by Randy Hain | September 3, 2012 12:01 am
Do we ever stop to consider how many times a day our thinking and actions about our Catholic faith are influenced by a misguided concern for what others think of us?
During the day, how many times have we missed opportunities to stand up for Christ or share our faith? Is it the conversation we avoid with a troubled co-worker? Is it our refusal to publicly make the Sign of the Cross and say a blessing over our meals? Is it our reluctance to stand up to someone who is attacking the Church? How about the person who is quietly curious about the Catholic faith and is only waiting on an invitation to attend Mass with us?
Too often, a misplaced concern for the possible negative opinions of those around us keeps us from embracing our responsibilities. However, it is crystal clear that Jesus expects us to openly share our faith and acknowledge Him before others: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 10:32-33) From Jesus, we learn that being a courageous and faithful Catholic in the workplace and the public square is not something to be ashamed of or to hide.
Christ is our greatest example on how to not be concerned about the respect of others. He always taught the truth, regardless of the audience or his surroundings. His enemies recognized this aspect of Christ’s teaching, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.” (Matthew 22:16)
Francis Fernandez, author of In Conversation with God, makes this observation about courageously sharing the truth: “Christ asks His disciples to imitate Him in this practice. Christians should foster and defend their well-earned professional, moral and social prestige, since it belongs to the essence of human dignity. This prestige is also an important component of our personal apostolate. Yet we should not forget that our conduct will meet with opposition from those who openly oppose Christian morality and those who practice a watered-down version of the Faith. It is possible that the Lord will ask of us the sacrifice of our good name, and even of life itself. With the help of His grace we will struggle to do His will. Everything we have belongs to the Lord.”
He goes on to say that in a difficult situation, we should not give in to the temptation of simply taking the easy way out, for it may lead us away from God. Instead, he calls us to always make the decision that strengthens our faith and holds onto our deepest convictions. How we act in difficult situations, and every day for that matter, reflects the type of Christian we are. I would suggest that not taking a stand for Christ – not openly sharing our true beliefs – may be one of the biggest obstacles for many of us in growing in our faith… and possibly for those around us who are watching our example.
It is not an uncommon trait to see in people. After all, who wants to risk any work relationships because of faith. Chances are you have struggled with worrying about what others think of you. It is a natural human tendency that affects me and everyone I know. We all want to be liked, respected and included. But, here’s the catch… we can’t separate our spiritual selves from our physical being. The faith we profess is part of who we are and can’t be hidden away. “One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives… The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbor, neglects God himself, and endangers his eternal salvation.” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes)
The more we are able to profess our faith, the easier it will be to carry out the actions of that faith. So here are five thoughts on how to overcome our fear of what others may think of us, be more courageous and go about setting a good example:
We can’t do this alone and we must pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In my own experience, this is a daily work in progress and it is never easy. But, we should all recognize that there are people looking at us to see our example. They want to learn from and be inspired by our courage, if we are only willing to take a stand for Christ. Think about how fortunate we are to live in a Christian country (although our religious liberties are under attack, i.e. the recent HHS Mandate) where all we risk is possible disapproval or alienation from others. When we take our faith to work, we are standing up to that fear and solidifying the core values that we as Christians believe in. In order to maintain that strength, it is important to live faithfully each and every day, which means taking that faith to work. It will be difficult at times and will require sacrifice, but to live with the love of God every minute of every day is far more rewarding than a little disapproval.
I know this is difficult, but the sacrifice on our part is required. The sacrifice is simply to love Christ more than we love the opinions of those around us. Let’s pray for one another and continue to ask Jesus for strength and the discernment to know and follow his will.
Tomorrow is a new day. Will we have the courage to be a light for Christ to those around us?
This post is adapted from Chapter Seven of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work (Liguori 2011)
Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was recently released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and your local Catholic bookstore.
The Catholic Briefcase was recently voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith will be released by Liguori Publications in November 2012 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
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