June 23, 2018

Are Christians in the Closet at Work?

Learn 5 Ways to Come Out of the Spiritual Closet at Work

Christians

In 1990, Stephen Covey sparked a leadership trend, challenging us to fixate and analyze habits that make ourselves and others highly effective. In the pursuit of career growth, bigger salaries and homes, many Christians bought into the frenzy of copying behaviors of people we deemed successful. I’m not going to run down his entire list, but Mr. Covey suggested sound, remarkable habits, such as being proactive, and my personal favorite, begin with the end in mind. There’s a reason his list enjoys such a long shelf life; those are real pearls of wisdom that do indeed change lives for the better. For a moment, let’s strip ourselves of job titles and labels that are commonly associated with us — project manager, mother, analyst, father, director, brother, clerk, sister, caregiver — and get to the true core of what makes us all equal: spirit.

Is There a Hidden Habit?

Let’s dive deep into the good habit that pales in comparison with the others. What if actively practicing your Christian faith is the secret ingredient that gives you a true advantage, unlocking the mystery of living a fulfilling life?

Case and point: I remember attending a conference many years ago, and during the general session, some big-time executive was being interviewed on the stage in front of thousands. The interviewer asked him what his morning routine consisted of. I don’t remember everything he said, but I remember him saying things like, reading the morning news headlines with his coffee and checking and replying to urgent emails before arriving to the office.

Wow, did that ever sound robotic! I remember thinking, “What about exercising, cherishing a moment with your family, or taking time out to pray?” For me, the stuff that really matters in life: human and spiritual connections. Exercising connects you with your body. Spending time with family strengthens your bond with them, and praying strengthens your bond with The Lord. But what if some of these so-called successful people were actually spending time with The Lord before work, but they simply kept quiet about it? If practicing their faith is part of their daily routine, it’s a secret that’s guarded almost as fiercely as belonging to The Illuminati.

Athletes Do It. Some Celebrities Do it. Why Can’t We?

If you ever watch post-game interviews recounting the highlights of a stunning victory, it is not uncommon to hear an athlete give credit to God and his team for the big win. The most brilliant example of this sports culture phenomena is when University of Alabama’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa thanked his “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” during an ESPN interview following the team’s win during the national championship.

Now imagine the same mindset, unfolding in a corporate conference room. A manager facilitates a debrief meeting after completing a big project and shares that, as a Christian, she had prayed many times during the project, asking for guidance and wisdom to resolve some challenges after thanking her team. I can just hear that pin dropping now, and I’m sure eyebrows are raising, as you see the dropped jaws in your mind’s eye and hear the imaginary gasps fill the conference room.

But why? Why do many Christians who work in cubicles and corner offices exclude our faith from our platforms? If athletes and celebrities share their faith in the context of their professions, why can’t ‘regular’ people? The Lord’s strength shouldn’t be reserved solely for entertainers to call on publicly.

The world needs more civility and love

School shootings, terrorism and road rage are on the rise and, tragically, seem to be the new norm. In some ways, our country and the world are in a state of perpetual crisis. Courteous and respectful behavior is going the way of the dinosaur, despite a nearly universal belief that God or some form of higher power exists. In fact, Pew Research tells us that nearly two-thirds of Americans absolutely believe in God. However, when it comes to behavior in the workplace, the people who attend church or consider themselves Christians tend to leave their faith and Biblical principles at home.

Egos, personal agendas, political alliances and a competitive, cutthroat mindset are often the drivers and influencers of working relationships and decisions on who gets promoted or the plum assignment. Of course, being a believer certainly does not mean that your behavior and conduct will be 100% good, 100% of the time.

I want to be clear that I do not believe that integrating faith into the workplace will suddenly create a utopian corporate culture where everyone gets along beautifully and business performance skyrockets to shareholders’ delight. The payoff for being spiritually authentic in your career is deeply personal. However, I believe prioritizing faith and connection to God, are important ingredients to experiencing higher levels of resilience, stress tolerance, and personal standards for performance excellence. A quantitative analysis of the benefits to faith in the workplace are a bit unknown, and I believe it is likely the next frontier for workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Very little research exists on this topic, and I hope to change that through this 4-minute Faith & Career Integration survey.

