When asked to describe my life during my schooling years in one word, I would probably say “sheltered”. As many of you may know, or may have picked up on by reading my posts, I am a practicing Catholic, and have attended Catholic schools my whole life. Naturally, many friends and colleagues of mine were also Catholic, giving me a nice little bubble around myself, allowing me to always feel comfortable talking about my faith. Not until I entered the “real world” (aka working full time with strangers) did I realize how odd my experience had been.
For the first time in my life, I felt self conscious of my faith and unsure how to share that part of me with others, or even if it was correct to do so. I heard people talk about not wanting to hire someone because they went to a Christian college, unaware that I did too and that I found that deeply hurtful (and perhaps illegal?). I heard coworkers and friends bashing Christians, and how they would never believe in God, while I sat in silence, debating what I should do. Should I say something? Am I a hypocrite if I do? Even worse, am I a hypocrite if I don’t?
Spirituality and faith are not easy topics to bring up in the workplace, or with friends who you have just met and are getting close to in this new phase of life. For my part, I’ve struggled with it deeply, and am still trying to balance how to be a person of faith in a world where everyone has their very strong, deep rooted opinions on faith.
For me, the biggest part of being a person of faith is to live my faith. Regardless of whether people know what my faith background is, I want to be someone who they are inspired by, and I find the best way to do so is to live my Catholic values: treat everyone with love and respect. The best compliment you can receive is someone telling you they wish they were more like you. My goal is to set an example of what it is like to live with Catholic values, so that even if they don’t agree with my faith, they can agree with my lifestyle, and hopefully be supportive of how I got there (through my faith).
That being said, I am certainly NOT the best example of this. I fall short and actively choose to not embody the values that I hold dear. Part of being a person of faith and being an example to others in doing so is recognizing your shortcomings, and seeing where you can improve; just like anything else in life. I try to reflect and improve upon behaviours that are not best practice for me and for others.
It’s taken me a great deal of time to be comfortable identifying myself as Catholic in the professional world, which also lead to a great deal of shame. Why should I want to hide something that I see as so pure and lifegiving? However, I realized that my faith is a huge part of me, and has shaped so much of my life. Generally speaking, I’m an open book, so it is not difficult for me to open up and share anything about myself with others (hence, the blog). Honestly, I can’t identify how or when I began feeling more comfortable sharing my faith with others, but I do feel a relief in doing so. I openly talk about attending bible study and church, and if people ask me about it, I am happy to dive deeper.
Which leads into another tool that I have found helpful: encouraging healthy dialogue about faith with peers. If people ask you to talk about your faith, don’t shy away from it; that is, if they are asking out of genuine curiosity. I’ve had plenty of productive conversations about my faith with people who want to know more. However, it is just as important to not impose your beliefs on others if they don’t want to hear it. The age old saying of actions speak louder than words still applies here.
For me, I have found that it is crucial to have a strong faith based community, where I feel most comfortable talking about my faith and processing what my faith means for me in this stage of my life. I have found that through attending bible study, going to church with friends, and even participating in faith based activities with my parents. Being surrounded by people who share your same beliefs can be a relief and life giving- but don’t limit your circle to only people who share your same beliefs. Part of faith is learning from others beliefs and finding similarities in the differences.
Last but definitely not least, find a way to integrate your faith into your daily routine. I’m a huge proponent of holistic health, and spiritual health is just as crucial as mental and physical health. Recently, I’ve found that guided journals are a great way to keep me accountable to make faith a priority on a daily basis, but what works for me might not be the best for everyone.
My relationship with my faith and the “adult world” is still a work in progress. Every day presents new struggles and trials, but I am always glad to have my faith as a rock to fall back on. No matter who you are or what your faith life is, take an opportunity today to reflect on what spirituality means to you, and how you can make it part of your daily life.