What Does Work Mean to You? Reporting a Facebook Response

Since I quoted from Carl Jung last time, it’s only fair to quote one of Sigmund Freud’s most famous sayings: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness.”

Lately, I’ve been musing about these two subjects of love and work in a series of posts on family, home, and change. You can find them listed on the upper right-hand side of this page.

I plan to ponder out loud (my definition of blogging) about “work” for the next few days and weeks, having already sided with Gibran that work and love should be united. It turns out that many of my friends and readers agree–but not all of them, which is what makes conversations interesting.

A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends what work means to them–as a way to enlarge my own perspective and give them a voice in this blog.

So I thought I would share here a handful of responses from Facebook friends who knew they were helping me to produce a blog post but who did so before I wrote the one on Gibran mentioned above.

Interestingly, Chris found an unsentimental, humorous, way to describe work as “love made visible.” Instead of flowery prose, he just said this: “I can’t call it work. It’s more like getting paid for your hobby. I play with very expensive technology. Shhhh…” You wouldn’t know from this response that Chris actually manages a large, complex information services department. From his perspective, work is play.

Chin questioned the very definition of work that does not include the work we do at home as parents. Why do we separate work and love, was her implied question? Is not our teaching and caring for our home and children work–even if we don’t get paid for it?

Kevin also pointed out the difference between the kind of work we do to develop ourselves and those around us and the work we are paid to do. He is fortunate to have an overlap between the two in his life. My guess is that the larger that overlap, the happier the person.

Tiff used a six-word memoir to describe her vocation, which she, too, distinguishes from her work even though she tries to live this calling every day and hopes that she will be remembered for these six words at her going home service: Love, live, light, serve, give, reflect.”

Finally, Joanne, had a great description of her work. As a campus pastor she has to explain what she does. Here’s what she says: “I minister to university students at a school affiliated with a small, misunderstood branch of Christianity.”

Often people ask again, “…but what do you DO?” That’s when I want to answer “Jesus work.”

How do you answer questions about your work? What role does it play in your life? How would you answer the question if you did not have a job?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on January 31, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Two phrases from my childhood come to mind about work:
    (from the Life Songs hymnal) “Work for the night is coming, when man’s work is done.”
    (from the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books) “Make hay while the sun shines.”

    Both phrases speak of the timeliness and seasonality of work, suggesting that work is balanced by something else and, in the rhythms of my childhood, both night or inclement weather and Sabbath were balancing aspects.

    What I hope we are moving toward is work that still can honor the seasons but work that is infused with relationality, and we will all know who grows our food and makes our clothes and all travel again in a way that we are able to greet and be greeted by all those we pass by.

    • shirleyhs on January 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      Lovely thoughts and memories, Delores. I resonated with the childhood ones and the current redefining of seasonal work inside the “buy local” movement. You probably have the cookbook Simply in Season? Having just visited our local farmer’s market, I rejoice that consumers and farmers and bakers and artisans are finding ways to celebrate the seasons and their relationships to each other. You offer yet another valuable perspective on work. Thank you!!

  2. friesengroup on February 3, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I’m still reflecting on the idea of work, for myself and as I teach others, preparing them for work/career/job. Should “work” fit into a bounded container or is it a part of life’s ocean that surrounds us like air and water?

    This morning I ran across this opinion piece:

  3. shirleyhs on February 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Kathleen, you always have such good thoughts, links, to share. Thanks again.

    I read this essay with interest and left a comment. The book should be good. I personally have been blessed to find work that has fed my spirit, and I knew how to change, or roll with the punches, when it did not. But the work I am seeking now is even deeper and freer than all my previous experiences. That’s why I am mulling it over with others in these posts. I so much appreciate the feedback and the additional questions, for which I am grateful.

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