Questions about worth

Confession: I regularly value and devalue myself based on variables.

I did well on this project. = I feel good about myself.

                I really bombed. = Good feeling’s gone.

I said something witty and made people laugh. = Yay for Shari.

                My comment in Sunday school trailed off into nothingness. = I guess I don’t have anything to offer. Next time I’ll keep my mouth shut.

My talent received public recognition. = Maybe I am really valuable.

                No one responded to my contribution. = What does that mean? Are people okay with me?

Most of you have read Max Lucado’s story “You Are Special,” (read aloud here) in which Punchinello and the other Wemmicks stick stars and dots on each other—stars for good performance, dots for bad. I always felt sorry for the little wooden people, seemingly so at the mercy of each other’s ratings.

I don’t think I live in Wemmicksville. My friends are far more gracious to me than I deserve. And I am usually loyal to them. What troubles me is my tendency to put stars and dots on myself. (Why?)

The result quickly becomes an unending readjustment of personal worth—a Dow Jones of the soul, with constantly changing values and unstable assessments.

Some days the Dow Jones plummets.

Today Ryan and I each successfully sold something we built from scratch. He was publicly valued at $875—the kingpin of the entire sale. I was valued at $32.50—an insignificant blip on the radar.

I was SO proud of Ryan. I couldn’t stop smiling. His success is a gift to me, one I prize and wouldn’t trade. And the sale was tons of fun.


Do I have marketable skills?

Does it matter?

It’s not that his oversold and mine undersold. I think the buyers paid a fair price for each. It’s that the sale highlighted the difference between us. I can’t even imagine being worth $875. Nothing in the world that I create could bring that dollar. I feel claustrophobic, publicly cemented in my role as the feminine dabbler-on-the-side while the men do the heavy lifting.

You can say, Dollars aren’t the only sign of worth, you know, and that is true. But my mothering and cooking and dabbling is not more important (read: normally less important) than his fathering and pastoring and breadwinning.

The main role of my life is to empower him and my children to go forth into the world, to conquer, to create, to smite …

Am I okay with living my life as a behind-the-scenes enabler?

Well… no.

I want to be! but most of the time I am not.

If all the women of the world empower others (but accomplish nothing else), and their daughters grow up to empower others (but accomplish nothing else), when do the women of the world do great things?

You see I do have feminist leanings. I am struggling with these questions a lot lately, frustrated by the fact that God gave me gifts that do not help in the role He called me to. In fact, some of the strengths He gave make it extremely difficult to enter the life He gave. Independence. Love of solitude. Passion for words and thought. Desire to explore.

His placing me in this position of chaotic silencing tempts me to believe He doesn’t value them either.

I have a beautiful home to tend. Sewing and growing projects. A blog. All of these are catharses for me, healing places to direct my swirling energies, but I wonder if they are ways I reject what I’ve been given? ways to raise the Dow Jones?

Jesus told me a very sweet secret the other morning when I didn’t know how to come to him… a secret that left me sobbing in the shower. I will share it, but it needs more background. And it doesn’t fix it all.

For now, the questions hang in dissonance, like pounding rain, and an aching throat, and the tears and snot I rubbed onto Ryan’s shoulder.

This post feels so selfish that I hate to share it. But maybe you wonder about these things too?

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mama zook
11 years ago

You are so transparent, Shari, and most of us that feel the same way are so afraid to let our secret be known. Maybe our masks are worn well…Guess I just keep reminding myself that empowering Daddy allows me to be a part of his accomplishments, like Abraham Lincoln’s mother was given credit for his!

11 years ago

Shari, your mom-in-law said it well….about your transparency and wearing masks and all. I’m not very eloquent but I did want to say that I really appreciated this post and was blessed. Thank you for being willing to be so vulnerable. Hoping you have a day free of stars & dots. 🙂

11 years ago

I am pretty certain that most women think and feel what you have just written at some level at some point in their lives. I do. In fact, some of us feel it so much that we are scared to death to allow the public to put a price on our “marketable skill(s)”. I find myself in hiding often because I am so scared of the verdict.
Anyway…I can’t write all that I am thinking right now. I do know that you’re an amazing woman who brings an incredible amount richness to the world around you. I’m super blessed to be your friend.

