Friday, March 08, 2013

Dealing with Unemployment: Feeling Worthless

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R79053 / CC-BY-SA
"Industrious Young Man Looking For Work"
One of the most insidious aspects of prolonged unemployment, in my experience, is not the anxiety and stress that come with experiencing a lot of rejection or having a lack of patience. The hardest and most dangerous thing to deal with is the feeling of being worthless.

I want to be clear right up front. I am not saying that those who are unemployed are worthless but that we (I am one of those unemployed right now) can very easily struggle with an overwhelming and invasive sense of worthlessness. This feeling of worthlessness can very easily lead down the dangerous path depression.

In preparation for writing this post I came across an article written by Ed Welch called Being a Burden that dealt with this same topic. He starts off his article by saying:

"If you hear yourself say, "I am such a burden to _________ [my family, friends, loved ones, the world]," you are in danger. Your mind will go to very dark places, and you are developing immunity to the encouragement of both other people and Scripture. For example, you will hear others say that they are happy to serve you, yet you do not believe it. Instead, you believe their lives would be much easier and, therefore, better if you were gone."
If you ever start thinking about hurting yourself or others please seek immediate professional help. Depression is a very serious thing and can lead to other serious complications. The only help that I can offer to those already suffering depression is to encourage you to not go it alone. Please seek help.

Even without suffering from depression it is very easy to start thinking of yourself as worthless or as a burden. I have struggled with this as my wife has been the main source of financial support for us during this time. It hits me hard whenever her job is particularly stressful. I have a tendency to start thinking that if I had a job then it would help mitigate some of the stress of her job. Which is partly true. If she was not the sole source of income then her job would not be nearly as important to us in terms of our income and it would relieve some stress from that standpoint. But at the same time if I was working it wouldn't do anything to change the actual stresses of her job. What ever project she is working on would still have the same deadlines and problems. It is important for me to remember that having a job would not be the magical cure that I want to think it is.

But short of getting a job what have I done to combat this worthless feeling? What have I done to help out and not be a burden?

As funny as it might sound I have become a "house husband."

I aware of situations where the husband has been unemployed and did almost nothing around the house. The wife had to come home from work and do all of the cooking, cleaning and house work. How those men are still married baffles me.

I have undertaken most of the household chores. I cook dinners, I clean and I do the laundry. Let me go on record and say that any guy that claims to not be able to do laundry is simply lying. Most guys can do far more complex things than laundry and are being lazy when they claim that they cannot keep things straight. Men get this straight. Helping your wife around the house is not beneath you. I have a new found respect for house wives. It isn't an easy task and is a lot of work; especially if there are kids involved.

So while trying to do as much as I can around the house might not be the best long term solution for either myself or my wife, it can go a long way to helping you to see the value that you do have. My wife is very grateful for not having to do all of these things on top of working.

One of the other things that has been important for me is to remember that God does not value me for the things that I do. Rather he sees worth in me based upon who I am as an individual. Matthew 6:25-33 says:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
I know that it can be easy to read this passage when it doesn't seem that God is providing everything that you need...or want. But the point of this passage is to speak of the immeasurable worth that we have in God's eyes. God is far more concerned with our eternal well being. It can be really hard for me to understand why God doesn't give everyone a good and comfortable life. Sometimes it just doesn't make any sense. What cannot be lost here is that our worth to God isn't based on what we can do or provide.

As one dealing with long term unemployment it is important for me to not look at myself as a burden but to try and find ways to be a blessing to others. It is very necessary for those of us going through this to not allow ourselves to go to the dark place that Ed Welch wrote about in the article that I mentioned above. I highly recommend reading it. For the spouses, family members and friends of someone dealing with a long term unemployment, I would highlight the importance of continual encouragement and affirmation for the unemployed. It has been very helpful for me when my wife has taken the time to recognize all that I am doing to try and help out. She has been very important in keeping me from heading to that dark place.

It is very important to recognize this potential issue and to work proactively at preventing any deep and long term problems from fully developing.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Michael, I appreciate your sharing this story as I have been really struggling with this. God bless you and your family!