Photo by Raquel Abe

By Liz Chang

I am because I have been cared for.
I do because I care.
These cultivate internal motivation.

It is hard for me to recall much of my childhood, but I do remember the names of specific adults who cared for me in my youth. I remember specific moments when I felt loved by family. And, I have vivid memories of experiencing appreciation from friends. I am who I am today because I have been cared for.

Each day, the list of things to care about seems to grow and become heavier to carry. I definitely did not care about as many issues when I was a kid. This also means I have more responsibility. Because, faith without deeds is dead (James 2:17). To have knowledge and awareness of injustices necessitates action. When I learn, I must care. And when I care, I must take action. To care, or to see value, propels us to action.

In my work with teens, one of the most commonly identified solutions to problems is, “I don’t care.” I don’t care what they think. I don’t care about my grades. I don’t care if I get in trouble. One of the most commonly identified values is “family.” I would do anything for my family. Family is family.

When family has an opinion; when family cares about grades; when family cares about expectations and discipline… Then, the kid has at least an ounce of care for those things too. Because, family.

Values give us purpose, and purpose drives us to action. This is internal motivation at its best.

According to Goleman’s definition, internal motivation is “marked by an interest in learning. It is also self-improvement vs. a pursuit of wealth and status.” While his definition is useful and relevant, I see it necessary to expand “self-improvement” to the work of familial improvement, communal improvement, and societal improvement. While those larger scales of improvement are external, there is certainly an internal tie that we experience with those contexts. In my experience, my internal motivations have been deeply informed by the values of my family, community, and social contexts.

When it comes to leadership, it is the person who is deeply aware of their values, skills, and means to take action who has potential to be a significantly influential person. It is the person who has many and specific cares that is the one who is equipped to build relationships and accomplish tasks. And, it is the person who knows their God-given worth who is inspired to persevere.

In faith, internal motivation exists hand-in-hand with Spirit motivation. Do you ever feel a pull from inside to speak out about something? Do you ever suddenly think of someone you haven’t spoken to in a while? Do you ever feel the need to…?

We value because we need. When we are in need, when we are in want, or when we are aware of our collective need of God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven… As Christians, we become responsible and are fueled with the Spirit internally motivating us.

Liz Chang resides in Seattle, WA and works for Navos as a substance abuse prevention & intervention specialist at a local middle school, and as a child and family therapist. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and is working towards certification as a Chemical Dependency Professional. 

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