“What’s the most important decision you’ve made in your life?”
This was a question posed at a TED-style business conference I attended a few years ago. At the event kickoff, the organizer asked each person to introduce themselves and share their most important life decision.
Well, mine was the day I began to follow Jesus, but I wasn’t expected to share that in front of a bunch of strangers at a business event, was I? Until that time, I had been working “in the closet” as a Christian—not openly identifying as a Christ-follower at work. Some of my closest colleagues knew about my faith, but I generally kept it a private matter.
Can you relate? Maybe like me, and many other folks I’ve met, you’ve also hidden your beliefs from your coworkers.
We don’t want to be ashamed of the gospel. We want to bring our whole, true selves to work. But it seems that perceptions of Christians are so negative these days. We think if people knew the truth about us, they would make assumptions about our intelligence, our politics, our motives—and that might damage our effectiveness in the workplace. So we hide our identity as Christians, and we end up feeling uneasy.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, we can embrace the truth—living out our authentic selves at work can be one of the greatest blessings to God, to the people we work with, and to us.
Living out our authentic selves at work can be one of the greatest blessings to God, to the people we work with, and to us.
First, we need to address our incorrect and limiting mindsets. When we hide our faith, we might think we’re making ourselves more likable, but we’re actually creating a barrier between ourselves and others. People want to know who we really are—they want us to be authentic. If we hope to have meaningful relationships, we must be true to ourselves and claim our identity as Christians.
We also need to confess that we hide the truth because of our idols. Many of us idolize respect, approval, or acceptance. We think those things are so important, we must have them in addition to God. We look to them to deliver the security and significance that only God can give, and we do whatever it takes—including concealing our true identity—to get them.
We may also be held back by risk/benefit analysis. We weigh the perceived risks of sharing about our faith against the perceived benefits. We think about all the negative consequences that could arise and we don’t see any upside, so we stay in the closet.
We must renew our minds.
We bless the Lord when we exalt and worship him, and that’s exactly what we do when we live and work with authenticity. By embracing who God created us to be, we bring glory to him.
We also bless our coworkers, because they’re probably in the 75 percent of U.S. adults that Barna Group reports are looking for ways to live a more meaningful life. Meditation, retreats, and pilgrimages have become popular because people are looking for meaning and purpose, relief from anxiety, hope, healing, and joy. That suggests they would welcome knowing a way to bring real change in their lives! We have nothing short of knowledge of life’s meaning and the key to true joy, and we shouldn’t withhold that tremendous blessing from the people we work with.
We have nothing short of knowledge of life’s meaning and the key to true joy, and we shouldn’t withhold that tremendous blessing from the people we work with.
When we live out our authentic selves at work, we experience the blessing of true freedom. God releases us from the bondage of idols that cause us to fear or hide, and we can live unburdened. What’s more, we experience the peace that comes from living with full and true integrity—the kind of undivided heart David pleaded for in Psalm 86.
That’s exactly what happened to me at the conference. When it finally came time for me to share, I felt convicted to talk about my faith. So I blurted out that my most important life decision was to become a Christian—and then I sat down and waited for reactions.
But it turned out to be no big deal. People didn’t treat me any differently afterward or whisper things behind my back—or if they did, I didn’t notice and I didn’t care. I had honored God, and I knew he was pleased. I felt relieved and free. Plus, several people approached me to say they had wanted to share their decision to become a Christian but had been too afraid. Now they felt emboldened to be more transparent in the future—and I did too.
Humility and Courage
That incident taught me the importance of humility, which isn’t thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less, as C. S. Lewis suggests in Mere Christianity. Instead of being consumed with ourselves and what others are going to think of us, we ought to focus on the people around us. When we humbly orient ourselves toward others and serving them, it’s clear how important it is to be real and truthful about who we are.
I also learned about courage, which isn’t the absence of fear—it’s moving forward in the presence of fear. If we take even a small step forward and trust in what the Lord will do, he’ll reward us with more blessing than we can imagine.
By God’s grace and power, we can be transformed. Not only can God change our mindsets about identifying as a Christian at work, but he enables us to be confident in who we are—his beloved children. Because of that, we can become a life-giving resource to our coworkers as we share God’s love with them.