Nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth. - Helen Schucman
My most prized possession is a hanky. Yep, you read that right. Of all the things that I physically, tangibly own, one of the items I value the most is my grandmothers handkerchief. Its a faded white ladies handkerchief with a gold/orange/brown floral color scheme. It doesn’t do anything. I have it tucked away in a keepsake box on my dresser. I don’t pull it out of that box often to look at it, but I know its there. I don’t have any of her jewelry or things that people would think of receiving when someone passes. She was a simple woman and wasn’t really into “things” anyway. Her circle referred to her as Teacher, our family called her Maw-maw. Oh how she loved people. She spent her entire life teaching, expressing and living an example of love to everyone who came in contact with her. Her mouth was in a perpetual smile and her arms were invariably extended to embrace someone new. She made everyone she met to guess how old she was. You would would too if you moved around as fast as she did, walked to the store, post office, bank and church and volunteered at the hospital in your 80’s. She would then tell her new friends how many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren she had. She was extremely proud of her family. I can remember my little hands wrapped inside of hers walking down Main Street while she proclaimed to passersby that I was Danny’s boy. At the time I probably thought my Dad was famous there or something, as I grew older I just realized that her family was her greatest accomplishment and her most prized possession.
She wasn’t famous. She didn’t have any money nor did she ever drive a car. No fancy education or retirement from a lifelong worldly career. She didn’t invent anything and to my knowledge she never danced or sang. But I loved her. I still love her—with my whole being. She had a way of making me feel special, like I was the only one that mattered in the world. I didn’t need to be anything or do anything to make her love me, she just did. My value to her wasn’t it in what I looked like, dressed like or sounded like. I honestly believe she didn’t just love me because I was her baby’s boy (Dad was the youngest of 9) she loved me just because I was me. I didn’t have to work for it, I didn’t have to produce anything. She made me feel valuable.
Now back to the hanky. Maybe you can see now why I hold value to that handkerchief, or maybe you're saying seriously? I mean wouldn’t you have rather had a ring or brooch—a painting or a car? Something of real value? Something you could sell? Nope. Because she wasn’t about any of those things, so none of them would remind me of her. But this scrap of linen, it reminds me of her. It was probably something that accompanied her to church and clung to her hand on top of her bible. It may have been present while she prayed and wept over all of her sons who served their country overseas. Again, it doesn’t do anything, but it means the world to me. It will never mean anything to you. It would be the last thing a thief would come in to steal, but it may be the first thing I grab if my house would ever to burn.
Do you know how much you’re worth? Do you know your own value or have you let people set your price tag and lay you on a shelf? I feel like I’ve spent my entire life on a shelf while I let other people pull out their price gun and tag me with a red sticker letting everyone who came by to see how much I cost. How much I was worth. Like a toy waiting to be chosen by a child. Look! I’m fun, I’m shiny, I’m cool. I can sing, I can dance, I’ll even do magic tricks. I will prove just what an investment I can be, just take me home, give me a chance! I think we’ve all felt like this so I know you can relate. It starts at a very young age, we want people to like and accept us, so we begin “working” and “producing” to prove our worth to the people we want in our life. The boys, the girls, the friends, the kids at lunch, the “it” crowd, the team, the co-workers, the church, the neighbors, the men, the women, your group, your tribe, oh and especially everyone on social media. Did I leave anyone out?
Let me perform for you, I’ll show you what I’m worth! You want me to have abs? Cool, I’ll hit the gym every day , just for you. I’ll starve myself, don’t you worry, I’ll show you I can earn your love. You will only marry me if I have an impressive career? Cool, I’ll spend years studying something that isn’t me, just as long as I sound interesting when you introduce me to your peeps. You don’t like my clothes? Its ok, I’ll never wear pink around you if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I can’t throw a football (really I cannot), but sure, I’ll fake it till I make it—you’ll be my friend then, right? I’ll do anything, I’ll say anything! I’ll be who you want me to be, I’ll work for it. I’ll earn your respect, your love, your friendship. You’re value in me is way more important to me than how much I value myself.
