The atmosphere of our workplaces can be very competitive and success-oriented. It’s emphasis on achievement, recognition, and position makes us vulnerable to self-absorption, self-assertion, and self-exaltation.
Focus on self is an addiction in our society. No greater preoccupation threatens the light of Christ shining through his disciples. Fourteen hundred years ago, St. Benedict developed a 12-step program to help his monks grow in humility and foster greater love and devotion to God.
“Should you ask me, ‘What is the first thing in a virtuous life?’ I should reply, the first, second, and the third thing therein – nay, all is humility.” St. Augustine
Humility is a hallmark of Christianity. Humility is the antidote for our self-centered pride and sets us free from its hold. God’s incarnation was the ultimate in self-sacrificing humility. As coworkers in Christ, our call is to be of the same mind in all things. And, all things includes the workplace.
A SCHOOL OF HUMILITY
The workplace, with its emphasis on power, control, and advancement, seems to work against humility’s development. It is much easier to keep our faith life at the door. Wishing to live a life of humble integrity in the workplace takes courage, grace, and is not without personal risk. But God’s truth is clear.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
Each day we are presented with opportunities to grow in this virtue, participating in God’s school of humility; consciously choosing to cooperate with these opportunities, allows God to work. Using St. Benedict’s 12 steps as a guide, here are a few areas where humility should abound, updated for the workplace.
Step 1: Fear of the Lord
Embrace the good order and simple rules of good business practices and the company’s way of doing business. Do nothing that would be offensive to God. Let God’s commands and a personal desire not to offend him lead and guide our daily actions.
Step 2: Not My Will But Yours, O Lord
Set aside our personal desires. See our occupations as calls from God to work for our Father, 24/7, 365 days a year. Proactively seek his ways in our responsibilities and not our own.
Step 3: Obedience Even Onto Death
Obey those in positions of authority, including owners, supervisors, and all those lawful authorities giving us direction.2 Go the extra mile when we’re asked. Bear the difficult task. Do the unseen and under-appreciated.
Step 4: Embrace Suffering Patiently and Obediently
Accept affliction and personal injustice without seeking to escape. When someone insults us, turn the other cheek. When asked to do more than our fair share, don’t complain. When humiliated, smile.
Step 5: Confess Your Sins and Faults
Acknowledge our weaknesses or failings. When wrong, admit it. When things aren’t working well ask a supervisor and others what we might be doing wrong. Seek others advice on how we might improve.
Step 6: Content Yourself with Lowliness
Be happy to accept the unseen role. Volunteer for the mundane task. Avoid the approval of others. Don’t upgrade to the next version of a gadget when the one we have is all we need. Don’t seek office perks and recognition.
“For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” 1 John 2: 16-17
Step 7: Practice Self-Reproach
Be honest with ourselves. Recognize our own shortcomings first. Don’t be quick to judge. “Humbly regard others as more important than [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3). Give others the benefit of the doubt. Be the first to reach out to help others when they fail.
Step 8: Keep the Rule
Participate and cooperate with company policy and procedures consistently and faithfully. Humbly and appropriately work to encourage and build on what is good, to eliminate what is wrong, to fix what is not working, and to bring about what is missing.
Step 9: Employ Silence and Solitude
Foster peace. Don’t participate in office politics and gossip, leaving all in God’s hands. Understand that silence is golden. Ask good questions to better understand as well as help others participate. Listen well. Clarify what others are saying. Make orders few and reasonable.
“Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well.” Proverbs 10:19
Step 10: Avoid Excessive Laughter
Don’t take the problems of the world lightly when we’ve been given a serious mission. Have good and appropriate joy. Read the Scriptures. Study the life of Christ and holy men and women of God. Don’t be silly or the office clown. Avoid foolish and unnecessary talk. Don’t laugh at people or make fun of others. Be empathetic and don’t put others down for their mistakes.
Step 11: Speak Calmly and Modestly
Speak gently and lovingly. Let our actions speak louder than our words. Do not talk crudely and always be respectful when talking about others. Let the fruit of the Spirit speak loudly in us (Galatians 5:22-23).
Step 12: Live Humbly and Meekly at All Times
Find our greatest comfort and joy in working for our Father and doing his will, no matter what the circumstances. Live unassuming lives and enjoy the simpler things. Do not look out for our own interest but those of others. Foster our love for God. Dress modestly. Do not be flashy or consumed with the latest trends.
LAMPS SHINING BRIGHTLY
Each step takes us deeper into true, more mature love-centered relationship in Jesus Christ. We are to be a lamp for the light of Christ to brightly shine through. By submitting and cooperating with the circumstances of our lives, we let the Holy Spirit transform us. Our hearts grow in love and self-denial. We are freer to love God, embrace our own call, serve others, and fulfill his mission.
- Christian humility recognizes who we are (God is God and we are not). It knows why we are here (To love God and on another). And, it knows where we are (This is not all there is). Who we are, why we’re here and how we live has eternal implications as we await the fullness of restoration at his second coming.
- It should go without say, that what we’re being asked is for good, not for evil, and is not sinful, immoral, or unlawful. It often will be a matter of preference or our being asked to do a task we don’t enjoy or agree with.