What are some of the obstacles we may face (real and perceived) to living out our faith at work? What are tangible solutions for overcoming them? I would like to share examples from the numerous conversations I have had with Catholic working men and women over the past few years on the subject of faith at work:
“I am afraid of losing my job if I am open about my faith at work”.
Look carefully at your company policy regarding this issue…if there even is a policy! Setting a good example, sharing our joy and reflecting Christ back to others is in no way a violation of any company policy of which I am aware. There are extremes in everything, so organizing a bible study group at work may not be the most appropriate choice. But, letting others see Christ at work in us is the most fundamental and important way to be open about our faith at work.
I am often comforted and encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s advice in his letter to the Philippians (Phil 4:8): “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We need to choose whose opinion we value more highly-God’s or the leaders of our company. Hiding your true Christian self is unhealthy and dangerous and not pleasing to God. Weigh carefully the price you may be paying for submerging your beliefs (and true self) to benefit your career versus the reward you may be forfeiting in heaven.
“I just don’t have the moral courage to be open about my faith.”
This is one of the most honest and frequently given excuses I hear. By definition, moral courage means we are willing to act on our convictions even if it costs us something, such as social acceptance or convenience. It is easy to conform to secular expectations, but difficult to publicly show our love of Jesus, live out the Beatitudes, evangelize and lead a fully integrated life. Consider and be encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:1-5): “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”
“I love the Lord, but I don’t always know the appropriate thing to say about my faith, especially at work”.
It is said that St. Francis of Assisi once offered this advice, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Don’t worry about being “good enough.” We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It is through the charity we show to others and our daily example of Christ’s love in our hearts that reveals to those around us we are Christians. If we are truly acting as Lights for Christ, people will be drawn to us and the Holy Spirit will work through us-if necessary, the words will come.
“I am not comfortable sharing anything personal, especially about my faith.”
Transparency invites transparency! We can’t expect someone to open up to us unless we are willing to do the same. Our faith journey is a blessing, meant to be shared, and the witness we give may have a profound influence on someone. As we read in (1 Peter 3:15-16): “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.” More directly, our Lord said in (Matthew 10:32): “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father in heaven.”
Do these resonate with you? Do you have additional examples? Just remember that many of us will spend over one-third of our lives in the workplace and to lead fully integrated lives, it is necessary to carry our faith with us everywhere…including work. I come back again and again to the simple and powerful encouragement of this passage in the Gospel: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” –(Matthew 5:13-14 and 16).
Let’s be Lights for Christ today and every day…and everywhere.