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Family Matters: Faith@Work Life: 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?
BY Randy Hain
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?
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. But it is not an uncommon trait to see. Chances are, we have struggled with worrying about what others think of us. 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’s Gaudium et Spes, The Church in the Modern World).
The more we are able to profess our faith, the easier it will be to carry out the actions of that faith.
Here are four ideas on how to overcome our fear of what others may think of us, be more courageous and go about setting a good example:
Show me in the policy manual where it says you can’t share your faith at work. I have heard many times that expressing our Catholic faith in the workplace is probably "against company policy." Have any of us actually seen a written policy addressing making the Sign of the Cross and praying at meals, praying quietly at your desk, going to Mass at lunch or wearing ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday? Let me challenge all of us to consider the possibility that much of our fear may be based on a false perception of possible persecution and not reality. Therefore, let’s use our right to live our lives as faithfully as we possibly can. In doing so, we will not only find work more enjoyable, but we will inspire others to do the same.
Witness through personal example, and be a light for Christ. We should think about our own faith journeys, how we got to where we are and how we live it day by day when we head into work. Think about the example we could set for others and the Christ-inspired joy we can radiate to those around us. Letting others see Jesus Christ at work in us is a powerful form of witness that will attract others who want what we have in our lives. Will our actions make the path to Christ and his Church look appealing and inviting?
Reality check: Pursuing heaven vs. being popular. Heaven is our ultimate destination and not this place called earth. Will our critics help us get to heaven? Will they stand up for us during tough times? No, they will try to pull us into a secular way of life that has little room for God and where materialism and popularity are the fashionable idols of the day. Doing what is right is not always easy, but, in the long run, it is clearly the most beneficial. Why would we not choose heaven?
Be consistent and lead an "Integrated Catholic Life." Do we take our faith with us to work, meals with friends, the kids’ soccer games and neighborhood swim meets? Or do we only practice our Catholic faith at Mass on Sundays?
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 can 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), 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 Catholics 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.
This is difficult, but a sacrifice on our part is required. The sacrifice is simply to love Christ more than we love the opinions of those around us.
Tomorrow is a new day. Will we have the courage to be a light for Christ to those around us?
Randy Hain writes from Atlanta
and is the author of
Way: Lessons for an Authentic
Journey of Faith
He is the co-founder of
The Integrated Catholic