Am I a Workaholic? – Introduction: Exploring Black and Brown Perspectives on Work & Its Worth
I am honored that my friends and colleagues across multiple industries have trusted me with their stories and have graciously allowed me to share them. I hope their varied journeys, motivations, struggles, disappointments, hopes, and practical advice help us grow as believers, provide insight, comfort, and stir hope in God.
But first, here’s a bit of my story.
Work and Worth
My husband recently called me a workaholic.
In short, he was right. At the time, I was balancing rental inquiries, client emails and scheduling, content-editing, and consultations. I was also conducting research and testing for a youth program in partnership with a local charity. I also research for fun, so my husband couldn’t tell when I was or wasn’t working. Sometimes, neither could I. To top it all off, we’d officially started homeschooling our boys that summer.
I wish I could’ve said my worth was solely in Christ. In reality, work (particularly keeping busy and earning money) gave me a sense of purposefulness. I saw my whole family and other families that looked like mine work their entire lives. How could I not? Even though my body hadn’t quite recovered from our second son’s birth and I was still dealing with health issues/struggling on and off with depression, I couldn’t stand the thought of not working. I still can’t.
Instead, I considered stepping back but was quite aware that stepping back was a luxury too. It was something I couldn’t do when financial ish hit the fan earlier in our marriage. Some days, I felt extremely guilty for even considering it. My heart would hurt for those who didn’t feel like they had that choice. It still does.
Eventually, my husband and I talked; I was able to step back a couple of months ago. Thankfully, at this point in our lives, I was able to do that and I’m better for it.
Work: A Second Home
From the age of four until the time that I left Jamaica at 12, I would be out of the house by 6:30 a.m. My parents would drop me to school every morning on their way to work and pick me up from school on their lunch breaks and drop me to my grandma’s home. After my last visit to Jamaica, I realized this was quite a feat given the distance between my old school and grandma’s home. Let’s not even mention the traffic on the way there and back. I believe this is why, as I got older, instead of dropping me to grandma’s, my parents would bring me back to work with them.
I remember my mother’s job being eerily quiet. It probably wasn’t the best place for a highly inquisitive child, who wanted to touch everything, write on every paper, or ask five questions at once.
My dad’s workplace was a little more forgiving (as far as I know). I would either sit at his desk with my homework or better, move from office to cubicle and chat with some of his co-workers. Usually, it was a combination of both. It was the first place I heard him cuss. I still remember my shock. It’s like he became someone else, someone more than daddy. It was a glimpse into his world, the world of adults.
So naturally, as a child, when I heard the word work, I thought of long hours, paid work outside of the home. In recent years, I’ve come to realize that work and the qualities we ascribe to it are often limited and relative.
Back to the Basics
Work, in its most basic form, can be any activity requiring your physical and mental effort for a specific purpose. This means we can find work anywhere, from the office to the kitchen sink, whether it is passion or provision driven.
It seems for the Apostle Paul, working was a respectable thing and a sign of maturity. It was bound up with living a quiet life instead of an idle one. A quiet life was one that involved taking care of your own business, supplying your own physical needs with your own hands instead of consistently depending on others (1 Thess. 4:10-12, 2 Thess. 3:6-13). Work also provided an opportunity to share with those who were in need (Eph. 4:28). And let’s not forget that even God worked. He created this world with his breath, called it good, and rested once he was done (Gen. 1-2).
Beyond the Basics
As a career strategist, working with students and professionals alike, especially in North America, I’ve noticed that work often echoes tidbits of our personal identity or desires we wish to fulfill. Provision seems only to be the foundation.
For some, work is a way to lift themselves or their families out of poverty. For others, it’s about building wealth, status, or legacy. For some, work is about proof: proof of competence, ability, intelligence, worth, equality. For others, work spearheads change: change in lifestyle, change in our families, change in our local communities, change globally, change in our systems, secular and sacred.
For some, work is creativity on display, whether as a writer, artist, or performer. They want to tell nuanced stories and give ideas life through clay, song, or ink. For others, work is about searching out this world, every atom and organism, every motive and action, every algorithm and hypothesis to gain further insight into how we as humans interact with the world, to encourage innovation and explore possibilities.
The ways we approach work aren’t limited to those I’ve mentioned, so feel free to insert your own. I’ve often found myself with an odd combination of those reasons at different times in my life and if I’m honest, this makes it hard for me to stop working. It brings me a sense of excitement, fulfillment, grief, and exhaustion (Eccl. 12:12).
With publications like Forbes and The Atlantic addressing the area of work from different perspectives, Black Christians should ask what work teaches us about ourselves and life. How have we allowed it to define us (good and bad)? What is its purpose? God created work. How can we use it to glorify God?
My hope is that these questions and stories resonate, inspire, and summon deeper discussions about work and its worth to us as believers. Join me for the next few Mondays and we’ll break it down together.