My Journey to Workplace Faithfulness

My Journey to Workplace Faithfulness April 20, 2015

As a layperson in the church, learning how to be faithful in my work is something that is close to my heart. I have worked in a lot of contexts and have often struggled to balance how my faith related to my work. Back when I was a first entering the workforce the main model of faith at work I used was evangelization and the main method I used was exhibition.

I showed my faith by displaying my faith.

I wore Christian t-shirts, had a cross around my neck, I read my bible at lunchtime, and I spoke about my faith on just about every occasion I could. This approach was very effective at making sure my faith was seen, but I’m not sure how well is made it known. At this point in my life I felt that it was my responsibility to tell everybody about Jesus. I was told by many teachers and pastors that I was the only Jesus some people might ever see. I feared that if I didn’t speak up, they might go to hell, and it would be my fault.

This kind of pressure was intense and ultimately proved to be unsustainable. I felt burnt out and like a failure. I preached the gospel, but nobody responded. I felt that it was my job to save people but nobody was getting saved. I slowly began to see that saving people was Jesus’ work. I could participate in it but I wasn’t in charge of the project.

Faith in the workplace is deeper than becoming a human billboard for Jesus.

I realized that I needed to turn to God’s work, instead of my own. I wasn’t responsible for saving people, I had to trust God for that. Unfortunately I began to fall into another pitfall. I started to become fixated on discovering God’s will. I believed God was already at work in every person’s life, and so my encounters at work were about figuring out how to do exactly what God wanted me to do. I approached every situation as if God’s divine plan was in the balance and I could either accept his his will or reject it. Every person I worked with was potentially placed in my life for some kind of divine encounter. Every meeting involved a hidden agenda of what God wanted to get done. I just had to listen for the Spirit’s prompting. None of this was bad, it just placed an unrealistic expectation on what my work was (and my centrality in God’s plans). In a way I suffered from a sin of egotism. I had assumed that God needed me to do particular things in order for his plans to work smoothly. Eventually, however I came to another realization…

God’s will is not a to-do list filled with items to check off, but a lifestyle of faithfulness.

God probably didn’t care as much about who, what, when, and where I did things. God’s call was more interested in how. Was I faithful to my commitments? Was I honest? Did I respect the dignity of those around me? Did I care for those who were hurting? Was I generous with my time? Was I courageous? Was I forgiving?
Our work is a part of our vocation, and as such is an essential part of our sanctification. Being faithful at work begins with loving God and serving your neighbor. The workplace can become a kind of monastery where I engage in the hard work of becoming who Jesus would be, if Jesus were me.
One of the books that really influenced how I developed this perspective was Redeeming Administration, by Ann M. Garrido. In this book Ann shares her own struggles with making administration a holy work. There are 12 core values talked about and for each one Ann talks about her own journey, offers some wisdom from her catholic faith, and shares the life of a saint that demonstrates this value in their own administrative work.  I printed off the values and posted them on my wall by my computer to help me stay focused on this work as an act of love and ministry. You can see the image here.
So what are some practical ways to be faithful at work?
I have found it useful to start each day by writing down my values along with my tasks as I plan my day. My to-do includes tasks for work as well as attributes I hope to embody. In doing this I often will think of concrete ways that I can embody these attributes. This might result in a phone call to encourage a colleague, a reminder to go to Mass between meetings, a mindfulness about how I am working, or any number of other items.
At the end of every to-do list I write these words: “Be the person Jesus would be, if Jesus were me.” This is an item I don’t think I’ve been able to check off yet… maybe today will be the day.

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