We can all agree that juggling the demands of competing expectations on our time, our priorities, our values, our relationships, our play, and our work creates inner tension.
We often feel like fractured people living duplicitous lives, quickly transitioning from one context—perhaps an intense competitive office environment—to another—say a family with a stressed and tired spouse and hungry and emotional little ones. How we look and act in order to be effective in each context can feel vastly different.
It’s no surprise that many seek solace and isolation from anxiety over not measuring up to the high bar of these needs. Whether it’s screen time on social media, the latest streaming TV series, the ball game, or simply catching up on local and world news, we often seek to medicate from our own disintegration.
But what might it look like to live more wholly in every facet of life?
Fortunately, there are ways to understand the impact of our fractured lives and reduce this tension of living in and out of the different contexts we experience each day.
The Effects of the Disintegrated Worker
The Kellogg School of Management recently produced a fascinating study considering the effect of living a different persona at work than that lived outside of work.
According to writer Brigid Sweeney, who summarized their findings, researchers concluded that separating work identities from outside identities with family and friends not only promotes a sense of inauthenticity, but also increases observable unethical behavior in the workplace.
Apparently regularly feeling “fake” about oneself promotes actual dishonesty in one’s actions.
In the Kellogg study, supervisors were reporting significant increases in behavior, such as “falsifying an expense report or being rude to someone at the office,” among those identified as having low “identity integration” between their work and personal lives.
As believers, we instinctively know that being a good friend or parent at home or church should complement the values, care, structure, relational maturity, accountability, productivity, and discipline we’d like to see evident in ourselves at work.
The managers and coworkers we most admire display not only a sense of competence, wisdom, and organizational savvy, but also elements of their humanity, vulnerability, and resilience developed in their personal lives outside work.
So, the relational skills and characteristics strengthened by living well in other relationships and contexts can translate to the work environment and help build needed trust and operational integrity.
If we demonstrate an assured sense of personal relatability and interdependence with others at work, we naturally tend to avoid becoming more isolated, distrusting, and untrustworthy people.
While we may see the benefit of integrating the positive aspects of one part of our lives into other areas, such as the workplace, this is not always easy or obvious to do.
The simple answer is to do a few things—such as putting up a few photos of close friends or family members in your work area , or hanging up an image, a symbolic reminder, or even a Bible verse you value.
But, if we are honest, this is not enough, and we can quickly come to the end of our resources trying to be a more authentic person in any impacting and lasting way.
The Need for a Wholehearted Life
As promoters of integrating our faith with our work, being a person of integrity and authentic wholeness at home, work, and church requires cultivating what Scripture refers to as “wholeheartedness” toward our Creator (Ps. 119:2). The Shema of the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4-5) and Jesus’ restatement of it (Mark 12:29-30) as the greatest commandment, calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
He wants us to bring all of ourselves into alignment with our Creator God, including our deepest inner core, truest emotions, entire thought life, daily decisions, and every waking effort to accomplish something.
It is this wholehearted relationship with our Creator that restores not only our life’s purpose, but provides the re-integrating element to our distracted and otherwise fractured lives in or outside the workplace.
The process of God’s Spirit working in us for growth in our Christian life is precisely designed to develop this wholeness or “wholeheartedness” in us.
A Reintegrating God
Becoming a resilient, vulnerable person who carries themselves with integrity in and outside the work environment requires being formed by God himself.
We do this by receiving God’s means of grace, through his Word, prayer, and deep community (the last of which is most often neglected), whereby we cultivate love for a small number of brothers and sisters who we really know and by whom we are truly known.
These means of grace bring to remembrance—regardless of our current circumstances—all the ways God has been faithful and is still at work in and through us. They remind us of the ultimate hope and inheritance of our future home in the new heaven and new earth.
This helps us to trust God in all situations, even at work, freeing us from the bind of disintegration.
As our assurance of God’s being with us and for us grows, our desperate need to morph into different personalities to gain acceptance and favor from others in different environments diminishes. We find ourselves more able to take risks of vulnerability and honesty that promote God’s good purposes both in and outside the workplace.
Becoming more authentic with those with whom we work does require learning the wisdom of healthy relational boundaries and respect.
However, God’s love and grace operating in us provides the help and freedom to err on the side of being more honest, transparent, vulnerable, and limited in who we really are to open doors for growth and fruit in our lives at work in the long run.
May God grant us grace to drop our guards first with him, who accepts and loves us most, and then with those he has provided to accept and love us.
May we, in turn, experience an integrated wholeness borne out of a growing wholeheartedness for God, which gives us the freedom to live authentically at work, caring as God does for our work and all those with whom we labor.
Steve Lindsey is the Executive Director of the Center for Faith & Work Los Angeles. As an engineer at Boeing for nearly 40 years, he often worked towards seeing how his work served God’s greater purpose for the world. He and his wife Margaret established the CFWLA in 2017 to help people reframe vocation and understand how all work, no matter the industry, has meaning and purpose.