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You can’t exclude God from workplace

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)
Tim Mcguire United Feature Syndicate

Many folks try to earn a dollar talking about spirituality and ethics in the workplace. Since I’m one of them, I tend to be skeptical of the other folks plying this tenuous trade. I find that many methods are gimmicky and less-than-authentic. Too many “experts” try to talk about spirituality, ethics and values without fully exploring that spirituality component. Our pluralistic society makes consultants reluctant to get too close to “religion.”

I found an exception when I ran into Diane Nettifee, a Minneapolis spiritual director and workplace coach. She tries to make her living coaching and directing people in their search for spirituality. Such well-trained coaches are becoming more common as people seek assistance in finding the transcendent.

I was struck by the forthright way Nettifee uses Ignatian spirituality to address the contemporary problems in the workplace. Ignatian spirituality practices the tenets of Ignatius of Loyola, who is better known as the founder of the Jesuits.

Eleven years ago, Nettifee’s father died. As she returned from the funeral to her important job, she remembers saying to herself, “I am not sure where I’m going next, but this is over.” What was over was not the job, but the way she did the job. She said she had been too self-focused and too worried about her performance. Like many of us, she knew she needed more from her work if she was going to be whole.

After several years of spiritual training and education she now uses principles from Ignatian spirituality to help people “clarify their deepest desires and values, experience divine guidance, come to new freedom and make confident decisions about their lives.”

She uses three principles of Ignatian spirituality: spiritual freedom, finding God in all things, and the belief that God speaks to us through our deepest desires. The key there is finding God in all things, including work, where most of us think God must be excluded. The way some people behave at work, you might think there is a “No God allowed” sign posted somewhere.

Nettifee uses two-hour sessions to slow people down. She asks participants to spend a full 20 minutes reflecting on questions she poses for each of nine sessions. She wants people to “slow down, wake up and connect with the presence of God in their lives.”

Her goal in each session is to lead people to a place where they can “experience” God. Nettifee says, “The God of their experience meets them at the place they most need, so for each person this may be different.

“For one person, they may experience God in the quiet of prayer and be moved to know how much they are loved,” she says. “For another, they may experience God in an event or interaction from their day.”

Nettifee’s sessions are obviously not for people struggling with the existence of a Creator God. I find that refreshing. So many people want to find a greater spirituality in their work and in their workplaces, but, as I mentioned earlier, they want to leave God out of the discussion. It can’t happen. The secret to being more spiritual in our everyday encounters is to experience God constantly and in creative ways.

One exercise Nettifee uses encourages participants to talk about their image of God. Those images of God range from a drill sergeant looking for our mistakes to a midwife co-creating with us at all times.

That concept of co-creating with God is essential to finding an effective spirituality at work. We must view ourselves as a partner with our creator to become everything we can be, and to do our work in meaningful ways. This will allow us to genuinely experience God in our work. And, when we do, the mundane and trivial slips away from our work and we are able to concentrate on essential things that make a real difference.

Tip for your search: Give some serious thought to your image of God and then ask how that image helps you or hurts you in your effort to become more spiritual at work.

Resource for your search: “Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality,” by Margaret Silf (Loyola Press, 1999)

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