Focus on your value

How much is one person worth

Focus on your value

Marie sat forward in her hard plastic chair. She was a bit nervous, but hungry to understand. The advert in the local paper had read: 

HOW MUCH IS ONE PERSON WORTH?

That headline immediately drew her in. “I’m not worth much” she thought. “Adam works non-stop. Yes, we have a fabulous house, new cars, we go overseas for holidays every year.” But the void inside of her said surely there must be more.

“Hi, I’m Joshua” the man taking the seminar stood at the front. His smile instantly drew her in. “How much is one person worth?” He paused looking at the faces in front of him, and then turning to the screen, clicked the computer mouse to bring a page up. “Many people, when asked “How much are you worth?” they think of the assets they have: How much real estate they own, how many shares they have, how much money they have in the bank, and any other assets they may own.”

Marie nodded. Yes, she thought. That’s so true. Adam places such value on how we look. But I feel so empty.

Joshua gave a half smile, as though he could read Marie’s thoughts. “These are the financial assets of a person, which are trivial when we consider the value of you; you the person.” he paused for emphasis. “In these sessions, we are not talking about surface stuff like money, even though it’s important, but one of the most essential factors in being human. Our self-image: how valued we feel in our inner person. This self-image is important for several reasons.”

Joshua turned to the screen on which was written:

▪ Our own happiness,
▪ Good relationships with other people,
▪ Setting goals (a person with a poor self-image is less likely to set ambitious goals, often because they fear failing which will damage their self-image even further),
▪ Striving to accomplish those goals (a person with low self-esteem can be afraid of being successful. Success simply is not in their mindset),
▪ Being free from addictive habits including alcohol, tobacco, lust, cutting and drugs.

“Many people attempt to satisfy their inner need for value with money, status, a cool job, who our friends are, what they look like, and because of that, how well they are accepted. Largely these fall flat and do not satisfy our inner person. Do you agree?” he asked.

Heads were nodding, including Marie’s. Sounds just like Adam she thought. He really needs to listen to this.

“Our self-worth is often based on what other people think of us. For example, if someone was bullied at school, work or in any other environment, often that person will become depressed and think they are not worth much if anything at all. Unfortunately, in a worst-case scenario, occasionally someone will commit suicide because of bullying.” He scratched his beard, showing a glint of something?

Were those tears in Joshua’s stunning blue eyes? Marie leaned forward. He really cares, she thought.

Joshua continued. “So, can we feel valued and treasured even when others put us down or bully us?” He waggled his eyebrows, causing spontaneous laughter. He grinned. These weekly meetings will provide an answer to these questions.”

“Right!” he said. “Let’s take some very common themes.” He clicked on the mouse to a new screen and said, ‘Cory had several cars. Most of them were a little different from a “standard” car. He wanted people to notice him so that he would feel good. Cory got his self-worth, at least in part, from how others looked at him.’
“Umm hmm? Are you following?”

“Okay. So, Darren drove an expensive car for much the same reasons. Who doesn’t like to drive a fast, expensive car? Bit different from my donkey.”

The group laughed.

“We tend to look up to people who drive expensive cars. BUT! What some people don’t understand, is that often the status symbol cars, you know, the brand-new cars, do not belong to them. They are company cars provided for status and prestige for this very reason – people tend to look up to those who drive new or expensive cars. Or the cars are financed on borrowed money and therefore give a false impression of the status/financial standing of that person. Yes?” Joshua looked around to ensure the group understood.

He continued. “Likewise, we tend to look up to people who live in expensive suburbs. Or sometimes we look down on them because we feel intimidated by them. Or we may feel that they look down on us and our natural response to that is to subconsciously defend ourselves by looking down on them. We want to feel better than that.”

Marie fidgeted. That felt uncomfortable. Adam was always clawing his way to something better but sneering at those whom he perceived had already made it.
“Put another way, many people place value on themselves and others depending on what their perceived financial circumstance are.”

Joshua clicked the computer mouse again showing a new screen.

▪ Power
▪ Prestige
▪ Possessions

Marie jotted down the three points in her notebook with a big boldly scribbled asterisk by *possessions*.

“When we rely on the wrong things we are not satisfied or fulfilled. We simply cannot trick our inner person, because our real selves, that inner person, is desperate for recognition.”

There was complete silence for a nanosecond.

