I have always been a hardworking and driven individual. But as I began my first job, why did I feel a constant unrest and pressure to achieve? What actually were my motives behind this good work ethic?
Making a good impression
I’m sitting at work.
I complete my work ahead of deadline. Everyone needs to know about it.
I make a mistake. I try to cover it up.
My boss comes into the office. I suddenly work much faster.
The first few weeks of my first job began something like this. Like the majority of people, I wanted to make a good first impression. I worked hard and learnt as much as I could, as quickly as I could.
But it wasn’t long before thoughts of, “If I work really hard, then they will notice me,” and, “Do they really know how much work I do?” began to creep in. My “good work” was tainted by these proud thoughts and my happiness was dependent on receiving praise for the work I did.
Recognition for my work had quickly become a necessity. People had to appreciate me.
As time went by, I became increasingly unhappy. I spent my time analysing other people’s reactions of me. This created a pressure and unrest inside that just seemed to grow and grow. The better I became at my job, the more praise I needed. I was never satisfied.
I often used to use the time driving home from work to pray for others. Now I was filled with thoughts of myself and how others may have perceived me. I had become completely self-absorbed. I wanted to do good, but was consumed with thoughts about myself. Looking back now, I can see that in the midst of all my hard work my life revolved around me, my name and my honour.
“As to the Lord”
One Sunday as I sat at church, my thoughts returned to their favourite topic. Me. What would I do and say on Monday morning? It was essential for me to receive the acknowledgement I “deserved.” The speaker quoted the verse, “And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23. As the verse was read, I came crashing back to reality. It suddenly hit me. As to the Lord and not to men! That is the key!
Where had God been in all these thoughts and all the work I had been doing? Whom was I really serving?
I was trying to “work hard,” but God had disappeared from the picture completely. I was just living before people. Although I looked so good outwardly, there was no inner life with Christ. I had no peace inside.
Everything to God’s glory
It was then that I made the decision: In all the work I do and situations I come into, I choose to serve God. I live before His face. I will not let thoughts and complexes of what others think of me determine what I do and how I act. I live for God. If there is any honour due from anything I achieve, it is God who should have the honour. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31.
Just a few moments passed and a thought popped up: “Tomorrow, everyone will notice a different Ellie.” As soon as this thought flitted across my mind I realized it was still being driven by my own pride, and I threw it out immediately. I did not agree with this thought. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to live completely for God. 100%. It has no significance if my colleagues notice anything or not. I prayed to God for strength so that these proud, honour seeking thoughts would no longer swarm me.
The battle against honour seeking had begun.
When these thoughts try to creep their way in, I know now that I can choose not to listen to them. Yes, the thoughts still come but I can refuse to let them stay. I can push them away, and instead fill my mind with good thoughts. I suddenly have time to think and pray for the others again.
Becoming free from people
I’m sitting at work.
I complete my work ahead of deadline. I happily move onto my next task.
I make a mistake. I humble myself, hold up my hand and admit the error.
My boss comes into the office. I continue with my work.
The more I continue with this, the more peace I have inside. Life becomes so simple. If God is happy, then I’m happy. As long as what I am doing is well pleasing to God, it makes no difference what praise I do or don’t receive from people. What the others say or think of me does not need to have any bearing on my happiness. I am becoming free from them.
I know how heavy life can be when I live for other people and not for God. But, I also know that there is a way out of this heaviness, a way to life and peace. I thank God that I have found this way!