I recently blew an opportunity to share my faith at work. It was a Friday afternoon and management bought pizza for the office to celebrate the successful completion of a major project. Naturally, I went for the cheese pizza since it was Lent. However, as I was eating my pizza, a co-worker sat down beside me and mentioned, “I know it’s Lent, but I can’t resist eating this pepperoni pizza”
I mumbled something like “Well, you know, there’s always Confession” and then the conversation drifted on to another topic.
A few hours later, I thought to myself, Man, I really blew an opportunity to witness to my faith, I should have said something else, but I’m not sure what would have been effective. I know that I shouldn’t have thrown her pepperoni pizza in the trash and say “No meat for you” but I shouldn’t have been relatively silent either.
The following Tuesday, a friend helped answer my question. He was speaking about ways in which Christ engaged other people. He said, “Jesus wasn’t the master of Q & A, he was the master of Q & Q.” That started the gears turning in my mind about the situation with the pizza. Often in the Gospels, we see people asking Jesus questions about a variety of things. Sometimes, Jesus answers their questions directly, or through a parable. Other times he doesn’t directly answer their questions, but responds to them with a question of his own.
For example, in Matthew 9:14-15, John’s disciples ask Jesus why they fast while his disciples do not. Jesus answers by asking them if a bridegroom should mourn while the guests are still with him. Again, in Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus, two disciples ask Jesus if he is aware of the things that recently happened in Jerusalem. Instead of saying, “Yes, in fact, I was the key player in those things”, he asks them, “What sort of things?”
Jesus isn’t responding to questions with more questions to be sassy or witty. He is guiding the questioner to the answer by helping them reflect about the question that they asked.
I think we can take a cue from this in the workforce. When a hot button issue about the Catholic Faith comes up, we can engage our co-workers with questions instead of ignoring them or ramming our point down their throats. For example, had I been in the situation with the pepperoni pizza again, I could have asked my co-worker, “Why, do you think that you should not be eating the pepperoni pizza?” instead of, “You better not eat that pepperoni pizza or you are going to hell.” The former approach may lead the person to reflect on their beliefs and why they should be making sacrifices for Lent, the latter approach may lead them away from the Church because they feel judged.
Now, I’m not saying that we should never directly engage our co-workers in discussions over the faith; there certainly is a time for that. However, we must first build the bridge of love to bear the weight of truth. One way of building a good relationship with a co-worker is by asking them questions about their beliefs and the basis of their beliefs. As we gain their trust as a friend and they see that we value their opinion, we may begin to have a respectful dialogue about issues of the Catholic Faith as they come up.
Since this is a relatively new idea for me, I have not yet had a chance to try it out in the workplace. Has anyone tried this before? If so, how has it gone for you? Also, what would you have done in my situation with the pepperoni pizza? I’m eager to get your take on the situation.
P.S. More ways to be Catholic in the Cubicle.