I am writing this essay on Labor Day which seems like an appropriate time to meditate on basic issues around spirituality and work. 

Vax in 8 Docs, a multi-specialty group of physicians from Northern California, voiced their struggles, loss, and determination against COVID in “My Shot!” adapted from the hit Broadway show Hamilton.

Especially when the foundations seem to have shifted some during the covid emergency of the last few years when some people sacrificed so much to remain in dangerous working circumstances — front line workers like nurses, doctors, staff people in hospitals and nursing homes as well as workers in grocery stores, public transportation, teachers and the rest.  Many of these people got sick or even died in serving others.

All of this was an affirmation still again of the value and importance of the work we do and how deeply it ministers to others in various expressions of compassion, healing, readiness, generosity, giving.  An affirmation of how interdependent we are–how we need workers of all kinds so that we may live, thrive—and work.

For those who stayed home from work during the pandemic and were able to work from home, deep questions arose about the relationship of work and family and of the meaning and value of our work. 

Work as vocation and legacy: CNN honors award-winning U.S. journalist Brent Renaud, killed while reporting from Irpin, Ukraine.

All this happened in the context of course of a pandemic that reminded us all of our mortality.  This surely stirred many to ask deeper questions about work.  Is work just for a paycheck, the bigger the better?  Is work  our way of leaving gifts behind for others, of saying thank you for having been here?  And much more.

One phenomenon occurring in the work world today is that of the Gen Z generation raising questions about the amount of time dedicated to work vs. the amount of time dedicated to family or relationships or causes one believes deeply in such as saving the Earth or building relationships.   

A new phrase has arisen called “quiet quitting.”  It isn’t about getting off the company payroll, we are told, but about staying on it and still having energy left to focus on things one does outside of our work worlds. 

“How ‘Quiet Quitting’ Became The Next Phase Of The Great Resignation.” CNBC

Given today’s tight labor market, many workers feel empowered to push back some and talk about quiet quitting on TikTok I am told (not being a TikTok user myself). 

Maybe it means getting a fuller perspective on life and work.

All this seems to raise anew the age-old issues of a spirituality of work.  We will explore this further in upcoming DM’s.

See https://www.lyrarc.com/articles/67420-if-your-co-workers-are-quiet-quitting-here-s-what-that-means.  

And Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Work as one part of a whole life. Photo by Sarah Chai on Pexels

Queries for Contemplation

How did the pandemic affect your attitudes toward work?  How do you see it having affected others’ attitudes toward work?

Recommended Reading

The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood For Our Time

Thomas Aquinas said, “To live well is to work well,” and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony–a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic “soul work.”
“Fox approaches the level of poetry in describing the reciprocity that must be present between one’s inner and outer work…[A]n important road map to social change.” ~~ National Catholic Reporter

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9 thoughts on “Spirituality and Work”

  1. Avatar

    For me, these two quotes come to mind in reading Mathew’s meditation shared this morning.

    Spiritual life is full-time work, twenty-four hours a day. This is why most people don’t want to do it.

    Self-Mastery is the ability to live congruently in the service of your highest purpose.

  2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you say that not only did the pandemic remind us all of our mortality, “it surely stirred many to ask deeper questions about work. Is work just for a paycheck, the bigger the better? Is work our way of leaving gifts behind for others, of saying thank you for having been here? And much more.” So you ask: “How did the pandemic affect your attitudes toward work?” My painting and writing flourished. And how do I see it having affected others’ attitudes toward work? I see more people working from home. But what I really wanted to talk about was your book, THE REINVENTION OF WORK: A NEW VISION OF LIVELIHOOD FOR OUR TIME. When you wrote this book you had a vision of teaching people how to bring spirituality into the workplace. And so you had the radical vision of creating a Doctor of Ministry program which was open not to Master of Divinity students alone, but to anyone with a masters degree, to enable them to bring spirituality into wherever they worked. And I cherish the fact that I was able to go there !!!

