Culture At Large

How does your work shape your view of human nature?

Nathan Bierma

"The View from Inside an Ambulance," originally published in Esquire, is a powerful essay by paramedic Chris Jones on his experiences dealing with death on a daily basis. His work both confronts him with, and numbs him to, human fragility. His closing story about reviving a man presumed dead, in front of the man's son, has a hint of resurrection in it.

The article reminded me that our line of work—the way we use our God-given gifts—shapes our view of human nature. Being a paramedic, Jones shows, gives you a view of human beings as fragile, mortal, at times reckless, but always intriguingly intricate.

In my experience as a writer—which is far a less adventurous vocation, to say the least—I've come to see human beings as always more complex on the inside than they may appear on the outside, secretly listening to an ongoing inner monologue. Working on a Christian college campus gives me a view of the people around me as ambitious but eager to serve and not just succeed.

I can speculate--but only speculate--how other lines of work and service shape how you view human nature: both the good aspects, as God created us, and the bad aspects, as sin has poisoned us. For example:

  • A police officer might see human beings as prone to violence, or as innocent victims of a few wrongdoers
  • A politician may see humans as manipulable, or honorable, or independent, or needy
  • A therapist might see humans as wounded, introspective, self-indulgent, relational—or an odd mixture of all these
  • A customer service person might see people as generally whiny, or as wronged by forces outside their control
  • A parent sees in children humanity as its most helpless, self-centered, jubilant, and curious
What about your vocation—whether it's in a workplace, a home, a hobby, a volunteer service, or a church program? How does it shape how you view human beings—these complex creatures who bear both the scars of brokenness and the image of God?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Evangelism, News & Politics, World