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Life in Greencastle - Measuring Our Worth

"Measuring Our Worth"
by Henri J. M. Nouwen

It is not difficult to see that, in our world, we all have a strong desire to accomplish something. Some of us think in terms of great dramatic changes in the structure of our society. Others want at least to build a house, write a book, invent a machine, or win a trophy. And some of us seem to be content when we just do something worthwhile for someone. But practically all of us think about ourselves in terms of our contribution to life. And when we have become old, much of our feelings of happiness or sadness depends on our evaluation of the part we play in giving shape to our world and its history ...

When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers. That means we are not only in the world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable. In short, we are worthwhile because we have successes.

To live a Christian life means to live in the world without being of it. It is in solitude that this inner freedom can grow ...

In solitude we can listen to the voice of him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone ... In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared ... In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness.

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