I work in an office where the leaders and staff all claim to be Catholic. But they openly disparage the faith and gab about how they support causes contrary to Church teachings. Should I bite my tongue in order to keep the peace, silently praying for these people when these conversations break out — or stand up and speak out for the faith, risking alienation (or worse) in my workplace?
You’re right to pray for your antagonists, but you should not sit back and let their errors and disrespect go unanswered. As a faithful Catholic, you are called to defend the faith whenever and wherever it is attacked. These misguided people are not only wrong about the Church; they’re also wrong to mock any religion in any work setting. But it’s how you go about defending the faith that will determine how well you do — and whether or not the atmosphere becomes unlivable for you.
First and foremost, your example is always the best form of evangelization. A good Catholic model in the workplace includes more than being a good moral example. You also should show good cheer and do your best work. The way you interact with others will say way more than grace before lunch does (although that is a good idea, too). Respect and trust are accelerators for sharing the truth and will pave the way for a better discussion of the issues.
Second, it is important to know the key teachings of the faith — and to be able to explain them succinctly and accurately. The Holy Spirit will help you if you can’t find the words, but much of his work is done by giving you the fortitude to study up before you engage in dialogue. St. Peter teaches us in his first epistle: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15). And by they way, by ridiculing the reason for your hope, your managers and co-workers are indeed “asking for it.”
Third, keep praying. If your faith is only intellectual and fails to reach your heart, you risk coming across like a know-it-all intent on winning a debate. You need to develop the right disposition for the corrections that need to take place, and that won’t happen without daily prayer and devotions. Find time to make your work situation part of your daily intentions and offer Masses up for the cause. Ask the saints and your guardian angel to pave the way to fruitful discussions.
Finally, you must be prudent. Wait for the right time and the right place to bring up the topic. Let your emotions settle before you respond to the comments that irritate you most — whether that takes minutes, hours or even a few days. Even though you are equals as brothers and sisters in Christ, you must respect your managers’ authority over you at work. That means not interfering with the workday if the matter can be addressed during a break or after hours. You might also consider offering a CD, book or tract. This approach is often less intimidating and allows you to navigate around people’s pride.
Remember that prudence does not mean passiveness. Stay vigilant when it comes to the truth — but share it in love. As St. Peter put it, do apologetics “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” (1 Peter 3:16).
Last year Leadership Excellence
magazine named Catholic consultant Dave Durand one of the ‘top 100 minds on personal development.’
He’s online at DaveDurand.com.