This is an issue that’s been on my mind a lot lately. It’s something I’ve always felt passionate about, but it’s especially on my mind now, given what’s going on in this country. I think it needs to be said.
Hard work has become evil.
A few months back I was talking to a group of women. One had been raised in Germany and was hoping to move back there. She was extolling the virtues of the system in Germany: “When you have a baby, you can take up to a year off work and get paid, and they have to give you your job back after. It’s amazing. In the U.S. if you want a better life, their answer is just ‘work harder.’” Laughter followed this, and awe over how ‘awesome’ Germany’s system was.
That last statement — what’s wrong with? “In the U.S., if you want a better life, their answer is just ‘work harder.’” Why is that a problem? Why shouldn’t we work harder if we want something better? Are we somehow entitled to a certain standard of living?
The only things I think we’re entitled to are the rights to life, to be free from persecution or abuse, and the right to seek work/employment and happiness. Basically, you get to be free from harm and you can pursue whatever you want that doesn’t infringe on another’s rights (so, if it makes you happy to hurt people, sorry, can’t do it).
These days, though, people think they’re entitled to a whole lot of things. They think they are entitled to housing: and decent housing, at that (like, all those very low-income people who bought nice homes and defaulted on their mortgages a couple years ago). They think they are entitled to all the free health care they want (never mind the quality of that system, that’s another post entirely). They think they are entitled to excellent job benefits (including several weeks of vacation or extended maternity leaves with full pay). Not to mention excellent jobs that are perfect matches for their skills and desires. They think they are entitled to have nice cars, cell phones, computers, the internet, TVs, large cable packages. They think they are entitled to plentiful food of any variety they wish (like going out to eat instead of choosing to make a frugal dinner at home). They think they are entitled to every social service on earth! And our government isn’t helping either, by creating tons of unfunded mandates to provide these ridiculous services to everyone.
Let’s be clear: I’m not against helping others. I think that it is our privilege and God’s command to serve those less fortunate than ourselves. But I think we, as individuals and communities, need to step up and choose to serve those who need help, rather than relying on our government to force us to do so, and providing help to everyone, even those who don’t need, want, or deserve it.
These days it’s pretty much a crime to say “Well, if so-and-so wants to have X, why don’t they work and save for it?” Depending on what “x” is, you’ll either get “But he can buy it on credit or with financing,” or “but he is entitled to have that, we should all have that.” I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t buy what you can’t afford, and you are not entitled to what you haven’t earned.
You don’t get to live in a nice 4-bedroom house if you don’t make enough money to pay the mortgage on that house. You don’t get to buy a brand-new car if you can’t make the car payments (or better yet, pay in cash). You don’t get to have a new Apple iPhone if you don’t have the money to pay for it (nor do you need it). You don’t get to go to a restaurant every week and enjoy a “nice” dinner when your family of 4 has to somehow eat on only $200 a month. And you shouldn’t spend 1/2 that food budget on beer!
The solution is obvious: you either have to earn more money (and therefore earn the right to a better life), or you have to cut back on your expenses.
I’m well aware that there are families, especially single mothers, who are working long hours to provide for their families and are doing the best they can to be frugal. That is all they can do, and they need our help (that is, local communities, not the national government).
I’m also well aware that there are people who make very little money and yet walk around with the most expensive cell phones and other technology. People who say things like “I have the right to buy myself some new clothes, DVDs, or computer games if I want to!” If your children are hungry, you do not have that right.
What we need right now is more hard work. We’ve raised an entire generation (or so) of people who are spoiled and feel entitled to having a good life. They’re afraid of hard work, and what’s more, they just don’t think they should have to. We live in America, darn it, one of the richest countries on Earth. We should live like it.
But hard work isn’t evil. Hard work is necessary. Hard work is how we earn what we need. And frankly, without it, we don’t appreciate what we have.
I don’t want to be given anything I haven’t earned. If I ever am given something I haven’t earned — that’s called a gift, by the way — I treasure it. I treasure even the smallest tokens. The other week I was given a pound of ground lamb to try from my farmer, for free, as a way of saying “thanks” for helping him (we promote his business a lot) and so we could hopefully drive more business by getting others to want to try it too. It was a small token. But to me it was huge. It was something I hadn’t paid for, hadn’t earned in any way. I treasured that I was given this gift of food.
We don’t treasure things this way anymore. When we are given gifts, we don’t see them as gifts. We see them as just something someone gave to us, for no reason. We’re barely thankful.
But we should be. When we have to work for almost everything that we have, anything that we have means so much. If you have to work to put yourself through school, you take school very seriously. You choose your classes carefully, you attend them all, you pay careful attention, and you do all the work. It means a lot to you because it’s something you’ve worked for. If you save up to pay cash for a car, you treasure it, because it’s yours. It’s something you’ve earned by working hard.
If you don’t work for something, you don’t take care of it. How many kids go to college on their parents’ dime and spend time drinking and partying and barely passing their classes? Too many. They don’t appreciate the gift of an education.
It’s simply human nature: the more we are given, the less we appreciate it. The less hard we have to work, less hard we want to work. Eventually we feel quite put off by the suggestion that if we want a better life, we ought to work for it.
Our grandparents are horrified. They lived through a time where every penny counted, and hard work was the only way to earn a good life. If they didn’t work, they didn’t eat, and they didn’t have a home. That’s sad, but it’s a fact of life.
Instead of vilifying hard work and talking about all of the things people are entitled to, we need to talk more about hard work. We need to value hard work, in whatever form it takes. It does not matter if you are a construction worker or a CEO, if you are working a job you enjoy and you are working hard. We need to encourage people to work hard in order to earn their standard of living.
Did we, when we first got married, have any right to the same lifestyle that we had in our parents’ homes? No! We made very little money, while our parents, being older, made quite a bit more. It was an adjustment for us, to stop buying clothes and games and movies and restaurant meals that we couldn’t afford. But we did. As we’ve worked harder, we’ve been able to relax a little bit. We’re still not entitled to anything, though. Someday we hope to have all our debt paid off (soon!) and to save up large emergency funds and pay cash for everything. And then we will be entitled to a secure future, because we will have planned and saved for one!
You’re entitled to everything you earn. No one should stiff you or belittle your work.
You’re not entitled to what you haven’t earned. No one should hand you a perfect life on a silver platter.
Let’s teach our kids responsibility. Let’s teach them not to be afraid of hard work. Let’s teach them (mostly through example) what it means to work hard. Let’s teach them gratitude for what they have!
And when someone says to you, “But you shouldn’t have to work hard to have that. You have a right to it,” tell them “No. We don’t. Working hard is what gives us rights. We earn what we have.”
(Then, we share our excess gratefully with those who have less than us, especially those working as hard as they can but who are struggling. Who will be grateful for our help, and we will be happy to give it.)
We need men who take their jobs of providing for their families seriously. Those are real men.
We need women (and men) who value the role of caring for children and the home. This, too, is hard work and should be respected.
What do you think about hard work? Do you teach your children about hard work? Do you think you should earn what you have? Do you think there is anything people are simply “entitled” to?
Like what you’ve read? Subscribe so you never miss a post! You can also follow us on Facebook or Pinterest. Thanks for reading!