Work, worship, and stress

New light on decoding a 'Work is Worship' slogan in the workplace.

When I joined the faculty of a technical institution in India 20 years ago, a slogan on the wall said, "Work is Worship." Known to many Indians, it finds a place on walls in offices, homes, and hospitals.

This slogan puzzled me, because I worked in a stressful place, and I didn't associate worship with stress. Brought up by open-minded parents, I used to visit temples, gurdwaras, and churches, and I felt a lot of peace in these places of worship. People weren't stressed out while worshiping God.

I had always loved to work with dedication and perfection, but it led to a lot of running around mentally as well as physically, causing stress when one thing or another failed while I was coordinating a training program, conference, or seminar, or while conducting research.

The first casualty would be the harmony between me and my subordinates and colleagues as a result of my angry outbursts. Headaches and fatigue were the side effects, and after the project was over, the guilt I felt would spoil my sense of achievement.

Sometimes stress throughout the week would not let me enjoy my weekends, and I would get up in the morning, stressed with my to-do list of household jobs. I read articles from various books on stress management and attended some lectures on this topic by experts in behavioral sciences, but the relief was only temporary.

Then, after several years, I had the opportunity to work on a project with a colleague from another department. I was impressed with his peaceful nature and calm working style. He was very accommodating of my busy schedule and always wore a smile on his face. When I asked the secret behind his stress-free working style, he gave me a copy of the book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. He told me that the ideas in this book heal.

I started reading the book and was drawn to its use of the concept of reflection. For example, it states: "Jesus taught but one God, one Spirit, who makes man in the image and likeness of Himself, – of Spirit, not of matter. Man reflects infinite Truth, Life, and Love. The nature of man, thus understood, includes all that is implied by the terms 'image' and 'likeness' as used in Scripture." Another passage says, "Reflecting God's government, man is self-governed" (pp. 94, 125).

I was startled to realize that if we are meant to work as a reflection of God, this work would be inherently stress free. This had never occurred to me. Digging deeper into this idea, I found that it is the material pressures rather than the actual task that make us tired, and that a spiritual approach relieves this stress. I then learned that the colleague who had given me the book was a student of Christian Science, which was discovered by Mary Baker Eddy.

On discussing with him my search for stress-free living, he guided me to the following lines from the Bible: "Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work…. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:17, 19), and "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

Whatever the "Work is Worship" slogan was intended to mean, I saw that my work becomes worship when I take human sense out of it and reflect the qualities already existing in all of us as the image and likeness of God.

I persisted with this understanding and gradually found myself calm and more peaceful. Whenever I felt burdened, I would sit quietly in my office cabin, close my eyes, and reaffirm that I am God's reflection. I would get divine messages that would resolve the issue at hand.

Now I'm worshiping God in true spirit by enjoying my work and loving my subordinates and colleagues at the same time. I'm able to reflect more perfection, and the quality of my daily routine has gone up with the quality of my work. Indeed a true worship.

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