Know Your True Worth


A carpenter and his apprentice were walking through a large forest. They came across an old oak tree. The carpenter asked his apprentice, “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said, “No… Why?” “Because it is useless,” answered the carpenter. “If it had been useful, it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs. But because it is useless, it could grow so tall and beautiful and you can sit in its shade and relax.”

We constantly confuse worth with usefulness. Witness the way we treat the old and the economically unproductive. No longer do we seek to benefit from their wisdom and experience. I wondered about the number of harried, “useful” people who had identified their worth with the numbers, statistics and concrete results they could deliver, the societal praise and adulation, and I realised how much wisdom there was in the elderly.

We talk about a society with a “human face”. Yet, most of the underlying premises of our society, our jobs, environment, our social groups is based on equating worth with “usefulness”.

What we have is the fellowship of the strong and the able. What we need also to develop is the fellowship of the weak and the disabled, who are often more transparent and open and from whom we can learn. Most people defend their “usefulness” for as long as they can.

Instead, if they learnt to share their “uselessness”, they would, like the beautiful oak tree that —though gnarled and old — is beautiful, providing shade and sustenance to others.

by Janina Gomes

Originally at

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