To think a person’s value is determined by what they produce is a form of slavery whose subtlety allows it to run rampant. Viewing all relationships in terms of what can be gained is a poor way to live life; and yet the philosophical lens of utilitarianism has colored so many aspects of how we look at others and even ourselves, as human beings.
How many times has a woman been viewed too unattractive to love, though she is a thoughtful, generous, charming person. No, her value must be measured only by her ability to produce arousal in the opposite sex.
How many times will the homeless man sitting on the corner be deemed unworthy of the same care that one gives their dog? No, investing any time or money into helping him would just be “enabling him and draining resources.”
How many times has an unborn child been condemned to die because that extra chromosome means that their life isn’t “worth” living. (Who gets to make the call on whose life is worth living and whose is not?)
I know for my part how hard it is to escape utilitarianism’s pervasive influence. Even if I no longer evaluate others based on what they can do for me, my estimation of my own value as a person is influenced by my abilities, or perceived lack there of.
I can’t count how many times I have looked in the mirror and have not noticed a body that can bear and nurse my babies, but rather have remained fixated on the many ways motherhood has left its unforgiving marks.
Or I recall in college berating myself over getting a B+ in a particularly challenging class.
Even now reflecting back over my day with my children it doesn’t matter how many stories were read, songs were sung, diapers changed, projects completed, dishes washed, floors scrubbed, all that I focus on is that I failed to meet my goal of having dinner on the table when my husband came home from work.
In all of these areas my thoughts are, “You are a failure. How could you be so incompetent? You are lazy and stupid and until you improve, you are not worthy of love.” And you know what? I am done with living life like this. I am tired of measuring my perceived worth against my accomplishments and finding it lacking. I may be a weak and imperfect person, but I am NOT worthless.
I am going to resist the temptation to list my accomplishments in an attempt to prove that to myself. Because as I keep having to remind myself: they do not determine my value.
One Who has far superior judgement has already determined what I, and you, and the plain woman, the homeless man, the baby with Down Syndrome, and all the rest of mankind are worth; and it is nothing less than every drop of His Blood, every ounce of His strength and every beat of His pierced Heart.
As a mother, I look down on my sleeping children and recall all of the sufferings that have brought us to this point and I think to myself, “You are worth it all.” So too, I imagine that, God has looked at each of us and weighed our lives against all of the sufferings He endured, and declared, “You are worth it all, my child.”
Have you ever struggled with viewing yourself or others with a utilitarian mindset? What helped you to combat it?
As a side note, I hope no one misinterprets this post as a desire to boost my confidence by fishing for compliments. This has been a difficult post to publish, but I wanted to share it in case it could be of help to others who are going through similar struggles. I know that it is a hard place to be in. I just wanted to let you know that you are precious and have inestimable value, regardless of your accomplishments or skills. Its a lesson I am still struggling to learn.
If this post was helpful to you please consider sharing it.