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Motivated by Love: Working Despite Criticism

April 12, AD2016

MorgueFiles - grain of wheat

One of the hardest maxims to put into practice has got to be Mother Teresa’s advice:

We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as best we can, leaving the rest in the hands of God. What matters is the gift of yourself, the degree of love that you put into each one of your actions.

This wisdom can apply to all areas of our life, be that family, or ministry, but is this possible in our professional work?

Work For The Glory of God

A Catholic worker differs from a non-Catholic worker if not by exterior work then by his interior life. As the saint of “work” and everyday life, Saint Josemaria Escrivá, says,

You must be careful: don’t let your professional success or failure — which will certainly come — make you forget, even for a moment, what the true aim of your work is: the glory of God!” (The Forge, 704).

We work with other objectives in mind. Not that making money is a bad thing, and not that good results and productivity are not admirable goals, but our vision is not reduced to worldly success. “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

So it is possible to work not to see earthly fruit, but to see divine fruit. When you work toward a more honest and charitable work ethic, to offer up all your work in love, to pour yourself into every minute as self-donation, it becomes more between you and God, and not so much about the approval or criticism of others.

A  Catholic’s Primary Vocation

A Catholic worker knows what his primary vocation is. When I taught a year of high school, there was a student who had a very strong family life. She seemed to be friendly toward everyone in her class and had some close friends, but seemed impervious to any drama, cattiness or even bullying. Once she told me, “I don’t know how people can get so upset over what happens at school that they get depressed or even commit suicide.”

This comment stuck with me because I attributed her emotional resilience to her strong family and home life. Her parents, her brother and she were friends. They were in scouts together, took Spanish lessons together, had family traditions together, spent lots of time with grandparents and extended family. I think this gave her the support to be a friend at school, but not to depend on school for her source of love, confidence, and approval.

In the same way, a Catholic is called to live out his primary vocation first and foremost, and that, in turn, is the foundation for his professional work. His primary vocation is a divine relationship, an intimate communion with God and others in Heaven.

Your primary relationship is a family relationship. For the religious, life it is a direct spousal relationship with God (or with the Church, as with priests). For a married person, it is your spouse and family.

Janet Smith says in her eloquent yet practical way, if you have a vocation to religious life, you should wake up and ask yourself how you will show your love for God, your spouse, that day. If you are married, how will you show your love to your spouse and then children? If you are single, how will you show your love to God through the first person he puts in your path that day?

A Catholic worker puts his primary vocation as number one. When professional work flows from that worldview and relationship, he is just as impervious to drama and bullying, as my high school student was. Catholics don’t depend on their job or co-workers for fulfilment, for recognition, or for love.

When Criticism Hits a Nerve

Finally, a thought for mothers and the “professional” work of building a family and taking care of children. I have recently discovered that my sensitivity to my in-laws’ criticism is due to the fact that it usually touches upon the work I am dedicating myself to right now and pouring my heart into.

As a stay-at-home mom, I consider my work to be the building up of our family and home, both physically and spiritually. There is the physical work of changing diapers, making food, taking to play dates, etc… and there is the spiritual work of putting God and prayer first, looking to Him for guidance, having a long-term vision with my husband that guides this process.

This work is easily confused with my primary vocation, but it is still a little different. When I get criticism from in-laws or from varied sources on my option to stay at home, on the type of food I cook, on our religious options and how often we go to mass, on our children’s education, on how my daughter is dressed, how “developed” or social she is, etc. … it hits a nerve.

However, as with professional work outside the home, I am not working to see the fruits or to hear others’ approval. I am looking to God to do the best I can to follow His guidance and heavenly approval. I should pour love and service into each daily task, without needing external, worldly approval. And that helps me to be more unaffected by criticism in my work, also.

Motivated by Love

As even a secular, non-Catholic blog states in this article,

Relationships make your life great, not jobs. But a job can ruin your life – make you feel out of control in terms of your time or your ability to accomplish goals – but no job will make your life complete.

