I have always been someone who works hard, but as I started my first job, I felt a constant pressure and unease. What were the real reasons for me to work so hard?
Making a good impression
I'm at work, and I finish my tasks ahead of the deadline. I want everyone to know about it.
If I make a mistake, I try to cover it up.
When my boss comes into the office, I suddenly work much faster.
That's how my first few weeks on the job went. Like most people, I wanted to make a good first impression. I worked hard, learned as much as I could, as quickly as I could.
But it wasn't long before thoughts came up like, "If I work really hard, then they will notice me," and "Do they really know how much work I do?" I needed people to know how hard I was working and thank me for it. My happiness depended on receiving praise.
As time went by, I became more and more unhappy. I was all the time thinking about how other people were treating me. This caused a lot of pressure and unrest that just seemed to grow and grow. The better I got at my job, the more praise I needed. I was never satisfied.
Before, I often used the time travelling home from work to pray for others. Now, I was just thinking about myself and what others were thinking of me. I wanted to do good to others, but I was too busy thinking about myself. Looking back, I can see that in all my hard work, everything was just about myself.
“As if for the Lord”
One Sunday as I sat in church, I started thinking about myself again. What would I do and say on Monday morning? It was very important for me to get the praise I “deserved”. The speaker read the verse, “In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people.” Colossians 3:23 (NCV). As the verse was read, I suddenly realised: For the Lord, not for people! That is what is important!
Where was God in all my thoughts about myself and my work? Whom was I really serving?
I was trying to “work hard”, but had completely forgotten about God. I was just living to please people. I looked so good outwardly, but there was no inner life with Christ. I had no peace inside.
Everything to God’s glory
It was then that I decided: “In all the work I do and situations I come into, I will serve God. I will live before His face. I will not let thoughts of what others think of me decide what I do and how I live. I live for God. If there is any praise to receive for my work, it is God who should receive the glory." “If you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NCV).
Just a few moments passed, and another thought came up: “Tomorrow, everyone will notice how I’ve changed.” As soon as this thought came up, I realised that it was still my own pride, so I rejected it immediately. I did not agree with this thought. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to live completely for God. It didn’t matter if the others at work noticed anything or not. I prayed to God for help so that these proud, “praise seeking” thoughts would no longer rule over me.
The battle against seeking praise from people had begun.
When these thoughts come up, I know now that I can choose not to listen to them. Yes, they still come, but I can refuse to let them stay. I can say No to them and instead fill my mind with good thoughts. I suddenly have time to think and pray for the others again.
Becoming free from people
I'm at work, and I finish my tasks ahead of the deadline. I happily move on to my next task.
If I make a mistake, I admit it.
When my boss comes into the office, I simply continue with my work.
The more I do this, the more peace I have inside. Life becomes so simple. If God is happy, then I’m happy. As long as what I am doing is pleasing to God, it doesn’t matter if I get praise from people or not. What the others say or think of me does not need to have any effect on my happiness. I am becoming free from them.
I know how heavy life can be when I live for other people and not for God. But, I also know that there is a way out of this, a way to life and peace. I thank God that I have found this way, and that He has led me to it!