Neither Overpromoted Nor Undervalued

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

You may have heard the proposition that people get promoted one step beyond their level of competence. In this proposition, the one position we won't get beyond is the one in which we fail to perform adequately.

If we begin with the basic premise that we have only limited potential, then there is a certain logic to this. There is, however, something beyond that limiting premise. Understanding every man and woman as truly unlimited in terms of God-given talent and ability has stimulating implications. This concept that everyone has boundless potential is fully in accord with the Bible's declaration that we are made in God's image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26).

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook of Christian Science written by Mary Baker Eddy, explains, "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis" (p. 258). From this perspective there is no limit to the development of individual qualities and skills. Whatever the constructive activity one pursues, he or she can rise to its demands and responsibilities through seeking to express the unlimited capacities given by God.

I once faced the feeling of having been promoted beyond my ability to perform. I had to chair a series of meetings that would involve regular discussions on highly controversial issues. I'd had no previous experience in this kind of work. Then as I got started, I heard from several people that a former chairperson had done the job particularly well. This made me feel even more inadequate, since that individual had a wealth of experience I knew I lacked.

I prayed about this. I was learning that one way to understand God is as infinite Principle. The Bible implies this, and Science and Health elaborates on it. Principle, as a synonym for God, describes His government of the universe, including all men and women, by unopposable law that applies equally to all. This law is good. It became clear to me as I prayed that both the former chairperson and I were always under the government of the one perfect Principle. And if my predecessor could do a good job of chairing the meetings, this was an indication that I could, too. I recognized that I had to stop trying to boost my feeling of limited competence. Instead I had to accept that the unlimited reflection of Principle was my identity. God would enable me to perform well in what was mine to do.

Adopting this spiritual perspective as my basis, I did do fine, even in conducting those meetings that were the most challenging. And I received compliments from all sides. I felt more sure that whatever is legitimately ours to do, whether it involves career, family, church, or community, is never unsupported by God. Prayer that seeks to know Him will never leave us inadequate to performing with excellence.

What if, on the other hand, you are more than adequate in accomplishing the tasks that are currently yours? Instead of feeling overpromoted, you may feel undervalued at work, at home, or just in general. This, too, is something you can take to God. He is All. To realize that God is the true employer and your foremost companion-your creator-is to understand your worth as dependent on Him alone. His appreciation of His children is unwavering.

Jesus Christ put this rhetorically to his followers. The book of Luke in the Bible records him asking, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?" He then assured them, "Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows" (12:6, 7). This conveys a great understanding of the boundless value we have to God. And such understanding shows that self-worth is not at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control. We are each of unconditional value. To the degree we accept this to be so, our thoughts are changed, and practical ways to find work and to do it well come to light.

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