“We must be convinced therefore that work is a magnificent reality, and that it has been imposed on us as an inexorable law which, one way or another, binds everyone… It is an indispensable means which God has entrusted to us here on this earth. It is meant to fill out our days and make us sharers in God’s creative power. It enables us to earn our living and, at the same time, to reap ‘the fruits of eternal life’…” 1
St. Josemaria Escriva’s words challenge the common way many of us view our work. His statement is countercultural, yet, it is the truest and most beautiful description of work that each of us is invited to embrace and embody. We have been entrusted to take part in God’s creativity and reap the benefits of eternal life. WOW! This completely defies the self-centered model of work geared toward one’s own satisfaction and replaces it with the truth that our work is not only a service to God, but to His creation, our fellow man. There is a particular mindset we are called to have when approaching our work—a mindset that seeks to serve and uplift others. What is the benefit they will receive? How can I adapt my work to their needs? What is the best way I can serve? Finding and living the answers to these questions in our daily work can transform how we approach our jobs and allow us to have a servant mindset, a mindset focused on serving and uplifting others.
Laying the Foundation for a Mindset that Serves and Uplifts
Our work is meant to fulfill the vocation God has called us to, so much so that we work directly in union with Him and become who we are meant to be through it.
“Be convinced that our professional vocation is an essential and inseparable part of our condition as Christians. Our Lord wants you to be holy in the place where you are, in the job you have chosen for whatever reason. To me, every job that is not opposed to the divine law is good and noble, and capable of being raised to the supernatural plane, that is, inserted into the constant flow of Love which defines the life of a child of God. .” 2
Before we can live with a servant mindset, we must have a strong foundation, described above by St. Josemaria: Work is a part of who we are, it makes us holy, and fulfills our lives as children of God (when it is not opposed to divine law).
As mentioned earlier, we have been entrusted to take part in God’s creativity, which means our work is a service to God and to each other. It may be difficult to understand the importance of this if you view your job as just a means to an end, if you dislike the work you do, or even if you take so much pride in your work that you see it as only possible because of you and not because of God working in you. Let me share an example of the importance of what we’ve been entrusted with. Say you work at an ice cream shop and perhaps you don’t see this work as “fulfilling God’s plan for your life.” However, by scooping and serving ice cream with a smile on your face, cleaning the shop, washing dishes, keeping inventory, etc., you are taking part in God’s creativity because without you doing these things…the business would not thrive, customers would be unhappy, people’s lives would be negatively affected. By having a servant mindset even in this job, you are taking part in God’s plan for you, the shop owner and the people you serve.
Living the Mindset
Now that we’ve laid the foundation and explained the importance of a servant mindset, how can someone actually live it? One of the best things to do is to ask ourselves at the start of each day, “How can I serve and uplift those whom I will encounter today?”
We can use our answers to this and the following questions as a guide.
Think about a time when someone went out of his/her way to serve you and your life was made better because of it. How did you feel? What impression did it leave on you? Did this impact you in a way that caused you to change the way you serve your customers and clients?
A practical way to instill this in your life is to begin each day thinking through your planned encounters and writing out your responses to the questions posed above and more clearly defined below. It will put you in the right headspace, and who knows, you may just find your work is more fulfilling and life-giving!
How can I serve and uplift those whom I will encounter today?
How did I feel when [name] went out of his/her way to serve me?
What impression did this leave on me?
How can I change how I serve my customers and clients so I can leave the same impression?
…But Not at Your Own Expense
In discussing this topic, it is important to address that serving others in your work should not come at the expense of your joy, well-being and the ability to do your job. It’s a great thing when you can take pride in your work and enjoy what you do. Serving others should complement that, not get in the way of it. A few simple ways to do this are as follows:
- Set boundaries. Work the hours you are paid to work and then turn off your notifications for the night. You are not at everyone’s beck and call 24/7. Someone’s needs for your services can wait until tomorrow.
- You are allowed to say “no.” You do not have to say “yes” to everything and, in fact, you shouldn’t if you want to be able to do your job well.
- It is acceptable to disagree with someone. You are not going to see eye-to-eye with everyone on everything and, more importantly, you do not have to. Embrace that fact and learn to offer solutions or alternatives when disagreements arise.
It is possible to serve others, take care of yourself, and be proud of your work all at the same time. God will never give us more than we can handle, but He also doesn’t ask us to do so many things for so many people that we neglect to take care of ourselves and relinquish our pride in our work.
Since we have been entrusted with taking part in God’s divine plan for creation, He has big plans for the work we do! Having a servant mindset helps us approach our work as a way to benefit others and fulfill our vocations because when we love our neighbor as ourselves, seek to serve and are engaged in moral work, we are made holy. With a strong foundation of faith, an understanding of the importance of a servant mindset and a balance of serving others while taking care of oneself, work as a service to others will transform our lives.
1 Escriva, St. Josemaria. “Work for God.” 6 February 1960. Homily.
2 Escriva, St. Josemaria. “Work for God.” 6 February 1960. Homily.