When the office water cooler boils
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
One day at work I was surprised to hear a terrible argument in the next room. People were yelling insults at one another and were attacking one another's character. The language was beyond impolite, and my secretary was huddled in the corner, in tears.
It began over politics - as often happens. Two of my top employees apparently had had words regarding their very deep political differences, and a heated discussion of issues degenerated into vicious personal attacks. Other employees excitedly rushed to the scene and were actively involved. It looked as though all were either spoiling for, or frightened of, a fistfight. They all turned and looked at me, expecting a solution.
I gulped. We needed a miracle right then and there.
At that point, I thought of a statement from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, who also founded this newspaper. She wrote, "The miracle of grace is no miracle to Love" (pg. 494).
Love is one of the biblical terms for the infinite, impartial God. It seemed to me then that, instead of trying to harmonize conflicting personalities, I should turn to divine Love, God, for the answer. I realized that in God there could be no element of unhappiness, fear, resentment, or lack of acceptance of another. And we're all included in God's universe.
Obviously I couldn't just stand there stupefied. Yet, in a split second, when I turned to God for a "miracle of grace," I saw that divine Love covers all the bases, resolves all conflicts, and reassures us all that we are cared for. It next occurred to me to talk about the common goals we all had in the office, to point out that we all were doing good work, and then to suggest that everybody go back to their offices.
In that moment of divine grace, the atmosphere changed. Everybody stopped yelling, there were a couple of grins, a handshake or two, and they went back to their desks. It wasn't just a grudging "cease-fire," at least from my point of view. For as long as I was their manager - and I was there another two years or so - there was not another occurrence of hostilities. I've gone on to other jobs, but have kept in touch with subsequent managers there. I have never heard of a similar event taking place. In fact, all my friends who served in that position have remarked on the exceptional harmony and teamwork in that office.
There's a biblical basis for resolving interpersonal conflicts, too. St. Paul was no stranger to such problems, and he wrote to the church in Philipi about how to handle them. He advised, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke..." (Phil. 2:13-15).
I think this is the key: Start from the basis of one all-inclusive God. Acknowledging the divine commonality that we all share is an effective healing response. That fantastic moment in which I glimpsed something of the "miracle of grace" and how this divine grace can be a perfect method of conflict resolution, has grown in importance to me over the years.
God, the Father-Mother of the universe, loves us all impartially, whether we are American, Iraqi, Venezuelan, or whatever. God loves us whether we consider ourselves Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or believers in no religion. God's impartial love is unconditional. I have found that this love cancels out the difference in my conflicts when I let it into my thinking and act from the basis of Love.
The divine grace is available to resolve all those interpersonal conflicts. What counts is reliance on the divine Presence to maintain order, and not on managerial authority or techniques. It happens through all-pervading love - the love of God. Interpersonal harmony isn't an unnatural event. It's the miracle of grace, and divine Love assures us all that we can experience it.