Value vs. Usefulness

Lately, I’ve been immersing myself in the words of Thomas Merton. If you’re not familiar with his writing, he’s a 20th century Trappist monk and writer (more here) and his words have the power to transcend the logical and explore the spiritual undercurrents in which we rarely dare to wade.

I read this from Merton other day, and it reminded me of something I wrote in Mad Church Disease.

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness”


In Mad Church Disease, I confessed I was so busy “doing” things for God that I had forgotten how to simply “be” with him. I forgot how to be a daughter to a father, and an open vessel he could use.

I love what Merton adds though – this second part:

“As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness”

TMertonStudy e1264770284120 Value vs. Usefulness

Essentially, when we become wrapped up in our productivity, ambition, and success, we will inevitably cast the same expectations on others. We will focus on what they do instead of the beautiful layers of who they are, removing us further from God’s design to exist in a non-judgmental, merciful community where we consider others better than ourselves…

I know I constantly am driven by my ambition and the results of it. And as a culture, upon meeting someone new, we typically ask, “So…what do you do?” While that’s an innocent question in and of itself, I think it’s an indicator of the priorities we’ve subtly placed on what it means to be a valuable human being.

What do you think? Have you experienced this in your life?

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by Anne Jackson
Anne Jackson is an author, speaker, and activist who lives in the Nashville area with her husband, Chris. Her book, Mad Church Disease – Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic (Zondervan) released in February 2009. Her next book, Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace (Thomas Nelson) will be released in August 2010.
This article was adapted from a blog post by Anne Jackson at
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