A question I often ask myself and others when contemplating a major decision is: Will this be life-giving or life-draining? We are often so accustomed to making decisions based on economics and other practical criteria that we are unaware of how a decision affects our soul. We treat our soul as an afterthought, or only something that matters at the point of physical death.
John O’Donahue, in his book Anam Cara, makes this observation about work and our souls:
When we perform an action, the invisible within us finds a form and comes to expression. Therefore our work should be the place where the soul can enjoy becoming visible and present.
Life-giving work is work in which the soul can enjoy becoming visible and present. That one word, enjoy, is important. A healthy workplace is one in which each person’s soul is respected and treasured for its uniqueness. Parker Palmer speaks of the shy soul and how it is like a wild animal. We don’t go stomping through the woods expecting to see a wild animal. We have to be respectful of the soul and create the environment in which the soul senses it is safe to make itself visible.
A workplace where diversity of thought and giftedness is honored and encouraged allows each person to find fulfillment. Such a workplace encourages people to grow both in their own self-appreciation and in appreciation for one another. A soul in such an environment can thrive and grow more Christlike.
When diversity of thought is not encouraged, or where the thoughts of only one or two people matter, souls withdraw, compassion flees and the ethos of the workplace becomes deadly. Workers are not appreciated for the souls they bring to work, and God-given uniqueness is treated as irrelevant and unimportant. The tension in such an environment is destructive, alienating people from their true nature and potential.
How we work is as important as the work we do, maybe even more important. If we are to shed the masks of the false self and instead allow our soul, our True Self, to become visible and present, we have to bring integrity, compassion, and respectfulness to work with us. If we are managers, we must love ourselves so that we do not treat others as objects to control but as souls deserving of compassion and Christlike inclusion. Our work environment and the way in which we engage with our work colleagues affects our souls.