Nov 30, 2012

Stop Compartmentalizing Your Life

The following is an excerpt from a Leadership Forum sponsored by Laity Renewal (the parent organization of The High Calling) where business executives gathered to discuss how they serve God at work. At the time, John Castle was Executive Vice President of EDS Corporation. 

A few years ago, an employee came to me and asked, “Could we celebrate the National Day of Prayer?” She then suggested I send out a memorandum to the twelve thousand people at our Texas campus and invite them to a public gathering for prayer. Being a bold leader, I said, “Well, I’ll think about that.”

The real resistance for me was an internal one. I was worried about what people would think about me. I was concerned that I would be seen by some as a religious fanatic, trying to impose my religious beliefs on others. I checked with our Chairman and he didn’t have a real objection to it, so I decided to proceed.

I sent out the memo and invited people to gather at the center of the EDS campus. About one hundred people showed up. I read the proclamation, and we had silent prayer. We’ve continued the event for the last four years, and it has grown. 

Robert Bellah, in his book, Habits of the Heart, says the most distinguishing aspect of 20th century American society is “the division of life into a number of separate functional sectors: home and workplace, work and leisure, white-collar and blue-collar, public and private,” and I might add, faith and work.

Business has contributed to this compartmentalization with the assembly line mentality, so we divide our lives into separate functional sectors. Businesses taught us that faith is a private matter, that it doesn’t have a place in the workplace, and that our biblical values can’t stand up to the hard realities of the business world. So we compartmentalize our lives, and faith is just one of the several compartments. We imagine we are in charge and that all these boxes report to us. 

We suffer for that. I do anyway. Here I am in the center trying to balance all these boxes and I worry—am I good enough? 

How we live out our faith in the workplace says everything about who we are. It defines us.  It is how we declare what we really believe. The workplace is the public stage of our lives. It is where we wrestle with and answer the big question, “Who do we say God is?” For too long we’ve relegated God to a corner of our lives, not taking our journey with Him seriously. 

Deep in our core, we long to bring our values from our private lives into the workplace. Our employees don’t want to have one set of values in their non-work lives and another set for the workplace.

What then are we to do?  Each person may have his own idea of how they integrate faith at work, how they honor God at work. However, there is no handbook; there is no one-size-fits-all.  It is going to be as varied as our personalities and our experiences with God.

The truth is God calls us to journey with Him just as decisively as He called Moses to free the children of Israel. He invites us to be a part of His plan and to seek and find our meaning in Him. But we can’t continue to hold onto the illusion that we are the CEO of our lives or that our work is separate from God. No, on this journey, all belongs to God. It is a journey characterized by commitment and obedience and trust. 

I am sure that wherever the journey leads there are going to be good times and bad times, and it will be full of surprises as well. But there are two things I know: I know who will be with me on the journey, and I know where the journey ends. And in truth, that’s really all I need to know.

Post by John R. Castle, former Executive Vice President of EDS Corporation. 

Image by David Bjorgen. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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