Sweat is OK
(Part 2 of Character-Building Habits)
I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident…They came by work. Thomas Edison
Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. Teddy Roosevelt
So much of modern American life seems to be about finding more efficient ways of shirking responsibilities. Ben Sasse
What were your first seven jobs? This was a question that began trending on Twitter last summer (2016). The idea was to find out how (or if) you ever developed a work ethic. I will share my first seven jobs at the end of this blog, but I invite everyone to remember back and reply with your first seven jobs. Most of my first jobs involved a lot of sweat. Maybe yours did too, and guess what, a good dose of sweat will not kill your son or daughter. It might even help them develop the second character-building habit from Ben Sasse’s excellent book – The Vanishing American Adult.
The character-building habit that Sasse wants to instill in his kids is a healthy work ethic. The call is to “embrace work pain.” Work can be painful; it can be sweaty; it can be dirty; it can be tough. But it can be good, and can help grow our kids into responsible, contributing, creative adults. The problem is, too many of us parents want to protect our kids from hard work.
As you think about your first seven jobs, what did you learn? One thing I learned was the value of money. For example, as I decided whether or not to buy that record album that I just had to have, I had to ask myself, “Did I sweat for three hours just to buy this record?” But here are some other things that I learned – discipline to get up in the morning, the joy of learning a new skill, creativity, contribution, the value of suffering, the good feeling of helping someone, self-restraint and delayed gratification, the joy of receiving a paycheck, (and the awareness that a chunk of it went back to the government), and the satisfaction of knowing I made a difference.
God started all this with the very first man, as he told Adam to watch over and cultivate the Garden of Eden. And one of his first tasks was naming the animals. Talk about pressure and creativity! There’s a lot more to this story, but the point is that God, our Father, wanted his kids to know how to work. Or as King Solomon said, “To rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.” If you think about it, God could have just given everything to us – homes, food, clothes, cars, and smart phones. But that wouldn’t have been good for us. Nor is it good for our kids.
We do our kids a disservice when we give them everything they want. We end up molding them to be soft and entitled. Here is how Sasse puts it:
Work is not necessarily about a job – about assignments that come with paychecks – but more fundamentally that we are built to be creators. Our work and our lives are an answer…to a calling.
He goes on to say: The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vox, meaning “voice” – as in something God “calls” you to do. Something is revealed about a person’s character when they explain their understanding and ethic of work.
A new Christian once asked Martin Luther about how he could best serve the Lord. He was thinking that he should quit his job and become a monk. But Luther replied, “What do you do now?” “I’m a cobbler. I make shoes,” the man answered. “Then make great shoes,” Luther replied, “and sell them at a fair price – to the glory of God.”
So here are my first seven jobs:
- Men’s store clerk
- Crawled under houses to dig trenches and kill termites (thanks dad)
- Forklift driver (for 2 summers)
- Warehouse worker in plywood business
- Wood shop worker
- Intelligence officer in the Air Force
See you next week with the third character-building habit – embrace limited consumption.