Unconditional worth means that each person has infinite, unchanging worth as a person. This worth comes with a person’s creation, and cannot be earned nor lost by poor behavior. This is not the same as market or social worth, which clearly are earned and lost. This core worth is not comparable. So you might be a better doctor and I might be a teacher, but worth as a person is equal. In theological terms, worth as a person is a given; each and every soul is precious because it is created by our loving Father.

The core self is like a crystal of great worth. Each facet represents a beautiful potential or attribute in embryo. Each person is complete in the sense that he or she has every attribute needed (such as seeds of love, integrity, intelligence, and talents). However, no one is completed or perfect, since no one has developed all attributes fully. Yet the worth of the core is infinite. People sometimes ask, “But how can I have worth if I have never accomplished or produced anything noteworthy?” And I ask them to think why parents might spend two million dollars seeking treatment for childhood cancer.

Some externals (e.g., respectful treatment, making wise decisions) shine up the core and help us enjoy its beauty more. Other externals (e.g., criticism, abuse, unkind behaviors) can cover or camouflage the core like a dirty film. The basic core is still there, however, unchanged in worth as a person.

The goals of strengthening this building block are:

  1. Separate core worth from externals. Externals include performance, appearance, health/disease, condition of the body, wealth, race, social status, gender, education, how we are treated, and traumatic events that happened.
  2. See clearly one’s inner strengths. The idea is not to see each strength as completely developed, but to appreciate that the capacities are there, in embryo, to think rationally, to feel, to sacrifice, to love, to make responsible choices, to recognize truth and worth, to beautify, to be gentle, patient, or firm. These capacities exist in each person, at different stages of developement, because we are made in the image of a God who is all these things and more.

With this understanding, one is freed to find satisfaction and joy, even in poverty or fading health. This understanding permits us to experience value and worth amidst out imperfections. It gives us the perspective that there is more to us that what happened to us or what we have done or not done.

Two Questions:

  1. Do we, as youth workers, understand this about ourselves? Or, are we attaching our worth to the “success” of our ministry efforts?
  2. Have we, as youth workers, cultivated relationships with students based on this understanding? Do we work to challenge the kind of thinking that supports that value is somehow attached to performance?