Continued from Part 1… here are a few ways our actions can speak louder than words in the workplace.
Be a Friend
I worked with a guy several years ago named Stan, who had grown up Christian but abandoned his faith in favor of Buddhism. It was a bit of an odd relationship. Stan delighted in giving me a hard time about being Catholic, and we had many spirited conversations over the course of time. Here’s the thing, though – Stan was a great guy and I instinctively liked him. Despite our religious differences, we had many other things in common.
No matter what the background or disposition of a coworker, an “apostolate of friendship” is always possible. Despite Stan’s intransigence with regard to the faith, we shared a genuine friendship. This can be true even in cases where the relationships are more challenging, and less instinctive. Once again, in considering the gospels, Jesus befriended (much to the discomfort of his disciples and others) all kinds of people, including those of lower societal strata. Children. A Samaritan woman. Tax collectors. Pharisees. Prostitutes. He took an interest in them, and desired what was best for them – regardless of whether they followed Him or not.
Pope Francis made waves in the press when at one point, he insisted that all people are redeemed. He didn’t mean all were saved, of course, but it’s important to realize that this attitude reflected our Lord’s actions – and desire to offer the gift of eternal life to all. There is no “us versus them,” we’re all sinners deeply in need of mercy. The radically unique Christian message includes the fact that every soul is of equal – and immeasurable – value in the eyes of God. So if our Lord wanted to be a friend to all, shouldn’t we?
Speaking of Pope Francis, one of his most endearing traits is his humility. In fact, humility is a foundational virtue, one that allows us to focus on others rather than ourselves, and even more important, to facilitate proper worship of God himself.
Think about the countless scriptural references to humility. James 4:6 tells us “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This isn’t hard to square with our own experiences – have you ever been turned off by the arrogant attitude of someone you’ve just met? It tends to have a chilling effect on the relationship, doesn’t it? On the contrary, encountering a humble person has the opposite impact. It attracts us to them, in the best sense.
I have been privileged to know leaders of organizations with a global scope, who you might think could have an arrogant streak. Yet one such woman (let’s call her Nancy), who is perhaps among the smartest people I know, is also among the most gracious. How is this manifested, you might ask? Despite Nancy’s prodigious intelligence, she displays a remarkable attribute: rather than pontificating, she asks questions. In the process, she demonstrates great kindness and takes a sincere interest in everyone she meets.
These habits have an astonishing impact on others. When you’re engaged in a conversation with Nancy, you feel deeply honored, and have a sense that your opinion truly matters to her. You feel highly esteemed to have such a formidable intellect asking what you think. I wonder if that’s how some people felt when they spoke to Jesus.
In the workplace, humility is also helpful when we consider how often we find ourselves working in teams. By their very nature, teams consist of people, all equipped with various strengths and weaknesses. You’ve heard of (or experienced) political environments, right? That’s where teams play off of one another’s weaknesses for personal gain. Thankfully, the opposite is also true – in good teams, we play off one another’s strengths. That requires recognizing one another’s strengths. That requires humility.
In the end, our humility is a kind of secret weapon of the Christian faith. It’s good for us. It’s good for our human relationships. It’s good for our divine relationship. It’s good, by extension, for our workplaces.
Scripture is chock-full of exhortations to hope, such as this passage in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It’s a fundamental part of the gospel message, not to mention one of the three theological virtues!
Hope is also attractive, particularly as so many people around us struggle in this area. Who doesn’t, right? So what does hope look like when it’s applied to our work lives?
First, doing our best at work, striving for excellence, is a manifestation of hope. If we do even the smallest things out of love for God, placing our hope in Him, we know it’s pleasing to Him. It can also be a practical stress reducer, since we have given our best but recognize that we’re not in control of all the outcomes in our lives. God is.
Recognizing that grace builds upon nature, we do our best, offer up our work to the Lord, asking for his blessing on our humble efforts, and give thanks for the results. Even when the results aren’t what we hoped for. When that’s the case, we keep giving our best. Even in failure, we can place our hope in Him, and even maintain a spirit of joy.
How do we do this? Well, think about the crucifixion for a second. At the time, this appeared to be a complete extinguishment of all hope, at least from the perspective of Christ’s disciples. Yet with the resurrection, that perspective rightly changed. That’s the beauty of embracing a spirit of Christian hope. Even when things seem to be at their worst, we can have faith that the Lord still holds us in His hands.
Final Part of Series
Click here for a link to Part 3 of this article. Let’s pray for one another…
Note: Many thanks to Catholic Answers magazine for publishing this article in their July/August 2014 issue.