Tackling workplace woes

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

My daughter and I had just finished watching her favorite children's program on television, and now it was time for her nap. As I tucked her under the covers in her crib, she looked up at me with wide little eyes and, commenting on the program's topic, said, "Mommy, let's 'coperate.' " She meant, of course, "cooperate." I smiled, thinking that even though she'd said the word a bit incorrectly, she'd certainly understood the sentiment.

Mastering the sentiment is no small accomplishment. Getting the heart right, as Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy noted, means our actions will flow from, and be in accord with, our heartfelt motives. She wrote, "Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 454).

At that time I'd needed to get my heart right, too, and needed to feel that strength and freedom. I was the sole support for myself and my daughter, and I had just started a new job as one of three managers at a small company. I'd stepped into a situation where jealousy and discontent seemed the norm. The workplace environment, I soon found, was fraught with fear, criticism, backbiting, and envy. Certainly not the sort of environment I was used to, or enjoyed.

Still, my daughter's statement echoed in my thought. Cooperation did not appear to be at the forefront of anyone's thought at work. And being the new person, I seemed the target of a lot of the ugly feelings.

I had a few choices. I could leave. I could stay and keep to myself. Or, I thought, I could pray to see that cooperation was really the motive of everyone at the workplace. No matter that it appeared otherwise.

I decided to pray. The first idea that felt important to master was: "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). This is a statement made by Christ Jesus, and was my starting point. I reasoned that if what I knew of God's kingdom - His love; care for His beloved children; power; divine, compassionate intelligence - was within me, then I could rest in the truth of that and reside peacefully there, even as I sat at my desk at work.

So that's what I did. I went to work each day feeling the presence and power of God. But soon that wasn't enough. Certainly I was feeling a bit more peaceful, but others were unhappy and discontent. I knew I had more to pray about. The word "cooperation" kept occurring to me.

Another verse from the Bible seemed relevant: "Now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (II Cor. 8:14). Equality and cooperation. The two ideas went hand in hand.

I saw that what was true for me - that God's kingdom was within - was true for everyone. My "job" was to see that.

This gave me new impetus. I went to work seeing the kingdom of God within me, and within everyone I worked with.

I can't say it was easy at first. My co-workers, to all appearances, seemed to enjoy their discontent. The atmosphere was one of stolidity in misery. But I persisted, knowing that my freedom and strength came from starting with right motives - and my motive was to see God's kingdom as all and ever present.

I can't put my finger on exactly when things changed. But they did. It was as if one day I looked up and the scene before me had softened. I felt free to call on my co-workers for help - something I'd not been able to do before my persistent prayer. And others called upon me, too. We were "coperating," and the workplace prospered because of it. Soon after, I was moved to a different state and no longer had daily dealings with the co-workers who'd been so unappealing when I started.

But the gratitude, affection, and joy expressed at my going-away party? Those will always be a part of the kingdom of God - within me, and within everyone I worked with.

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