destroy their bodies with heroin and other toxic substances because they believe they have no value.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to value one another and value ourselves?
I suppose that would turn on where we get our value from. Is our value based on what we can do or achieve, what possessions we have, what control we have over others, what our society says about us, what our friends say about us? Or does our value come from understanding who we are regardless of our circumstances?
In this time of cyber bullying, inundation of social media “norms,” pressure to succeed, it is more important than ever to understand who we are – to not let our identity and value be dictated by our insecurities.
I was recently speaking to an audience in Mexico about “identity.” Who we are at the core. I was using a 2,000-year-old story or parable found in the Bible. It is the story of the ‘Lost Coin.”
Luke 15:8-10 (NIV)
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?
9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’
10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I became aware of several concepts that are unspoken in this story:
- The coin doesn’t know it is lost
- The owner is looking for the coin and will do anything to find it
- When the coin is found, it becomes valuable
- There is rejoicing in heaven when we learn our value
The application of these simple truths to our own lives can release us from all the fear, shame, anxiety and control we all feel at times.
Obviously at various points in our lives we are the coin that is lost and probably don’t even know it. How often have we tried to fill an empty void in our lives with relationship or possessions or substances? It fills the emptiness for a short time but not for long. Then we need more! More relationships, more possessions more drugs or medications. Never enough – because we are lost and have no value. Things cannot fill the void.
This parable tells us that God, our creator/owner, is searching for us even when we think we don’t need him. Even when we don’t know we are lost He is pulling out all the stops to find us and give us value, purpose, identity. It is when He finds us that we begin to understand that He created us – and that understanding alone gives us value!
Once we realize God’s desire for us and that our identity is established in our relationship with Him we are free to treat ourselves and others with respect. Our identity no longer comes from what society dictates but rather from our inherent nature.
Don’t let the word “repent” be a turn off. It doesn’t require us to put on sackcloth and ashes, to feel guilty about all the stuff we’ve done to ourselves and others – no, repentance merely asks us to stop trying to live our lives by ourselves (lost) and start living them as a valuable possession of our creator. Then we become free to learn who we really are. Arrogance is replaced with gratitude. We can interact with others with confidence, humility, compassion, understanding and love.
What a world that would be!
By R.A Beisner