I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt with these words "No One Cares – Work Harder” and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Beth and I were having brunch with our friends in New Mexico at a restaurant with a beautiful patio overlooking a garden. I saw the shirt as we were being seated and I commented on how terrible I thought it was.
The morning was perfect for sitting outside and having a leisurely brunch with our friends. It had been quite a while since we had seen them, so we were really excited to have time to just sit and talk.
It was Friday so both of our friends had taken the day off work to spend with us. As we talked, I thought to myself, “How nice that we have friends that care enough to take the day off and aren’t working harder.” As the day went on, one of the topics was how stressful work was becoming for both of our friends as their workloads were increasing.
It seems like there might be a lot of people who are in a position to become overloaded with work due to an increase in business from pandemic restrictions being eased or the company workforce having been reduced due to pandemic cutbacks. What will they be told by their supervisors – or worse yet – what will their inner voice say? Will it be, “No one cares, work harder”?
Is the idea of “no one cares” part of our cultural history of ignoring and suppressing feelings?
Is the idea of “work harder” part of our country’s history of Rugged Individualism?
From wherever “no one cares – work harder” comes, it’s certainly not something I want to embrace. And, more importantly, it’s something I want to speak out against now that I know better.
I’ll be the first to admit that I truly believed this for many years and thought it was completely appropriate. I haven’t thought it about it for a while, so it was a bit of an emotional shock to see it written on the shirt.
Luckily I’ve had time to learn and think about how to deal with my past thoughts and behaviors in a way that is kind to myself. There is no reason to be ashamed or guilty of something from my past when I no longer embrace those beliefs and ideals. At the time, I did not know better, so I do not feel ashamed or guilty. Now that I understand there is a better way, I no longer embrace those old beliefs and ideals. I try to live with a growth mindset and not continue with my old behaviors from habit.
There may be times when “work harder” is appropriate if a person is working towards a particular goal, but we should be incredibly careful that we have looked deeply within ourselves and understand the true nature of our goals. I believe it’s always good to understand the intent behind any action, and it may be hardest when considering our own actions. We should never forget to treat ourselves with love, kindness, and compassion.
It is sad to think of a world where no one cares, and I have not been able to think of any situation when it would be appropriate to tell another person “no one cares.” Sometimes I can go for a long walk and see something from another perspective, but after a two-day hike in the Grand Canyon I still think this would never be appropriate to say to anyone.
I know it is not true that “no one cares,” but I am sad to think about the people that may believe that no one cares about them. Even though it isn’t true, if a person is suffering deeply and believes it to be true, they might not reach out for help when they need it most.
Two days in the backcountry at Grand Canyon gave me plenty of time to consider all of this. There aren’t a lot of distractions when I’m walking so it’s easy to think. I thought about all of this and it seemed to me that I have people in my life that I care deeply about. When they are suffering, I feel their suffering and want to help. However, I also know that I have limited emotional resources and because I have love, kindness, and compassion for myself, I need to carefully balance my emotional well-being with what support I have to offer.
This led to me think about friendships and the importance of having direct connections among each of the friends within a friend-group so that each member of the friend-group knows and can be supportive of any other person in the friend-group. This was a hard concept to describe to myself, but it is the interaction of all the people in the friend-group and not “through-connections” that seem important. If two people in a friend-group only communicate through a third person, when that third person is unable to participate for whatever reason, then the friend-group breaks down. The more places we have support, the stronger we are. Remember, not everyone in a friend-group has the same emotional stamina, much like not everyone has the same physical stamina.
I also thought about how a person might be suffering more from what their inner voice is telling them and not from an outside source. Talking about perceived work and family responsibilities made me realize that a lot of suffering can come from our own inner voice. Because of this I think it is important we not only tell others we are here for them, but it’s also important to ask others when we need help.
We can tell someone we care about who is suffering:
"I am here for you. I think you are suffering and I’m here to listen."
When someone else is suffering and we offer our help it is very important to be a good listener. Be sure you allow the other person to speak freely and completely finish their thoughts before speaking in return. To feel loved, we must also feel both, heard and understood.
When we are suffering, we can tell those who care about us:
"I am suffering and need help."
When we are suffering, it may be very difficult to reach out for support. During these times we may feel that no one cares. Because of this, I feel like it is important to frequently remind those whom we care about, that we care for them, love them, and are here for them whenever they need it.
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