Hold up! Now that I actually type it, it sounds ridiculous. Am I going to base my worth on people who expect me to work for it? I have to produce? I have to do things? I have to change? No, no, no and no. I’m here to tell you you don’t have to work for it, you don’t have to change and you don’t have to do all the things. But wait, how will people like me? How will I fit in? How will I ever get that boyfriend? I’ll never have any friends if I don’t keep up. Look, we shop at the same places. Come ride on my boat, come swim in my pool. Look—I do all the things you like to do (not really)! I know you could never like me without any of that. If I never do all the things, then won’t they all go away? Yes my dear, they will. So see, thats why I have to keep earning, keep working and keep producing. I don’t want everyone to just leave. Who and what will I be left with? I’ll tell you what will remain if you stop trying to be worthy in everyones eyes. You will be left with true, genuine people who love you just the way you are, and you will gain a new confidence in yourself and a peace of mind that no one can take from you. Its hard enough trying be someone you’re not to gain attention and affection, its sometimes more difficult to see authenticity in your relationships because of what you really can do.
Some people will only value what you can do, not who you are. Those are not your people. You know who my people are? The ones who don’t care what clothes I show up in, what mood I’m in, what car I drive (or how clean it is), or how many favors I can do for them. I learned who consisted of my circle when I stopped worrying about producing. When I stopped doing that thing that made you like me, the reason you kept me around. When I let some of my walls down and you saw me for who I really was, not who you wanted me to be. You want to know the truth? I got tired of working for it. I grew tired on one side trying to fit my inside puzzle piece to your perfectly laid out border, and the other side was exhausted performing the tasks that naturally flowed from me so I could maintain worthiness in your eyes.
What we do or don’t do is not what determines our value, maybe it determines our growth or our contribution to the society around us, but not our essential value. All of us have gifts and talents and abilities, and those things were given to us to share and to help other people and make the world a better place. They were never, ever given to us to prove our value. The world is not a better place because you’re pretty. Or because you can sing, or dance, or write, or throw a ball. The world is better just by you being you in it. By no means am I saying we should all be lazy bums and we don’t have to do absolutely anything. I encourage us all to show up! Be faithful in your relationships, do your jobs, share your gifts, show kindness and compassion. Let the things that flow naturally from you express themselves in ways that will benefit and help the people around you. What I’m saying is you don’t have to “do” anything to be of value. To anyone. Take a load off of yourself.
Our value is set by God, not by anyone else—we don’t have to “work” for it. I was even convinced that God would only love me if I did things. I believed I was only valuable to God as long as I sang or played the piano. Then God sent me on a sabbatical and I began to learn that He enjoyed me just as much drinking ice coffee in my car reading a book. He is the one who put those gifts inside me, He isn't impressed with that. It is me that He loves. It is me that He's after.
Do what you're supposed to do, as long as you're supposed to do it. One of my favorite singers not long ago lost her singing voice. Of course she loved to sing, that was her gift to the world. It was her job, her career, and probably made up her identity. But what happened when she could no longer sing? Did her value decrease? Did she lose a level of influence, fans, friends? If she built her whole life on something that she could do and then it suddenly vanished, what did that make her feel like? Of course her worth never changed, but she probably felt her value was set on her ability. Don't for a second place a value on someone in your life based on only what they can do for you. Try to see everyone for who they really are.
You are valuable. Very valuable. Your worth is beyond definition. Your physical body does not determine your worth. Your clothes do not determine your worth. Your education, your career, your house or car does not determine your worth. Your relationships or lack thereof does not determine your worth. Your weakness or strength does not determine your worth. Nothing you can do will make you valuable. You just are.
Love truly is blind, it sees you for who you are, not what you can do.
The hanky doesn’t have to do anything, and neither do you.