A sob was clawing its way out of Marie. What was it about Joshua that evoked this reaction? Tumbling around in her mind were the myriad of little shopping expeditions she had made, how the new dress, the lipstick, the beautiful piece of art had made her feel. Followed by the need to feel that happiness again. Ceaseless, endless need for affirmation. All from stuff!

Vaguely, she heard Joshua talking, and pushing the revelation back down, she tuned in to hear him say,

“Perhaps we should stop being impressed by money, fame, status. But rather be impressed by character. For example, how well people treat others?”

Someone interrupted, putting his hand up, talking over the top of Joshua.

“I understand what you are saying, but money is very important. So, are you advocating minimalism?”

Pausing to think, Joshua looked at the ceiling, as though an answer would appear there. Giving his wonderful smile he said, “THAT is a really good question, because it drills down to the heart of ‘what is life really about?’ It’s not so much about having or not having assets, it’s WHY you keep buying that stuff? What are you trying to achieve?” Joshua let the room go silent and watched as his words settled on each one there.

“Many feel that their value depends on the value other people put on them. If we feel acceptable only when we have the latest and
greatest cell-phone, or car, or whatever so we can show we have ‘made it,’ then the feeling of power and prestige evaporates very quickly, urging us on to buy the next thing. It’s like teenagers constantly checking their cell phones, hoping for a message, something that will give them the next ‘hit.’

That hit is dopamine which is the chemical that controls the pleasure centre of the brain. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behaviour. This is why many people are addicted to the feeling that accumulating stuff gives us.” He looked at the man who had asked the question “Does that answer your question?” The man nodded.

A thoughtful silence ensued, and Joshua allowed it to sink into their minds.

Marie felt understanding flood into her mind. It explained Adam’s restlessness, his constantly seeking out new stimuli. He never felt that he was enough! How had she missed this?

“Here’s an illustration of the opposite to collecting stuff.” Joshua clicked the mouse, and a picture of a handkerchief filled the screen. He smiled at their reaction as the group wondered what a handkerchief could possibly have to do with their well-being.

“Bill was a dairy farmer. You know the sort. Red-band gumboots, black singlet, a dog at his heels. A real he-man.”

The visuals of a typical farming bloke evoked laughter from some.

Into Marie’s mind came visions of Wal and Dog in the well-loved cartoon ‘Footrot Flats.’ She smirked at the visuals.

Joshua smiled and continued his narrative. “Bills wife Barbara, had given him a special hanky – she had embroidered the symbols of their early days together on it. They were the symbols of their romance from when they were courting, which meant a lot to both of them. Hence the handkerchief had a great deal of sentimental value, and let’s face it, sentimental value is worth more than monetary value.”

Marie found herself nodding. She had kept those sweet things Adam had given her. That little scribbled note on a paper napkin; the oyster shell he picked up off the beach and gave it to her saying ‘Your loveliness is as beautiful as the pearl colours in this shell.’ She looked at the ring on her finger. That was a recent addition. She hadn’t asked for it, but once again, Adam decided that his wife needed to be adorned in his status symbols. She twisted her hand watching the flashes of light from the large tanzanite stone, its deep blue drawing the eye into its depths. It wasn’t as expensive as a diamond, but it was beautiful.

Joshua cleared his throat, drawing the groups attention back to his story. “One morning when Bill was heading off to milk the cows, he looked for a hanky. He had a cold, so needed a handkerchief with him. He was a man. None of these tissue type things for him. He always felt if he blew his nose properly, his finger would stick through the paper, and he’d end up with a ball of snot on the end of his finger.”

A man sat over to his left snorted in laughter.

Grinning Joshua continued the story. “Bill rummaged in his drawers for another hanky, but they were all in the wash. That is, all but this precious one. So, he stuck it in his pocket and strode off to the milking shed, the dog at his heels. Later, with the last cow milked and sent back to the paddock, he straightened up and reached for his hanky. It wasn’t there. He was caught in between two special desires, one for his breakfast that he knew Barbara was cooking him, and the other to find this incredibly precious memento, which must have fallen into the mud and mucky slurry of cow dung in the cow yard.

So, the first thing he did after breakfast was to go looking for this token of their love. It was not easy to find: It had been walked into the mud and dung by the cows and was absolutely filthy. Hardly recognisable in its current condition.

Bill took it home, washed it quite a few times, dried it and ironed it. Back to good as new.”

The group smiled, some whispering to their neighbour. Joshua had struck a chord.

