As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, I want to draw attention to America’s Twin-Tower Values of Hard Work and Achievement
There is nothing wrong with hard work. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right that “without ambition one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” There is nothing wrong with having goals and finding happiness in our work. “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” The psychologist William James said that. “Choose a job you love,” Confucius told his followers, “and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Hard work is good, and so is having goals. So when do those good things turn bad? They turn bad when:
- We put everything in life ahead of God
- We never take even one step toward God
- We do not pass on the rich legacy God wants us to claim
- We never actually see the handiworks of the Lord’s creation
- We are so overcharged with stress we cannot say to our best friend, “I love you”
- We go to bed at night in turmoil and sleep with our back to the person we love the most
- We live without ever experiencing true joy and peace, and
- We live not a single day with God’s unforced rhythms of grace
That is just a sampling of a very long list of things that can go wrong when we are not in harmony with God’s will. They are hard to spot when stressed out and playing the activity management game. It was that way for me. No wonder I ended up in the success-driven trap. I was just like every other hard charger slamming away at a career, trying to make a name for himself, and trying to become rich. What was wrong with that, right?
After all, living with stress and chasing success is an extension of America’s twin-tower values of hard work and achievement. Most of us had these values drilled in with instructions to “never give up” and “dream a dream.” We believed Winston Churchill, who told us, “Never, never, never give in!” And why not? Those values are admirable and a very important part of our culture. I teach my kids those values today. Yet while the post-World War II version of hard work and achievement taught the necessity of “making it in life,” it was short on meaning. We have sacrificed feelings and emotions for success and what we think is financial security. Is it any wonder life for most is devoid of meaning and significance?
What is wrong with this is the huge price we pay for not feeding the spiritual needs within our hearts and souls. We can sign up with Virgin Galactic to travel to the border with space, but do we know how to reach God? Despite the sad results of Virgin’s latest flight test results, the technological wonders and wizardry of the twenty-first century are awe-inspiring. But have they taught us that? Though there are now psychological understandings and methods for coping with whatever trauma we encounter, the deep human spiritual need to know the Creator has not gone away.
Mark Affleck is a CEO-Leader, Pastor, speaker, author, and transformative change agent. He is currently President & CEO of YellowChair Strategy (YCS). Founded in 1993 with the launch of “Adapt or Die: Surviving the Change Age,” YCS helps Churches, Christian organizations, and marketplace companies transform their today in order to arrive alive tomorrow.