what really matters

Family, Work, Priorities: What Really Matters?

I just returned from a long lunch with a good friend. Mike has been up to his neck in a “rat race” work experience with a major corporation for 20 years, and he feels disconnected from his family. His philosophy has always been:

  1. Get to work early.
  2. Take every “extra” assignment he’s offered.
  3. Travel – and move – when they ask you.
  4. Stay late.
  5. Work from home on the weekends.
  6. Immediately answer work emails/messages, no matter the time of day or what the family is doing.
  7. Cut vacations short when necessary.

So he made good money, he moved up in the system, he grew apart from his wife, and he lost contact with his children. Several months ago, Mike took me up on my invitation to join a men’s group at church. The guys talked seriously about “what really matters.”

“You’ve got to shift your priorities,” Dan told him.

“You mean making God number one?” Mike responded.

“Not at all,” Bob cut in. “God’s not relegated to a place on our list, God has to be the very ground we stand on.”

“Once that’s squared away,” Tim added, “It’s your wife, your kids, your faith community, and then your job.”

Mike started to look at his work through the lens of faith and family. His wife wanted him as part of the home team; his teenage son needed some quality time with Dad; the preteen girls were looking for his face around the house; the family desperately needed uninterrupted time and family dinners. Interestingly, it turns out that work was more open to change than Mike realized. Mike stepping up was the kind of Mike his work culture valued.

Along the way, the men’s group at church helped Mike articulate the following five key questions pertaining to what really matters.

  1. What am I investing in? Where do I invest my passion? Is the rich core of my devotion focused on my family or is it elsewhere? Am I cheating on my family?
  2. What is the cost in terms of family? Is the career advancement, the extra money, or the perceived goodwill of the world worth what I am keeping from my wife and my children?
  3. Am I moving toward my children or away from them? Can I say that I know my teenaged son’s heart? Could I name the top three concerns my daughter has at school this week? Are we closer than we were a year ago… or farther away?
  4. What is holding this marriage together? There could be a lot of reasons you and your spouse are still together. Take a moment to make an honest assessment. Is it love? Maybe commitment? Do you simply need one another’s resources? Maybe it’s the mortgage? Are you just holding on for the children? Is there something more?
  5. What do I mean by “provide” for my family? That word “provide” can – should – mean a lot more than paying the bills. What about the emotional account? Are you providing spiritually? Are you providing companionship… fun… intimacy…?
Sound Off

Do you feel guilty about the time you spend at work?

Derek Maul

Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men’s resource, a committed encourager, and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time between writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.

  • This is so much easier to say than to actually do. Especially now that technological “advancements” mean that many employers expect employees to be reachable 24×7, even while supposedly on vacation. Additionally, many (if not most) companies these days have an “move up or out” culture where if you are not giving it 120% and moving up the ladder, you are viewed as under-motivated and become one of the more expensive employees in a lower-level position — and are then a prime target for layoffs. I wish it were just a matter of realizing what’s important and re-focusing (like in the movies), but it’s really a more complicated question of how to avoid finding yourself unemployed and unable to support your family.

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Huddle up with your kids and ask “What really matters in life?”

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