Dealing with criticism is easier if you know you don’t depend on it and you know what you do depend on.  Doing your job despite criticism is easier when you follow Mother Teresa’s advice, and are motivated by love.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal to study theology. She now lives there, along with the rest of her family, her husband and her children. She believes the greatest things in life are small and hidden and that the extraordinary is in the ordinary. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

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  • adam aquinas

    Working out of a motivation of love and united to a god is not the monopoly of Catholicism or Christianity. I have care for 17 years for my son who is a spastic quad, non-verbal. I also work with many parents of extremely disabled kids. These people share in the ability to love unconditionally because they choose to. Some are Catholic/Christian, some Hindi, some Jewish, some Shinto, some fundamentalist, some leftists, some “none of the above.”. The work of loving is not the domain of any religion … it is the domain of people care. A god is not a necessary part of the equation, and at times a detriment. Human decency does not derive from religion, it precedes it.
    Also, MT is not high on my list of heroes ….she gave people who were ill a place to die in unsanitary conditions. Despite millions in the bank she and her nuns provided no medicines to ease pain or to cure illness….just advice that they join their suffering with Jesus. MT loved poverty, not the poor!
    Seek the truth: http://mic.com/articles/28746/mother-teresa-not-a-saint-new-study-suggests-she-was-a-fraud#.Bbi6hoOia

    • Elijah fan

      So you don’t need Christ or His Bride the Church to be good but you are here at a Catholic website to basically darken peoples’ day. I get it. It’s like a dark kind of goodness….lol. So why should we believe that you would know what goodness feels like…if you in fact are here to darken. Fortunately there are only a few of you who seek to basically disturb people by invading their websites. I’ve never once gone to the site of another religion in order to darken their day and insult those they honor.

    • adam aquinas

      A great “straw man” argument. Any website or blog is not to have the masses of people who cannot think or reason sing “kumbaya” because someone says so. Blogs and posts, no matter their theological proclivity, are written to evoke discussion, dialogue, exchange of ideas and to challenge thinking and reasoning. Darken a religion? Come on! I said clearly that goods works, caring with love, selfless dedication are not the propriety right of any religion or no religion at all. It is the high point of all good people. You need to get over yourself…

    • Elijah fan

      Then give us a list of sites you similarly visit of other religions and where you undermine them and their heroines. I’m betting you only press peoples’ buttons at Catholic sites. Prove me wrong. Supply non Catholic sites where you deliberately annoy them also. It follows from your explanation that you should be doing this sick button pressing in an ecumenical way. Your disque link only shows you annoying Catholic sites.

    • adam aquinas

      All others are on Facebook…ya wanna follow me?

    • Elijah fan

      In short, you only target for pressing peoples’ buttons…several Catholic sites,.. no Protestant sites, no Muslim sites, no Buddhist sites, no Hindu sites. You’re here on some twisted vendetta against Catholicism or an individual Catholic of your past but you image as an equal opportunity sophist who just happens to attack only Catholic sites by sheer improbability….sheer coincidence rather than by a wound that you keep opening.

    • adam aquinas

      In short, you are making a load of assumptions about my activity ( and making assumptions about people is sinful) …like I said and you seem to be reluctant, give me an e-mail and I will send you my real name so you can scope me out on facebook and my blog and you will see that I am an equal opportunity critic, not bound by any religion or cult … just looking for truth based on reason and science. Rather than address mt arguments you create “straw men”….take me up on my offer. Conspiracy theory does not bode well with me….

    • Elijah fan

      I don’t want you as a friend…you just savaged Mother Teresa with guesses. No assumptions whatsoever on my part. Evidence. The only sites you invade to disparge the religion and make negative assumptions about people like Mother Teresa are Catholic. Anyone can click on your disque link and all they’ll find is two Catholic sites. Both must have moderators who feel they are helping you. I think they are enabling your sins of the tongue and sins of senseless disturbing. Let’s hope Mothers Superiors with thousands of nuns have millions in the bank. Multiply your son’s disability by thousands of nuns becoming disabled in old age and each order must be ready to pay such health bills especially in countries with no welfare net. But you jump to the pharisee judgement based simply on funds in a bank from donors.

  • Elijah fan

    If you can afford it, stay home but looking very long term, realize that life could require you to be the breadwinner any season of your life if your husband was in an accident etc. Maybe your inlaw saw some such fortune reversal even if she or he is not mentioning it as the source of her or his concern. I think it’s awful that young mothers leave the child in order to work but many have to to pay bills. If you will to have many children, a huge life insurance policy might be prudent. As a teacher, you can open a tutoring business in your home also.