Saturday, May 06, 2006

Toward a Lutheran Psychology of Work

I’ve done some thinking about what Lutheran vocational psychology would look like. I read Mark U. Edward's paper in Dialog called Charistically Lutheran Leanings a while back, and his analysis of Lutheran epistemology has influenced this brief outline. I don't think that these characteristics are necessarily exclusive to a Lutheran understanding of vocational psychology, but I do think that they flow out of the doctrine naturally. Please let me know what you think.

  • Career is understood in community – parents and others have a real stake and say in a person’s choice of occupation. I think this is more of a warning to parents to study their children and learn how they would fit in the world rather than something to tell kids (because it won’t make them submit to their parents' decisions). I think this is an area for "do not exacerbate your kids."
  • Career decisions are made based on the best available data – Lutheran theology values the earthly and the real. It would look toward abilities and interests and away from a sense or feeling of the 'right' career path to take. God has and does call people dramatically as in a burning bush, but most of the time God works through means. Abilities, interests and proclivities are indicators of Divine calling.
  • Cautious – career behavior, from decision making to maintenance would be cautious and deliberate. Prudence is highly valued. The criteria for selecting a career path or moving on from one company to another would require careful deliberation not a reliance on gut instinct or feeling. A Lutheran vocational psychology would not necessarily follow the money either. Prudence involves thinking about the possibilities in the market, not just what is profitable right now. It also involves thinking about others, first spouse and children and then others whom your work will impact and serve. Occupations are a place to serve the neighbor, not a place to serve yourself primarily.
  • Contextual – This way of looking at work would ask, 'How can I love and serve my neighbor with this set of skills and in this context.' The answer to 'who is my neighbor' is always those who are right here in front of me.
  • Unworried – A Lutheran vocational psychology would posit that there are many ways to love and serve your neighbor and therefore many acceptable jobs. One need not worry about having 'missed' his or her calling.
  • Faithful – Opportunities and jobs are viewed as a Divine calling from God, no matter how ordinary the decision making process that led one to a particular role. As such, the worker would be encouraged to be faithful to the position in which one finds oneself. This runs counter to much career counseling which seeks to optimize personal happiness. Rather, struggle is a guarantee. We will have difficulties and crosses to bear in our occupational lives. Instead of packing it up at the first sign of difficulty, Lutheran vocational psychology would counsel patience and fortitude. This does not mean that injustice would have to be accepted if it existed in the organization. People would be encouraged to make whatever changes in the workplace that they could to "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
  • Dutiful and Joyous? – Work life is a solemn responsibility, as we are commanded to work diligently and as unto the Lord himself. It is also a great joy as we are given the opportunity to serve our neighbor as the hands of God himself. There is great comfort in a balanced view of work that neither sees it as a drudgery, the result of the fall, nor sees it as all joy, expecting never to run into obstacles if one is in his or her "true calling."


Blogger Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Can't say I can add anything; what you've done is great. Thanks. :)

8:05 PM  

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