Hi friends. As you may remember if you are following this blog (which I hope you are), last week I made the following syllogistic (I love that word) statements:
1)Your joy is dependent on how much you feel valued.
2) Your value is largely dependent on people
3) Your joy is dependent on people.
Today I’d like to examine these statements a little more to demonstrate why I think they are true and then decide whether Paul would agree with these statements based on what he said in the book of Philippians. I hope you are ready because I’m going to dive right in. Here goes:
Statement #1) Your joy is dependent on how much you feel valued.
Think about that for a moment. How much does your joy depend on how you feel valued? Valued at home. Valued in your marriage. Valued by your parents. Valued by your children. Valued by a coach or a teacher or a boss. Valued by yourself. How closely connected is our value and our joy.
If we are honest I think we’d all have to say a lot. It matters how much value I have. It matters how much people value me. It matters how much my job and my car and my house show how valuable I am. Can we agree that’s true? Great then…
Statement #2) Your value is largely dependent on people
If you were paying attention you would have noticed that all of the above statements which we all agreed are true (don’t deny it, you did) involve other people. Feeling valued at home depends on your wife and kids’ opinion of you. Feeling valued at work depends on how your boss, co-workers, and employees feel about you. Being valued in your community depends on how neighbors and friends perceive you. Parents, kids, friends, co-workers, boss, employees; all of those people have a lot to do with our sense of value. And that’s true if we are God followers or if you want nothing to do with God. No matter what you believe, people have a lot to do with how you value yourself
That’s because in our culture how much we value ourselves depends on how we measure up to the people around us. Take a look at the following examples:
- What you drive in comparison to what other people drive
- What you wear in regards to what everyone else you see wears. Are you in fashion, out of fashion, cool, uncool, well dressed, poorly dressed?
- What you make versus what other people in your field make.
- Where you live in comparison to where your friends live
- How your house is decorated compared to how your neighbors houses are decorated
- How fit you are compared to other men or women who are your age
- How far you’ve risen in your company compared to your co-workers
- How cool are the people you hang out with at school
It’s true, right? In our culture, your value has everything to do with how you measure up with the people around you. Psychologists refer to this as Social Comparison Theory. It states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success).
There are several problems with that way of thinking. First, we have a natural human tendency to compare ourselves with those who have more. Psychologist Leon Festinger says that as people we are most susceptible to what he calls “slight upward comparison.” We don’t compare ourselves to the Forbes top 400 or to Jennifer Aniston or Matthew McConaughey; we compare ourselves to our neighbors and friends who are just slightly better off. Slightly better in shape. Slightly better in business. Slightly better off financially. When we do that we end up just slightly miserable. Just a step away from happy.[bctt tweet=”When you compare yourself to someone slightly better, you end up slightly miserable” username=”canyon_springs”]
This is what our culture produces in us. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how successful or how rich you are; We all tend to focus on people with just slightly more. Our value is dependent on what other people have in comparison to us.
What if I told you there’s another way? Let’s look at…
Alternative: Your value based on God
God has another way to determine our value. But it still has everything to do with people and Paul lays it out for us in his letter to the Philippians:
1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4
Did you catch it? In verse 3, Paul makes a pointed statement about value. And it’s totally dependent on people. But it is the exact opposite of the way our culture works. Here’s the way we are supposed to determine value. Value others above yourselves
My value is not in making myself look more valuable. It’s not in raising up my net worth or even my self worth. My value is in how much I can raise the value of the people around me.
I was researching value this last week and ran across an article in Psychology Today and I was surprised by what I found. I was thinking the article would be all about valuing yourself and getting some me time and making sure you put yourself first, but it was the opposite.
Steven Stosny Ph.D., Psychology Today talks about finding your value. The article is entitled “Forget Self Esteem.”
“The age of entitlement is, not coincidentally, the age of high self-esteem. Self-esteem, as defined by standard measures, is a function of how we feel about ourselves—based mostly on comparison to others. It often has a hierarchical bias—we’re better than some, but not as good as others.
In contrast to high self-esteem, with its tendency toward entitlement, people with high self-value necessarily value others. Where self-esteem is hierarchical, self-value is about equality. Here’s why: When we value others, we value ourselves more—we elevate our sense of well-being and facilitate our health, growth, and development. (Think of how you feel when you’re loving and compassionate to those you love.) When we devalue someone else, we devalue ourselves—our sense of well being deteriorates. (Think of how you feel when you devalue loved ones.) In other words, when you value someone else you experience a state of value—vitality, meaning, and purpose—and when you devalue someone else, you experience a devalued state.”
Do you see what Steven Stosny just did? He just restated what Paul said 2000 years ago in Philippians 2. Value others above yourself and when you do you will find value.
Can you see what a radical statement this is? We live in a culture that tells us to increase our value by climbing the ladder. Compare yourself. Figure out what scoreboard you’re playing on and win on that scoreboard. If your scoreboard is work, do what you can to be better than everyone else at work. If your scoreboard is money, get more money than the people around you. If your scoreboard is children, drive your kids until they are better than the other kids in the neighborhood in school, on the soccer field, or wherever they are competing.
God gives us a different standard. Your importance is not based on driving up your own value. It’s based on driving up the value of people around you. Encouraging them. Challenging them. Cheering for them. Paul makes this statement then he gives us the ultimate example. Look at verse 5
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
So I hope I have just proven the final statement in our syllogism:
Statement #3) Our joy is dependent on people
Our happiness, our joy, our sense of personal satisfaction does come from people and always will. The question is whether we will derive that joy by trying to influence people’s opinion of us, by impressing them with our cars, our houses, our jobs, our clothes, even our kids, or by lifting people up and encouraging them to be their best and live their best lives.
You know what society wants you to do. In my next post, I’ll look at what Jesus did and what others have done in his name by focusing on helping others, not convincing others of our own personal value. Until then people, stay joyful.