Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Value of Work

What is the value of our work? Are we merely part of a vast process for the production of things and the attainment of quantifiable "results"? Surely this is not adequate. There is more that must be said about the real worth of our efforts.

Every kind of human work requires the investment of ourselves, and therefore the "return" on that investment doesn't find its ultimate value in the realm of external things we can measure. That doesn't mean there aren't measurable results from our work, and that we shouldn't seek them; it just means that those results will never be greater than our value as human beings engaging our world and impressing upon it the distinctive mark of our own intelligent action.

We promote careers and education and using our talents and doing this and that--these things are important; they are factors of real life. But no one should feel dehumanized because of the particular work they do, however humble it may appear to be. Every worker is an acting person addressing his or her world in freedom.

There's really no such thing as "unskilled" labor pure and simple. Human action is the original "skill" that not only shapes the material world but also constitutes it as an "environment" of personal achievement.

Ultimately, however, work is a way of loving. It is shaped and aimed by particular constructive needs, and so of course it seeks results. But the dignity of human work is not measured by the results. It is something more than a material value.

The dignity of work consists in the self-giving of human persons. As a gift of the person, as love, work cannot be bought or sold for any price. The only adequate response to love is love.

Work is the way we build up our environment by giving and receiving love. Thus the world is personalized, it becomes a place where human persons dwell together, a place of community.