The New Breed of Authentic Leadership

In 2005, Harvard Business Review declared authentic leadership to be leadership’s gold standard. I agree. But how authentic can you really be if you are not also spiritually authentic? If you hide or suppress your faith at work, are you really as effective as you could be? Remember the popular rubber bracelets in the late ‘90’s that had the acronym WWJD imprinted on them? Imagine if we evaluated business decisions not only from a profit-loss perspective, but also through the lens of what Jesus would do?

This leads me to advocate for spiritual authenticity in the workplace. I am not suggesting that anyone should walk around the office thumping people on the head with their Bibles. Nor is it appropriate to evangelize at work, unless someone personally asks you about your faith.

I am suggesting that there is immense value in incorporating your faith into every area of your life, if you desire a life of substance and purpose. I call that thriving, not to be confused with “success.” By the world’s standard, success is often defined by the perfect house, car, dog, marriage, 2.5 kids, and oh, six-pack abs. Too many people have forfeited a deeper quality of life in the mad rush to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.

To thrive, on the other hand, means that you pursue a balanced life of purpose. For individuals and families who are thriving, there is a multidimensional ebb and flow where all aspects of life are honored and valued: career, finances, health, faith, recreation, rest and relationships.

Five Ways to Thrive in Life Through Spiritual Authenticity

For many Christians, there is an awakening happening all across cubicles, conference rooms, and corner offices. Christian professionals want to honor The Lord through the work they do every day. There is a desire to extend Sunday inspiration to the work week, but many struggle with what that looks like. Even worse, some Christians fear violating the HR policy and potentially losing their jobs if they come out of the spiritual closet at work.

If this awakening is beginning to ignite within, use these guidelines as a way to kindle the spiritually authentic leader within.

1. Do begin each day with devotional time with The Lord. Scripture, prayer and meditation: this is basic spiritual blocking and tackling, but it is so easy to sprint out the door each morning and rush to work without even a five-minute sacred moment that allows you to nurture your soul and tap into your real Super Power, your faith.

2. Do be organic about sharing your faith with colleagues. When asked about how you spent your weekend, do you skip the fact that you went to church? Bikers don’t hide that they went on a ride over the weekend. Cooks don’t hide that they tried a new recipe and dog lovers will absolutely tell you that they went to the dog park. Being spiritually authentic means that as Christians, we don’t suppress our love for Jesus between the hours of 8 to 5.

3. Do respect other faiths. When Jesus was on the earth, He engaged in a conversation with a Samaritan woman — a culture that was viewed as “beneath” Jews. He also shared a meal with workers from the most hated profession of the time — tax collectors. As Christians, it is so important that we respect others and show the love of Christ, not only to people like us, but to everyone.

4. Do let your light shine. There is a magical moment when coworkers suddenly become aware that they are fellow Christians. There is strength and hope in community, and when we find kindred spirits, we are able to build our network and support systems with people who understand our frame of reference. As one of the guests on my podcast show so eloquently stated, “When you let your light shine, it illuminates the path for others around you.”

5. Do seek guidance on what it means to be spiritually authentic. If integrating your faith into your career is a new concept for you, I don’t suggest jumping into the deep end of the pool 10 minutes after eating a turkey sandwich. Becoming spiritually authentic is a deeply personal journey. Ask The Lord for guidance and direction. His Word promises that He will lead us on a righteous path.

Connect Deeper

Get inspired on your journey towards spiritual authenticity by listening to stories of everyday Christians who are walking by faith in their careers. Subscribe to my blog for updates on new episodes of the Cubicles & Christ podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Play and Stitcher. You will get a free copy of my eBook, Network with Purpose: How to Grow Your Career and Know Your Calling.

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