Tag Archives: job

The Dignity of Work – “Work is for man, not man for work.”

24 Jan

Dignity of Work

I saw some interviews with Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame recently. Apparently he has developed quite a deep understanding of the dignity of work. Over the years I too learned to appreciate the dignity of work and the rewards of a job well done. I think it was in the military that I had the biggest impression made on me. You see in a military unit – every single piece is important. If any one piece falls down on the job people die. It’s not a joke or a game, it literally is life and death. You might think a the drudgery of standing a firewatch is intolerable until you are the nozzleman on the firefighting team because someone else didn’t do their job and people are now dead and injured, property is destroyed, and the entire unit is exhausted all because one person did not think his job was important enough to pay attention and do it well. The Captain of a ship may be the “Quarterback” of the team, but he is also master and commander under God. You learn quickly that you work together or you die together – and make no mistake, people die in the military in peacetime as well as war. This means everybody – even the seaman recruit standing the fire watch is critical. There is no unimportant job.

Well that’s great you say, this isn’t the military and I’m not in the military. True for some of you. However, you could still take away a lesson from my experience. Treat every worker with dignity, their job is important whether you see it or not. Treat every job you do with the care, dignity, and love due it. Imagine how many would go hungry if there were no cashiers at the grocery store, or how many would starve if there were no more farmers, the sanitation disaster if there were no trash people, and so forth. We all labor together to make our society function and no person’s labor should be considered less than another person’s, in short we need to bring pride and dignity back to work, rather than glorify those who manage to avoid it or live off the labors of others without laboring themselves.

If you don’t believe me then here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on the subject:

2426 The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community. Economic activity, conducted according to its own proper methods, is to be exercised within the limits of the moral order, in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to God’s plan for man. 209

2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. 210Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.” 211 Work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work 212 in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. 213 Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.

2428 In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work. 214 Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.

I’m especially enamored with that second to last part – “Work is for man, not man for work”.  There is a serious misunderstanding about providing for a family in America today. They need to have food, a roof over their heads, a warm and safe place to sleep, healthcare, transportation as necessary, and the ability to pursue their dreams. What they do not need is a plethora of useless things, faster cars, million dollar houses, etc… All provided by money which is earned by sacrificing yourself to your job. You see, the most important thing your family needs is YOU. I suspect a great many marriages fail because people don’t get this one simple fact, money is not a substitute for “being there”. You can only take love, memories, and regrets when you leave this life – don’t let your love die because you mistakenly thought that all that “stuff” was making up for it. Don’t miss out on memories just to get more “stuff” which will end up going to a landfill someday, or a taxman if you don’t spend it all. Most importantly, remember this life can end at any time – find a job that you love to do, that provides so that you can live without need without having to violate your family time, personal goals, or most importantly you relationship with your wife. Remember your wedding vows to Love, Honor, and Cherish did not include getting filthy rich while destroying your marriage in the process. Do something you enjoy. Not only will you do better at it, but you will enjoy it more and your work will be a joy instead of a burden to share with your beloved.

This is one I had to learn the hard way; Please avoid that path for your sake, your wife’s sake, and the sake of your children. They need YOU as a father, not the just the money you generate as only a provider. Your marital responsibilities cannot be abrogated by a check. Please think about it. Nobody has “He worked really hard and ignored his family” on their tombstone. What do you want yours to say?

Prayerfully Yours,


Love and Marriage in Adversity

13 Jun

Too many times I run into wives who live in fear of their husbands. This damages the institution of marriage by destroying bonds between spouses and setting a horrible example for children of either sex. If people only realized that whatever they do to their wife, they do to God as well. I have to admit that i am quick to anger when I perceive a spouse as mistreated. The following experience left me with an interesting perspective. I’ll be less quick to judge from initial appearances in the future, even though this is likely the exception not the rule.

The other day I was picking up dinner at a Chinese take-out place when a woman walked in accompanied by her husband and two small children. He was both rude and overbearing from the start, barking orders at his bedraggled wife like a drill Sargent. There was fear in her eyes as she stammered out the order and paid the bill. Her hands shook as she signed the slip, and the attendant disappeared into the kitchen. The husband told her gruffly to wait for the food and left. The little girls sat next to her and tried to comfort her. She hung her head and started to cry. I had at least 10 more minutes to wait myself and my heart was torn. I asked her if there was anything I could do to help and she said, “would you pray for my husband? I’m Catholic, but I don’t know how much more I can take…”. The words flowed like a river, I guess helping was just listening that day.

