Dealing with belief and unbelief at work during Christmas

  • December 21, 2015

Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, December 20, 2015

Question: I am not a believer (Christian or otherwise). But most of my employees are. So when Christmas rolls around I usually get a steady stream of subtle and not so subtle sales pitches to believe. From what I read I am guessing you are a believer yourself. Can you help me respond to the pitches in a way that is respectful, but doesn’t lead to more of the same? This is getting old and (frankly) it seems to hurt productivity around here.

Answer: Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. The first at midnight, the second at one o’clock and the last at two…

nativityJust kidding. I couldn’t resist.

I think you can communicate your concerns to your employees in a way that respects their beliefs, affirms the best in them and gets them back to full productivity, hopefully during the holiday season and beyond.

Listen with the intent to understand. Hear not only their message, but also their motive. Think about things in your own life that you have found hugely beneficial, helpful or meaningful. It could be a simple as a new favorite restaurant or as profound as a medical procedure that saved your life. One of the most common human responses to such a positive experience is the desire to tell others.

It’s true that some believers have a “close the sale” approach to sharing their faith with others. But I think if you’ll take a closer look, you’ll see that is a small percentage. Most are simply sharing the overflow of a full heart. That’s their motive.

Acknowledge with the intent to appreciate. Most of us have the natural inclination to brush off a sales person when we are not in the market for what they are selling. We don’t want to feel pressured.

But these are your employees and most of them are not selling…they’re just sharing. To the Christian believer, the message of Christmas is the most important thing in their lives. You do not have to share that belief in order to respect theirs. Most believers will feel valued and appreciated if you acknowledge that their beliefs are sincere and well intentioned.

Challenge them to live out their own message. I know what you’re going to say next. “But I don’t really want to give them the impression that I am going to convert to their belief system.” Fine. So don’t give them that impression.

Be straightforward with them. Tell them what you do (or don’t) believe, thank them sincerely for sharing their enthusiasm with you, but be frank with them about where you are and what you believe. You can even tell them, “I’m not changing the way I believe.”

To be honest, this could elicit a few hurt feelings, and perhaps a promise or two to pray for you. Your employees may be very concerned for you (if they really believe what they say they do, they should be). But they must respect your choice and honor your authority.

If they don’t, gently but firmly issue a challenge to them to live out the beliefs they say they have. There are many more admonitions in the Bible for Christians to live out their faith than to merely talk about it. You should have no hesitation to asking them to live out before you what they say they believe. And they should have no hesitation agreeing to that.

Stay open. I’m just saying. Most people find it profoundly unsatisfying to simply not believe.

Of course, you may be a truly settled, hard core non-believer.

Or you may simply be one who is still on the journey to figuring it all out. If you’re still on the journey, I’d simply encourage you to keep at it. You just might find what you didn’t know you were looking for.

This is a great season for believers and unbelievers alike in the marketplace to become comfortable with their differences, to value one another in spite of those differences and to show love for one another.

This Christmas, that would be a gift.

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Byron R. Moore, CFP® is Managing Director / Planning Group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Email him at bmoore@argentadvisors.com. Write to him at 500 East Reynolds Drive, Ruston, LA 71270 or call him at (318) 251-5858. The opinions of any single advisor do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Argent Advisors, Inc.  No forecasts can be guaranteed.  Argent Advisors, Inc. does not offer tax, insurance or legal advice.  The information contained in this column should not be construed as a substitute for personalized investment, tax, insurance or legal advice.