“For their is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works: in Idleness alone there is perpetual despair.” ~ Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present
Carlyle was convinced that the way to create a flourishing human community was through physical labor: building roads, tending gardens and fixing houses, together. He was right, but only to an extent, because how many of us make a living today by doing physical labor? Carlyle didn’t see the digital revolution coming.
Today, the most important work is “emotional labor.” We’re all emotional laborers now, though it’s easier than ever to avoid it.
Every time you avoid a difficult conversation by sending an e-mail or text message you’ve failed to do emotional labor.
Every time you talk behind someone’s back you’ve failed to do emotional labor.
Every time you exclude someone, whether digitally or in person, you’ve failed to do emotional labor. Even yelling at someone is usually a failure at emotional labor.
A quiet conversation, in which each person comes to understand the other, is successful emotional labor.