Some years ago a friend commented that it seems to matter to me what I do (I mean in terms of my work). At first, I simply agreed because of course it matters. A week or so later I realised that I had missed her point, she was actually paying me a compliment. Not all people are so invested in the nature or purpose of their work. And in that came the recognition that not all people are as invested as I am in the purpose of their work. I remain slightly mystified by that, not in the abstract, but in meeting people around me, who seem not to really care how they make their money as long as their pay cheque is sufficiently large to meet their desires.
Recently though, I had a conversation with a close friend. She and I share many personality traits and a fairly fundamental belief system in that we both have been practicing Ignatian spirituality for most of our adult lives. As we were driving through a small village in Cheshire, I commented that my driving motivation is to make a contribution to society (and yes, I used this vague phrase that is laden with value for me). Given our many similarities, I presumed that she would share this motivation. To my utter shock, she said, ‘I’ve heard you say that before, but that is not what drives me.’
In starting the new year, I have reflected a great deal on this. Because it seems that my desire to make a contribution is a part of my being. It is not just a confluence of personality and training – if that were the case my friend would surely share this desire. (This is not to say she doesn’t want to make a contribution, simply, that this is not her driving motivation!!) I realise that this desire is not trivial, it is something that I need to consider.
As I have slowly ruminated on this, I have come to understand that roots of this desire. I understand that it has been there in different forms throughout my life. It is probably in one of its more healthy incarnations at the moment. In the past it has drawn significant energy from the need to be accepted. At times I have felt I have needed to be able to do something or to ‘bring something to the table’ to be acceptable. I don’t experience that level of neediness at the moment. Nonetheless, I feel the desire to make a contribution.
As I start the new year, it occurs to me, that consider my activities in terms of whether they aid my contribution, may be a good tool for discernment this year. It incorporates both what is for my greater good and for what might be the greater good of the community in which I serve. The discernment lies in murky midst of all of that.
So, what for you will be the guiding question for 2013?