The attitude that we bring to our work is a key factor in our overall joy and satisfaction in life
Over the years I have had the opportunity to observe the different ways that caregivers work as well as the attitudes with which they do their work. I have encountered caregivers in various settings – accompanying their wards to meetings and assisting them there, functioning in stepdown facilities and serving in frail-care centres.
What struck me was how many caregivers were completely fulfilled by what they do, and it shows in their attention to detail, their sensitivity and the genuine joy they show while caring. In contrast, there are some caregivers who appear to do only the absolutely necessary minimum and usually with expressions of sullen dissatisfaction – “I don’t like what I am doing and I don’t want to be here.”
It’s worth noting that the attitudes with which we do things also determine the levels of satisfaction that we derive. Also interesting is that our attitudes are often shaped by our perception of the type of power that we hold. There are many different types of power: the power that comes with our positions in life, the power that comes with our ability to threaten or coerce people and the power behind our ability to manipulate people to do what we want them to do. Without personal power – our inner authority to choose how we want to execute the powers available to us – all the external forms of power become meaningless.
The essence of personal power lies in our ability to choose. I can choose for coercion and manipulation or I can choose for grace. I can choose for justice and retribution or I can choose for forgiveness. The irony is that the choices that appear to fulfil our desires often leave us bitter and unfulfilled. We desire justice and if we are very angry we desire retribution. But when we get justice and retribution there is seldom a sense of fulfilment. We’re more likely to be bitter and disgruntled.
On the other hand we can choose to act with grace; caring, loving, empathic and forgiving.
Let’s look at forgiveness. If we seek justice, forgiving removes the chance of getting justice. The same applies to retribution: “I am right, he is wrong and I am going to make him pay.” To forgive someone seems to dissolve one’s power over that person; “making him pay” flies out of the window. So why forgive? There are a number of good reasons but here are three.
Resentment causes the acid to burn in your stomach; it causes you to lie awake at night, cross because of what was done to you. You suffer but very often the person who you are angry with could not be bothered and just carries on with life! So living in a state of unforgiveness makes you miserable. Forgiveness removes resentment – it makes you feel good about yourself and it takes away the anger.
A better reason to forgive is that forgiveness rekindles fellowship. Forgiveness allows us to pick up the pieces and start again. It’s the glue that cements relationships. Without forgiveness we would all be in a state of “me against the rest of the world”. We were made for fellowship. Mankind is a community being. Without community we will never be able to become the person we were meant to be. It is fellowship that allows us to grow, to develop and to love and care. The essence of grace is found in the act of forgiveness.
But the best reason to forgive is because it is the nature of God to forgive. So forgiveness is an act of faith; we give the issue to God and carry on with life.
Now to return to those caregivers who live their vocation with grace. Grace is the ultimate expression of personal power: it is knowing that you have the ability to choose and that you choose to care, to love, to forgive. Grace is also the choice that God blesses most by developing it to the full potential that He created you to be. Grace is the essence of the joy that we see in caregivers who care with love and empathy; those who discovered that to add value in life is to add grace to life.
Ida’s Corner is a regular column by George Louw, who qualified as a medical doctor, but, due to a progressing spastic paralysis, he chose a career in health administration. The column is named after Ida Hlongwa, who worked as caregiver for Ari Seirlis for 20 years. Her charm, smile, commitment, quality care and sacrifice set the bar incredibly high for the caregiving fraternity.