Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When Work Tests Your Christian Mettle

I was just hearing from a friend how she's been struggling at work to keep her peace and generosity/kindness towards her fellow workers (in particular one fellow worker). I've certainly had my fair share of that, and as my coworkers will attest, my mettle sometimes fails, certainly more than it should.

Probably the biggest challenges for me are being quick to anger and speaking ill of others behind their backs. For me, the two go hand in hand--someone pisses me off, and then I gotta vent at someone about it. And then there's the pride--it's so easy to think about how dumb someone else is being, how they just don't get it.

The best thing I've found in these situations--especially when you feel like someone has become your antagonist--is to sincerely pray for them. And I mean sincerely, not facetiously, like "Dear God! Please help that person to not be such an idiot!" Pray rather for their good. I've found this is often the first step towards changing my heart towards them, and it's no surprise, given our Lord's instructions:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Not only does he advise prayer, but blessing and good works--your heart cannot remain hardened towards someone if you do these things. Sadly, I am too often recalcitrant and unwilling to take even the first step, but you just gotta keep trying.

And in addition to praying for them, it never hurts to pray for yourself. There is a great part of this prayer of St. Thomas to the BVM that really resonates with me, each time I pray it:
Obtain for me as well,
     O most sweet Lady,
          true charity with which
               from the depths of my heart
          I may love
               your most holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
               and, after Him,
          love you above all other things,
          and love my neighbor
               in God and because of God.

Thereby may I 
          rejoice in his goodness,
          sorrow over his evils,
          despise no one,
          never judge rashly,
          and never in my heart exalt myself over anyone.
In particular, being sorry for another's transgressions (rather than angry) seems to be a better Christian response--because often they are harming themselves and others, and it makes you put that concern ahead of your own sense of personal offense.. Lord, help me to rejoice in their goodness and sorrow over their evils!

And then to not despise them--that's that gut feeling you get when they're around and your skin crawls and you just wish they would go away. And then you start thinking about this or that thing they've done, or this or that thing they do that irritates you, or how they're just ignorant.. Lord,  help me not to despise anyone!

Judging rashly, yup, that's me, especially with those I am inclined to despise. It doesn't matter what they do, somehow your mind will twist it so that it is wrong or stupid. Before they even say something, you're ready to dismiss it.. Lord, may I never judge rashly!

And then to top it off, all of this comes down to pride--that in my heart I am smarter, faster, smoother, more articulate, whatever. At the heart of judging rashly, at the heart of despising, at the heart of being angry over what they did, at the heart of minimizing their goodness, at the heart is pride.. Lord, grant me the grace to overcome my pride and never in my heart exalt myself over anyone!

As we pray and make efforts towards restoring our corrupted human nature in this way, we are ultimately asking that God will help us to love them--not because they are particularly good or bad, not only because we are commanded to do so, but because of God and in God. The more that we do this, the more we will participate in the Divine love of the Trinity, the more we will orient ourselves towards our True End, the more we will recognize it's really not about us, the more we will begin to see people as God sees them--with sincere, true love, an animated concern for their good and the good of those affected by them.