Turned out they were new in town, and things had gone downhill after her husband had lost a good job to downsizing right after returning from a long deployment to the Middle East, and was now doing any job he could. It had taken a huge toll on him, as it does everyone, and as things spiraled downward so did his attitude towards her. She was in that horrible place where she saw a side of him that he had kept hidden for the prior 5 years and she felt a sense of loss and grief. She professed that she still loved him, but she sure didn’t like him anymore. Apparently he had not resorted to physical violence, but she was sure that that was just an employment rejection or two away. With a determined look in her eyes, she looked at me and said – “he just needs a job that can support us, just a job Lord, then he’ll be a man again.”

Deeply empathetic, she realized the core problem for him was his employment search failures and fear of loss. He was squeezing his family so tightly that he was strangling the life out of his marriage. It was after hours for the church, and they had a place to stay for the week and some money but their order wouldn’t feed them and the children a decent meal. He had gone outside to return a call from a potential employer. I pulled out my phone and gave her the number of a local deacon that could help, the location of the adoration chapel, and the pastors personal cell phone number and my name to use when and if she called either. I let her know about catholic charities and their job placement. She dried her eyes, brightened up, and looked more like a person. My order was up and her husband returned as I went to the counter. The little girls were demanding “Chinese Chicken” and French fries which they had not ordered due to strict budgeting, and they had not relented until the father came in and the mother quickly quieted them so I slipped a 10$ bill to the attendant to make a “mistake” and then insist they keep the extra Chicken and fries. Then I left… Feeling troubled.

I’ve stewed over it quite a bit, the more I thought on it the more I realized there was something about the encounter – a lesson for all of us. For her, the pain was in seeing the man she loved descend into a personal hell and tormented by feelings of inadequacy. I suspect he was trying to protect her by overreacting and trying to project strength and control. I suspect his pride was all he thought he had left, and while his wife desperately tried to be there, he pushed her away in his shame over his inability to reliably provide. Instead of pulling together, he was pulling them apart. I also noted that she asked me to pray for him, not herself – and I did. Hoping that it was in God’s plan to help him find a job. I also hoped that they called Father after they ate, but one never knows.

I do know one thing – being a Catholic husband is an awesome responsibility, and it encompasses far more than an obligation to provide for your family. They look to you for leadership, and love. If you show fear or desperation then they no longer feel safe. If you show anger then they feel threatened and will eventually resent you. If you show hope and love in adversity you can make an impression that lasts a lifetime, and more importantly you must allow yourself to be loved and comforted. The world is not just on your shoulders but on both your shoulders – there is no shame or failure in sharing the burden with your other half, it is far more honorable to do so than to collapse under the weight of a burden you cannot bear and forcing the whole burden onto your wife and children along with your own issues of inadequacy.

Control is something a husband should exercise over himself. His family should feel love and respect for him, never fear of him. Lashing out solves little when directed at your wife, what you do to her you also do both to yourself and to God. What they need to see is an inner light breaking though the cracks in you, and if you cannot muster that – then at the least the strength of your love for them. Though I didn’t agree with the fact that he was emotionally mistreating his wife, I did admire that he understood and took seriously his responsibility to her and those children. It seems to be a rarity in this world sometimes. I also admired just how persistent he was being in his search for employment, but I admired the wife more. She suffered as I imagine a saint might, gentle and doing her best while bearing both his suffering and her own. She remembered that she LOVED him, and made the choice to continue doing so even though she disliked him at this moment. She recognized he was in pain, understood why, and did her best to forgive his transgressions and sooth him as he would let her. She knew that he was questioning both his manhood and his worthiness to be her husband through this tribulation, and she prayed and asked for prayers – not for herself but him. If only he would have let her in, she could have shared that strength with him.

With the husband, I understand very clearly. I have been where that man was – but my wife and I worked together and prospered in spite of adversity. She bolstered my spirits and kept me positive the whole time – because I let her in. I have to tell you, that telling my wife I had been laid off ranks as one of the hardest things I ever did. I drove around the block twice working up the courage and composure to relay the news. In the end I was ashamed of myself that I ever feared her reaction. She was my rock and a font of good and level headed counsel, some of which I didn’t want to hear. She was right too. She told me that God never closes a door without opening a window, and we were not terribly religious then. God didn’t seem to mind, and he watched over us anyway – just as he watches over all his children. In weathering this storm of life we grew closer together and learned a great deal about each other.

God made married couples as partners in life and I realized that our relationship with God is the same way, if we cannot let our wives share our burdens and ease our pain, then how can we hope to have God do so either? I’m wondering how varied the experiences of others have been on this subject, please comment if you have one you would like to share.


Colin Corcoran

**Please feel free to write or comment on this post, I’d really like to hear from those that are able to have this experience and how it is changing their marriage, their wives, and their lives.

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