  3. Avatar

    The pandemic had a big impact on myself and my work in long term health care for elders. During this time I quit a large facility and moved to a smaller, more community and resident centered home, with a union; giving up my 16 years of seniority, along with a major pay cut. I no longer work double shifts, extended shifts or pick up extra shifts, and I no longer bring my work home with me. I still, as I’ve always done, go above and beyond while working during my shift, as this is who I am. I still follow all necessary and mandatory Covid safety protocols. I first focused on my healing from PTSD and job burnout, with these changes made. Now I actually feel like I have a life, other than just my job; and I am now able to pursue a deeper relationship with myself, others, nature and God; as well as rediscover a passion and love for life. I knew nothing of the things you talked about within todays DM, when I made these changes, but rather I simply followed the leadings and promptings of Spirit, whom helped me to face my fears and guilt about making these difficult decisions when so many were in need. Many people I worked with have left the health care field altogether.

  4. Avatar

    Since I’ve been retired since 2015, the pandemic has not influenced my attitude about work, but I can that it has affected a lot of workers and our society in many different ways. Some of the positive ways seem to be related to spirituality in that people are questioning in a deeper way the meaning of their work, their values, our interdependence on one another, our mortality, more sensitivity to one another in our communities and in the world, and the deeper meaning of our lives… The awareness of our climate crisis (postdoom.com) around the world has also increased by daily news of severe weather/environmental changes with its destructive societal destruction and human suffering, so our spiritual questions and search for deeper values/meaning has also increased even more… In yesterday’s DM we were reminded of what most earth based and Cosmo-centric spiritual traditions teach us, the importance of our faith in the immanence/Presence of God’s Spirit of Love~Wisdom~Creativity~Transformative Healing Power in our inner~outer lives with one another and Mother Nature in compassionate Diverse Loving Oneness….
    Blessings ?❤️??

  5. Avatar

    There was a time when employers identified with and supported their workers. There used to be a standard expectation that working for a company over a long period of time would produce a retirement fund or a pension. That aesthetic on the corporate side has died. Corporations are not people. They have no heart and no soul and tend to be run by people that same constitution. Money is the only value set. It’s great to see young people yearning for a meaningful life, rather than big pile of stuff. This trend might lead to a less prosperous culture, but a culture where people have a greater sense of personal fulfillment. Maybe too, it will lead back to a culture of personally interactive community rather than digital media dominated isolation.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Dana, along with what you said , I thought I might add two things. 1) Scott Hershovitz, who teaches philosophy and law at the University of Michigan, says that the workplace is the most totalitarian environment in the whole of our society. There the “Boss” rules as supreme and you must do what he or she says or be fired, or sometimes even be fired without cause. 2) Read Matthew’s book THE REINVENTION OF WORK, and see how you can reinvent yours !!!

  6. Avatar

    I am also retired so not directly affected by the pandemic and work. A lot of parents, I think, did discover real family values and the wish to spend more time with their children. Both parents worked and struggled to pay for day care, if they could even find any decent one, and realized that it was madness to work so hard and often with long hours and few if any benefits to be away from their children. In the state of Florida, there are few benefits, and almost never the provision of day care. People staying away from the work place have made a clear statement that decent working conditions, decent pay, and benefits are now expected. The reaction from “conservative” folk, of course, is that these people are just lazy—completely and deliberately missing the point. The plantation “ethic” is alive and well here.

  7. Avatar

    When I see massive job turnover, union strikes, and tech employees demanding the right to work from home, I see the undercurrent of corporate cluelessness about what’s been happening during and since the pandemic lockdown. Corporate bosses all down the line are still operating on the old dominance model, demanding grinding servitude in exchange for low wages and demeaning treatment. Adding to this cluelessness are the customers of businesses who harass and target the lowest-level employees such as the fast food workers, airline employees, teachers, etc. In effect, they join the corporate attack on “The Workers” — the general population of vulnerable, stressed, taken-advantage-of, underpaid, underappreciated, harassed, exhausted and struggling employees, while failing to realize that the targets of their smug vitriol are quitting in droves and that they themselves are directly paying the price for it. Higher prices, worse customer service (or none at all) and lack of teachers and health care workers are already the bitter fruits they have sown. Workers have rediscovered the right to dignity and fair treatment during employment. Their message hasn’t gotten through to a lot of people yet.

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