Community Post: When Your Own Self Holds You Back in Your Work

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This week at The High Calling, we’re focusing on "what holds you back in your work." Here on the Community page, several members of our diverse writing network offer their unique insights on the topic.

We all love the story of a treasure that hides in plain view until being recognized for what it is. In fact, PBS has mined our love for this narrative to create seasons of Antiques Roadshow. The hour-long episodes are based on the premise that humble Farmer Joe, who brought in what he thought was a painting of his step-aunt’s dog, is actually the owner of a million-dollar, fine-art rendering by Matisse--created in the era known as his “furry years.”

However, I tend to find much less exquisite realities in places I was never looking.

It is often within the context of my job that what I say I believe stumbles upon what I do. This may, at first, seem obvious. We all know that a competitive work place can be prone to make us show our teeth a bit. It becomes a bit more interesting when noted that I work within contexts that most would not see in any way competitive. And some of the biggest foes I have battled are the ones within myself.

My job has run the gamut from pastor, writer, consultant and, currently, executive director. As you can infer from the list, I have gravitated away from roles that are typified by language reserved for battle. I even forewent lawyer jobs after law school.

In a more naïve time, I must have thought that by avoiding what I considered stressful jobs, I could avoid stress. This has not been the case.

Because no matter the position, tension has come. My job constantly reminds me that I am not who I want to be, nor who I formulate myself to be when all is right and working splendidly. I guess all worthy endeavors I have been called to share this unfortunate trait.

Our work environment is where dreams of self go to die. I am exposed in my weakness, though I do not go down without a fight to act otherwise.

Having founded an organization that brings awareness and action to the plight of individuals with disability globally, you may think that I would have a grasp on the worth of individuals. However, I am besieged with daily reminders within my job that I must endow humanity and worth to all whom I encounter at work, not just the ones I work on behalf of.

I tend to forego the humanity of some in order to fight for recognition of the humanity of others. It is work alone that has forced me to confront the shallow paradox I am attempting to live. And though I still harbor grand hopes of million-dollar dog paintings, for this find, I am most thankful.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19)

Matthew Lyle Mooney is the author of A Story Unfinished which chronicles the life of his son, Eliot. He and his wife, Ginny, founded 99 Balloons, a non-profit organization that engages individuals with disability locally and globally. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he busies himself raising Eliot’s siblings—Hazel, Anders and Lena. You can find his blog at