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  • Gary Probst

Who Is Worthless?

I had two teenage girls tell me in separate counseling sessions this week that they are “worthless”. My question to them was, what makes you worthless? They both responded that they’re not pretty enough, not smart enough, not popular enough. Well, my reply was rather to the point.

Neither girl is unattractive. Neither lacks intellect. If they’re not popular, then something is wrong with those around them. Both are bright but not doing well at school, due to social anxiety and worries about those around them. Both are introverts and pummeled socially for not being more “outgoing”. Both have tremendous potential. One wants to be a veterinarian and help animals. The other wants to be a mental health counselor and help people. Both have quick minds and either could be a well-versed and expert care professional---if we can just get them to adulthood and past high school.

Worthless? Who among us is “worthless”? As one of the girls cuts herself and picks her fingers raw and the other has trouble looking me or anybody in the eye, it enrages me to consider the waste of humanity caused through the foolish partitioning of people during the teenage years. Worthless? The very word makes me ill and furious.

Who would Jesus call “worthless”? He didn’t even label Satan as such, much less one of God’s beloved children. Who would God call “worthless” among us? Every person on this planet has unbridled worth. The most depressed and desperate among us has the potential to flourish and contribute to the benefit of the human race. Every person has the ability to make God smile. I have told people in deep depression they need to get out of their misery by reaching out. I ask them to go to the nearest convenience store and be kind to the clerk. That one simple act of compassion and kindness will make God smile and, if that’s all any of us accomplish in our years here on Earth, isn’t that a major accomplishment?

Worthless? Wow! A bright young woman with a kind heart and a desire to help others is worthless? Let’s think about the absolutely ludicrous context of that self-labeling.

While working in the streets of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa, was asked why she helped people in such dire circumstance. Her reply was that any of them could be Jesus in disguise. She did not want to risk the situation where she hardened her heart against another, only to find that it was Christ she was rejecting.

Her love and compassion have given her recognition as one of the great humans of recent centuries. Was Mother Teresa a beautiful woman? Surely, she was not by today’s standards. However, the beauty of her wonderful heart was beyond description and her soul is gloriously in the presence of God’s own beauty. Worthless? I wonder how Mother Teresa would have addressed these two young ladies.

From his window view, a famous painter created several masterpieces, including Starry Night and Irises. He is noted for over 900 paintings, many of them of vast value to the art world and enjoyed by many, today. Was this man worthless? He was not handsome. He was schizophrenic to a point where he cut off his own ear and committed suicide. Starry Night and Irises were painted at the Asylum during one of his stays. Irises is the iconic painting held dear by NAMI, representing the flower that is inside all of us, striving to reveal our inner beauty, in spite of mental health hardship. A print of Irises hangs in my office. Vincent Van Gogh was a man of incredible value to society. His works will live on for centuries. His work brings me joy, every day. It reminds me of the beauty all have within.

There I sat in my office on two different evenings. One with the girl who picked her fingers bloody while sitting there with her loving mother. Her mother’s love was obvious. How can you be “worthless” when another human being would die for you? The other girl’s father was there. He has fought a bitter battle with his ex, in order to keep his daughter safe and in a good school district. He would also stand before a gun for his daughter.

How can any of us be “worthless”, when hundreds of thousands of active and ex-military personnel would lay down their lives for us with no consideration of their own safety? What about the firefighters who rush into burning buildings? How about the EMT’s who live through the agony of trying to hold onto life during the trip to the emergency room? What about the countless human beings who would give up their own safety and comfort to help any one of us? NOBODY is “worthless”. Jesus laid down his life to help us all learn about our own value and to value others. God has given innumerable messages of love and compassion for all of us. Surely, some people in the human existence have been questionable. Hitler, Stalin and Mao come to mind. However, even the most seriously ill and evil are still valued by God. This may be a hard concept for humans to understand but nobody is really asking us to. We just need to make sure that when we hear innocent young people and children saying such things about themselves, that we correct them.

One of the girls mentors a girl with Downs Syndrome and reaches out to others with compassion and love. Sounds like Mother Teresa to me! Where love exists and compassion reigns, the term worthless is of itself, worthless.

Please, do not let this commentary pass, if you hear it from another person and, for the love of God, if you feel that way about yourself, make a quick trip down to the C-store and smile at somebody. Then, find a mirror and smile at yourself. Worthless? You and all of us have no idea of how much we are loved and valued by our Creator. We can’t even comprehend it. Stop insulting yourself and God. Your value to self, the rest of us and God is beyond your ability to see. Your worth is beyond measure.

Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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