11 years ago

Like Shaunda said, I can’t write all I am thinking right now. The big thing I am thinking is that I’m ticked we weren’t at the auction when that blanket sold so I could have bought it. Geryll said, “We should buy that.” Then we left soon afterwards.

11 years ago

I really enjoy reading your blog.
i know you know this but i want to say it anyway it was your work that was valued at X amount of dollars not you. No dollar value can be put on the most significant things you do.
i see incredible beauty in gender distinctive roles, especially stay at home mom’s nurturing children but it’s not me and i struggle with how does aiming for my goals/developing as a person and our Anabaptists cultural values as i train for a profession and make more per hour than most of the men i know (i don’t work as many hours a week though) and work for a company where i tell men how things ought to be done. I think i’ve been given a lot from my culture to do this well and also at the same time, who is to show me how to do this well as a woman ought, i don’t know older women working with men in an advisory role whose example i can follow.
I could say more in identifying with your feminist leanings but this is too public of a place for me to be okay with being as transparent as you have just been. thank you so much for your refreshing honesty, Rosanna

Larisa Mast
11 years ago

Shari, your honesty and transparancy are amazing! Thank you for sharing! I so identify! Blessings as you continue to seek and think.

11 years ago

I think you’re a million dollars. Love ya, girl.

11 years ago

Thanks for this post, Shari. You have so eloquently described what my heart has been crying in broken language lately. Maybe I’ll have to share it with Daryl, so he can read it. (He doesn’t understand my tears and snot on his shoulder so well…) Have you ever read “Nice girls don’t change the world”? and what are your thots on it?

Anna Kauffman
11 years ago

I never met you and I rarely ever leave comments on blogs of people who I don’t know. BUT because of what you wrote, I am drawn to you in crazy ways. I’d love to sit with you. You have amazing gifts and you know it. Pursue the beautiful things you are drawn to. If there’s a book inside of you, write it. If your soul has concocted a project that is not yet started, complete it!

I see by your comments that your husband says you are a million dollars, ask him to help you find an hour a day to do the thing that is crying out to be created. The world badly needs this feminine thing within you. Ask him if he could help empower you to do that great thing.

We do ourselves, our husbands, and the rest of creation a disservice when we hide behind the lie that we are created only to empower the men in our life to do the great things.

(Oh, and BTW, once your project shines forth, don’t let crazy little auctions decided the price tag.)

May the Presence of Jesus rest with you. The Presence of the One who received the woman’s gift of tears as she washed his feet with them.

Rachel Shenk
11 years ago

Enjoyed your post…here are my thoughts: Just remember that this isn’t the end of your life. The trying years of diapers and wiping noses and cleaning up messes over and over again will last just 10 or 20 years and then??? I can see God creating and refining something very beautiful in you. I completely believe He is shaping your skills, expanding your capacity for what lies ahead. Is your destiny simply motherhood? The very reason you were created, was it to nurture little needs and to breath life into your husbands destiny? Your entire purpose for being, to do laundry and cook healthy meals? I think not. Yes all these things are needed and enjoyable (most times) and even give a huge measure a satisfaction. But there’s more. MUCH MORE. Just keep walking ahead, keep doing an excellent job at whats in front of you. It will come. This is all just training grounds. The inner hearts desires that you may be trying to stifle…THOSE are what God is nurturing in you. They will have their day…just keep walking.

11 years ago

Please don’t swallow the line that He doesn’t value the gifts He gave you.
What is in front of you now won’t always be in front of you. What’s inside you will stay and grow and be shaped by the present. Which means that even the ‘now’ won’t be wasted.
I hate money, in that it quantifies things that can/should never been measured. But I guess even if we wouldn’t have money, we’d use other things to rank ourselves.

LaDonna Nice
11 years ago

Well, He is using you in my life right now. These blogs of yours have been a blessing! Hugs to you and again I say I can so identify!

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