Southwest Airlines is one company that puts an enormous value on spirituality. Rita Bailey is Director of University for People, Southwest's recruiting and training arm. Recently she told the Christian Science Sentinel - Radio Edition what has made her enjoy working there for over 20 years.
"It's simply because I have the freedom to be myself," she said.
That freedom means a great deal to Ms. Bailey, as it does to a growing number of people today. It's not about merely being able to choose one's own work hours or to dress flashier or more casually than others. It goes deeper.
According to researchers Ian Mitroff and Elizabeth Denton in their book, "A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America," workers throughout today's organizations long for the freedom to unleash their full potential, to develop and use their abilities and skills to benefit the organization as well as the communities in which they work and live. They want to be good at what they do and to feel good about doing it. They want to replace frustration, worthlessness, and boredom with calmness, worthiness, and enthusiasm.
Spirituality, many have found, helps people do this. It helps individuals be and do what they, in their hearts, long to be and do.
Sound like something that's missing in your work? You're not alone, according to Mitroff and Denton. The increasing interest in spirituality on the part of CEOs, managers, and employees is an indication of how widespread is this longing to grow, and to more freely express what's in one's heart. This interest in spirituality parallels what US booksellers see as a growing demand for books on spirituality.
It's filling a void. People who feel an absence of depth in their lives - deeper purpose, values, relationships, a deeper sense of worth - often find that spirituality is what they're looking for.
But going deeper spiritually involves parting with the shallow thinking and behavior that often occupy our thought and leave us feeling empty. Expanding the depth of our caring, for instance, from a superficial smile-in-passing in the hallway, to a genuine concern for the welfare of a fellow worker, is a step in the right direction. Or, dropping a generally cynical attitude and, instead, digging deeper to see the worthiness of someone's project or objective.
What impels us to make these kinds of shifts, and empowers us to see them through, is Spirit, or God - the source of spirituality. We're not talking about adding something to one's life, but rather discovering the essence of one's genuine identity that's already there, already complete. As God's likeness - which is what all of us actually are - we are spiritual by nature, not material. So, we include everything spiritual - love, goodness, purity, intelligence, every good quality. These qualities are from God, and they are ours to express freely. They make us who we are.
Some of the ways people can open their lives to spirituality and learn about themselves include taking the time for prayer in the morning, on the way to or from work, or before a meeting. Also finding (or making) time to read the Scriptures. And then seizing opportunities to live what they're learning. Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, explained the value and utility of spirituality in this way: "The calm, strong currents of true spirituality, the manifestations of which are health, purity, and self-immolation, must deepen human experience, until the beliefs of material existence are seen to be a bald imposition, and sin, disease, and death give everlasting place to the scientific demonstration of divine Spirit and to God's spiritual, perfect man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 99).
I asked a friend what spirituality has been doing for him. He said, "It's helped me be more willing to be of service. I come to work really wanting to help others accomplish what they need to accomplish, and to think less about what I want for myself." That has the ring of someone discovering a little more about himself, finding something deep and satisfying in his work. That's what spirituality is doing for my friend, and apparently for hundreds of thousands of other people like him.