Beating the co-worker blues

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I'd met her the summer before. We were both interns at a publishing company, though we worked in different departments. But we'd had occasion to interact at various points during the summer.

She had been, in my opinion, unfriendly. I found her hard to get along with, tough to talk to. I didn't dislike her exactly, but I didn't like her either. I chalked these feelings up to differences in personality and left the situation at that. Before I knew it, the summer was over, and we went our separate ways.

But the next summer I was back. So was she. I discovered this on my first day when I was assigned to the same office space where she worked. We mumbled half-hearted hellos to each other and got down to business. I can't say that we were purposefully ignoring each other, but neither of us was making much of an effort to be warm and welcoming.

As I thought with some trepidation about the summer stretched out before me, I was startled to find myself remembering some lines from a poem that for years had been tacked to my bulletin board. It was published in the Monitor (May 20, 1975), and it's by Cynthia Hafeli-Wells.

Release me

from patterned opinion.

Let me be new;

and I'll tear up

the stagnant records

I kept about you.

Everyone should be given

the chance to be born again,

minute by minute.

The world isn't standing still,

nor anything in it.

I was humbled by these verses. They jarred me from a state of self-righteousness and self-interest into one of unselfishness and meekness.

For the first time, I realized that it wasn't my co-worker's view of me that needed to change. I needed to change my view of her. I could almost hear her speaking the words of the poem, "Release me from patterned opinion. Let me be new."

I needed to focus on the way I was treating my co-worker, and this didn't just mean making more of an effort to be friendly – that I could easily do and had done in the past. What needed to be improved was my conception of her – what I could and should anticipate during our day-to-day interactions.

In thinking about this further, I saw how unjust I'd been in limiting her to an outdated and unflattering view of who she was. This was not the way God saw her; nor was it the way He had made her. As Mary Baker Eddy explains in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Man is the likeness of Spirit, but a material personality is not this likeness" (pg. 544).

Focusing on what I perceived to be an unattractive personality had done little to improve relations between us. In fact, all it had accomplished was to leave me frustrated and perpetually at odds with her. It had taken its toll in another way, too: abandoning my co-worker to the realm of personality actually left me there as well.

I knew what had to be done for the sake of both of us. It was essential that I elevate my idea of her and of everyone to a God-based rather than a personality-based perspective. I needed to discipline myself to tear up those "stagnant records" that had the potential to severely limit our relationship. And, no matter what happened, I vowed to start each day fresh – to come into the office with a new and loving perspective and an open heart.

I also made a concerted effort to find out my co-worker's interests and hobbies, to discover what mattered to her in life, and to discern how I could be a better co-worker and friend. Before I knew it, we were chatting on a regular basis, sharing stories about funny e-mails we received or asking each other for advice on our various projects.

She wasn't someone I'd consider a kindred spirit, but we were friends. We laughed together. We supported each other. It was as though I was working with a completely different person than the girl I'd known the summer before.

On her last day at work, we exchanged cards, expressing our appreciation for each other. The "stagnant records" had long been erased, and in place of them, I had a hundred happy memories of my "new" friend.

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