“To everyone but Bill and Barbara this was of minimal value.” he said. “It was just a handkerchief. You can buy another one easily. But to them it was of great value. It held memories and romantic feelings. Bill had to find it. He had to restore it. Was the handkerchief of any financial value? No. The hanky was of value because of the value that two people placed on it.”

Joshua went quiet, looking around at the dawning comprehension, as truth filtered through. “Ok, everyone stand up. Stretch and say hello to your neighbour. Toilet break if you need it.”

Marie stood up and stretched. ‘Toilet break sounds good. Give me time to think.’ She didn’t notice Joshua coming out of the men’s loo as she was walking towards the little girl’s room, and almost bumped into him. Startled she looked up at him. He smiled.

“Who are you Marie?” He asked as he walked off.

“What?” was all her startled response could come out with. But that question stayed with her as she walked back to her seat. ‘Who am I?’

As the general bustle and scraping of chairs quietened and Joshua pulled another page onto the overhead screen. “We can ask ourselves questions such as” and he pointed at what was on the screen:

▪ How much am I worth to my spouse?
▪ How much am I worth to my children?
▪ How much am I worth to God?

“All these questions are important.” he said. “Strong connected relationships such as family relationships are important as they set the value we feel inside ourselves. Many marriages, far too many marriages, fall apart on this first question ‘How much am I worth to my husband or wife?’

Someone made a noise that sounded like a sob.

Joshua kept talking, “It is however the last question that is the most important. Now I know that many of you don’t consider yourselves to have a faith, but if we take the entirety of ‘who we are’ inside the context of ‘how much am I worth to God,’ it puts a completely different value on us. It also considers how we can develop a better relationship with the God who loves us without measure, who places an infinite value upon each person.”

Marie was uncomfortable. Adam didn’t believe in God. He felt that he had the right to do as he pleased within the boundaries of the law, as long as it didn’t hurt anyone else. ‘But I am hurting,’ she thought. I don’t feel valued. Could this possibly be the answer?’

“Children”, Joshua said, “They are such a blessing, but something has happened in our culture whereby many of us feel that we are simply a convenience, or an eftpos card. So, then it comes back to, what am I worth to my children? What values have I taught them? If we were to take the concept of an all-loving God, who has placed the ultimate price of value on your life, how would that change your feelings of ‘what am I worth?’ and ‘who am I’?

“If we take this a step further, a wonderful outcome of this inner sense of being of great value, is that we can then develop a far better relationship with others. This life has left many with a poor self-image.” Joshua clicked through to another screen.

“So, often our inner thoughts and self-talk is along the lines of this:

▪ I feel that I am not adequate, not enough;
▪ I compare myself unfavourably with others;
▪ I feel vulnerable;
▪ I struggle to see the beauty in myself;
▪ I struggle to let my guard down;
▪ I feel disconnected to my ‘true self’.

Do you agree?” He asked.

Marie was nodding her head and self-consciously she looked around to see if anyone else had noticed, but all she saw were a bunch of nodding heads.

“How then can we improve our self-image? What are some things we can do? What thought processes can we change and more importantly, what is really of value in our lives?”

He picked up some papers and started handing them out.

“Take one and pass it along” he said. “What I’m giving you is your homework for this week. Yes, I know, it’s been a long time since some of you have had to do homework, but in order to truly get to the essence of ‘HOW MUCH IS ONE PERSON WORTH?’ you have work to do.”

Marie looked at the sheet she had been given.

Homework: Your homework this week is to give thought to the following questions and perhaps make some notes. Be prepared to share some of your thoughts next week.

1. Do I feel valuable?
2. What do I place my value on?
3. Do I need to impress people to feel valued?
4. Is basing our self-worth on what others think of us realistic?
5. Is it a good way of measuring our self-worth?
6. What about another way of looking at it?
7. If so, what other ways are there?
8. What if we measured our self-worth based not on what others think of us, but rather on what we think of others?

“Thank you for your time tonight. I really hope that you will find your feet on a wonderful journey that we have started together. See you next week.” Joshua started turning the computer off and packing his things up.

Marie stood up. She felt quite shaken. This was not what she had expected, but somehow it hit at her core.

‘Who am I then?’ she whispered in her heart as she unlocked the car. ‘How much value am I to Adam?’ A tear rolled down her cheek. ‘I feel of very little value to anyone.’

“I have to get Adam to come to this. Somehow, he has to understand that I love him regardless of his money and stuff.” She wailed at the car, growled in her frustration, howled in the face of a marriage of disappointment.