Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

Say No… to Drugs and to Retirement (This is Me Using Hyperbole)

This is going to sound strange, but I will say it anyway. Work has the opportunity to be a redemptive activity for all who participate. It seems that we are rushing headlong into retirement. When did retirement become such an enviable endstate?

In her article, “How Retirement Was Invented” (Laskow, 2014), Ms. Laskow describes the origins of what would be a pension system in mid 1800s Germany, similar to what became Social Security in the United States (Laskow, 2014). We were paying people to be idle, assuming that they had given their vigor and many years worth of strong effort to a business venture. The surprises were the extended life expectancy change in Americans; and then the inability of our politicians to fix the funding formula for the Social Security trust fund untouched (Williams, 2020).

So while the government struggles to determine how to fund a system that is broken, with less people paying in then taking out (Williams, 2020), Americans are living much longer and seem to have much more idle time. Doesn’t this suggest that they should continue to work at something?

Let’s forget the origin of funding for a moment: whether I am paid to provide a good or service; or whether I am paid after paying into a retirement fund. Let’s just talk about the act of work itself. Work is that activity that allows us to express calling and virtue through the manifestation of our gifts. It is not a punishment for sin, because God directed Adam to work in the garden before his sin (Genesis 2:15). In work of a vocational nature, persons contribute to the success of organizations and find fulfillment in their activities. In retirement, we find things to keep us busy that may help others but generally are not directed to add value to anyone but ourselves. Can we not continue to serve others and earn a living through our work do this while providing value to others in the products and services that we make?

All of this thinking about the value and dignity gained through work comes out of a recent article (Couloute and Kopf, 2018) describing the projected unemployment rate for ex-convicts. This recent article suggests that incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate over 27% (Couloute and Kopf, 2018).

The data suggests that when former prisoners find employment after prison it reduces recidivism and the return to crime (Holodny, 2017).  In one study, statewide rates of recidivism surveyed overall ranged from about 31 to 70 percent, while the rates for prisoners placed in jobs shortly after their release ranged from 3.3 to 8 percent (Cove & Bowes, 2015).  So there is evidence that the employment of former inmates helps to dramatically reduce recidivism rates.

There is an opportunity here for those who have skills and can contribute to their own success and the success of their organization to bless others and find fulfillment in finding work. This also goes for those rushing to end a formal work relationship by becoming idle and collecting a paycheck from the government or my shrunken 401K. Work has this common denominator of offering expression for my gifts, acting redemptively in my own life and through me into the lives of others. With the great resignation and the fact that hiring is not from a normal bell-shaped curve – meaning the yield is not always what you expect – your skills and those of the forgotten and failed fellow travelers with me could add some needed vitality to a new workplace, if the old one is not serving to motivate you any longer. You never know what you’re going to get in that box of chocolates, Forrest.

One study in a culture with no word for retirement – the island of Okinawa (Pasricha, 2016) found that not only to the natives not pursue an idleness after stopping work, but they have a concept called “ikigai” which represents “the reason you wake up in the morning” (Pasricha, 2016). In a parallel study, it was found that those who had this “ikigai” daily driving passion lived longer than those who didn’t (Pasricha, 2016). Go figure.

HBR author Pasricha says that most folks don’t want to retire and do nothing. We want more time to do something we love (Pasricha, 2016). My question is, why don’t we just do that now? Then our “ikigai” will motivate us to zoom past retirement, and we can actually use our gifts and skills to bless others and add value to an organization. Everyone wants an opportunity to do just that.

Couloute, L. & Kopf, D. (2018, July). Out of prison and out of work: Unemployment among formerly incarcerated people. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved from

Cove, P.; & Bowes, L. (2015). Immediate Access to Employment Reduces Recidivism. Real Clear Politics. Retrieved March 21, 2018 from employment_reduces_recidivism_126939.html.

Holodny, E. (2017, July 30). ‘It still haunts me’: What it’s like to get a job after prison in America. Business Insider. Retrieved March 21, 2018 from

Laskow, S. (2014, October 24). How retirement was invented. The Atlantic Magazine. Retrieved from

Pasricha, N. (2016, April 13). Why retirement is a flawed concept. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Williams, S. (2020, February 15). The surprising amount of money Congress has stolen from Social Security. The Motley Fool [Web Blog]. Retrieved from

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