by Kent Johnson, J.D., Senior Corporate Advisor, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
Part of his regular blog, Authenticity & Connection
Guided by principles of my faith, I recently “retreated” for about 3 weeks, and disconnected from day-to-day work, in order to focus on my relationship with God and with my family, my friends and my work on religious freedom in business. So glad I did.
The Judeo-Christian tradition in particular prescribes times for periodic, quiet reflection and re-connection with one’s core identity and life purpose. Many other faiths encourage related practices, including times for quiet mindfulness, solitude, self-examination and connection with the divine. (I’d love to hear stories of your faith-driven reflections on work and life if you’re willing).
Businesses everywhere stand to benefit from their employees’ times of retreat and reflection.
I’ll get a bit personal here. My recent time of retreat provided a window for me to exit from the incessant onslaught of daily worries that come at me from several directions. But at first there was concern: Would the products of my persistent efforts – my “works in progress” – erode due to my neglect? Would our focus on authenticity and connection dissolve? Would my close colleagues at home and abroad think I had forgotten them?
Then, over time, my disengagement freed me to apprehend the fact that “it’s not all about me.” (Some of you are chuckling, I know, at the idea that I could be so self-absorbed as to think I was central to all this).
What washed my anxiety away more than anything was simple laughter with children. After two and a half weeks I began to see that the looming worldwide distrust and rancor are surmountable – without me.
I tend to be my own most critical and demanding overseer. I had recently authored a blog on the need to acknowledge “being wrong;” yet I needed time in quiet reflection before that principle could truly dwell deeply in me, and cause me to let myself off the hook in certain areas of my life. In place of fretfulness, a childlike, renewed calling to kindness swept away my self-imposed requirement to be right. By forgiving others, I was freed from anxiety. By accepting and experiencing forgiveness myself, I sensed an even deeper and more wonderful release. By quietly listening to my Lord and taking more time to meditate on scripture, I was reminded of my core identity and God’s sufficiency.
I return to my calling of religious freedom in business with renewed energy, fervor and light. (OK, those who know me will say I’ve always had fervor… but now it’s more deeply informed and enabled by peace).
Now, none of this is a new revelation. One might say I should’ve learned this long ago. Fact is, I did. Again and again. But deep truths that bring peace must be brought to remembrance again and again. That’s one of the reasons that periodic “retreat” is so necessary and so transformative, time after time. It’s when we forget that we become anxious. And we’re prone to forget. We need reminding.
Seasons of tension are inevitable. And they can be constructive. At certain points in my career as a senior lawyer in a large multinational company, I worked under the authority of senior leaders who were very anxious themselves; people who imposed harsh tension on everyone around them. In such situations, I sensed that my personal (and, I believe, spiritual) responsibility was to “stand in the gap” to prevent destructive anxiety from being transferred to those who reported to me. This entailed daily leaps of faith; not only to shield others, but to resist fears that my supervisor would disapprove, or misinterpret my downstream attitude as a lack of needed urgency, while addressing what was truly needful. To those of you who labor under such a tension-inflicting authority, my heart goes out. But I can say with confidence that it’s entirely possible to stand as an island of peace in that seemingly relentless storm. And to emerge stronger, and even more filled with peace. The goal for many of us isn’t to avoid the storms and avoid tension; it’s to engage the storms and respond to tension with love.
Today I’m working with a truly wonderful leader, the founder and President of our Foundation, Brian Grim. This man genuinely models peace in all storms. He’s unflappable. He’s inspirational. I’m very thankful for that. But even under his leadership, I need these reflective times; deep times which can usher up reminders to keep from imposing my own personal storm on myself.
Peace. Depth. Rest. Thankfulness. These are some of the rich hallmarks of faith at work.
Blessings to you all!