Christian Women—Maintaining Integrity in the Workplace
“SOMETIMES the tension at [work] is so thick you could cut it with a knife.” So said one working woman.a Pressure to produce, backstabbing competition, demanding supervisors, monotony—these are just a few of the things that make many jobs a drudgery. Few jobs deliver the glamour and excitement promised by media propaganda. But if you are a working woman, you should strive to make a success of your job.
By this, however, we do not refer to monetary gain. The workplace is an arena in which your Christian integrity is put to the test! The way you perform at your job, fend off the spirit of cutthroat competition, and resist moral encroachments reveals the extent to which you are devoted to godly principles. To gain Jehovah God’s favor, the working woman must be able to say as did the psalmist: “I myself have walked in my own integrity.”—Psalm 26:1.
The Bible helps you to do just that. For example, when urged to stoop to dog-eat-dog tactics or when tempted to let a job overshadow family responsibilities, Bible study, Christian meetings, and the ministry, you may well recall the words of King Solomon: “I myself have seen all the hard work and all the proficiency in work, that it means the rivalry of one toward another; this also is vanity and a striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4) Viewing secular work this way prevents or cools burning ambition. It helps you to have the right perspective on a job, viewing it as secondary to spiritual matters.—Matthew 6:33.
But does this mean being indifferent toward secular work? Hardly, because the Bible condemns laziness. (Proverbs 19:15) It speaks of ‘seeing good because of your hard work.’ (Ecclesiastes 2:24) Further, providing for one’s family is a God-given responsibility. (1 Timothy 5:8) So if meeting that obligation means doing secular work that is unpleasant, reflect upon the Bible’s words at Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” Viewing oneself as working “as to Jehovah” is a powerful motivation to be productive, far more so than a pay raise or the lure of a promotion.
“Hard to Please” Employers
A woman named Sally says: “I feel as if [my supervisor is] looking over my shoulder all the time. He never has a good word to say to anyone.” Working under a boss who is “hard to please” or short-tempered can be equally frustrating, especially when one is new to the workplace.—1 Peter 2:18.
Quitting, though, may be economically out of the question. It may thus be best to follow the Bible’s advice that workers—male and female—“be in subjection.” (1 Peter 2:18) Rather than escalating a conflict with sarcasm or disrespect, try to “please [employers] well, not talking back.” (Titus 2:9) Such self-control may even prevent you from losing your job. Said Solomon: “If the spirit of a ruler [someone in authority] should mount up against you, do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins.”—Ecclesiastes 10:4.
A harsh taskmaster may even be shamed when his impatience is countered with mildness, his unreasonable demands with graciousness. (Proverbs 15:1; Colossians 4:6) And as you prove your competence and dependability, his attitude toward you may gradually improve. If not, you may have little choice but to “exercise patience,” knowing that God is pleased with your Christian conduct.—James 5:7, 8.
Staying Morally Chaste
Integrity also involves Christian morals. An article in Ladies’ Home Journal warned: “The office—where everyone is expected to dress up, behave well, spend time together and pursue common goals—has an atmosphere that can easily become sexually charged.” Office affairs are commonplace. So it is wise to be cautious. Keep relationships with men on the job on a professional basis. Avoid conversations that could arouse romantic feelings. “For this is what God wills, . . . that you abstain from fornication.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4.
At times, though, women are victims of an age-old problem: sexual harassment. The Bible tells us that a man named Boaz ordered the young men in his employ “not to touch” Ruth, a woman working in his field. Bible scholar John P. Lange speaks of “the coarse jests with which such peasant laborers were perhaps in the habit of assailing women.” (Ruth 2:9) And though certain present-day employers are trying to protect their female employees, some estimate that 40 to 85 percent of working women (in the United States) have been exposed to some form of sexual harassment.
A young woman named Valerie, for example, worked as a secretary. From time to time, her boss—more than three times her age—would make suggestive remarks about her clothing. Once he tried to trick her into looking at pornographic pictures. Finally, he called her into his office and told her, “To keep your job, you will have to perform sexual favors for me.” Of course, she refused to do so.
Such humiliating treatment takes many forms. Says the British magazine New Statesman: “It ranges from leering, pinching, unnecessary physical contact and verbal abuse.” Often the pressure to engage in sexual immorality is as subtle as being called pet names (Honey, Sweetheart) or as overt as an open proposition. Some women tolerate the harassment out of fear of losing their jobs. And surveys show that a minority of women even seem flattered by the attention!
But while attention from the opposite sex may be flattering, overfamiliarity is often the opening move in the game of seduction. It is thus an assault on your integrity and an affront to your Christian dignity.—1 Corinthians 6:18.
“When wisdom enters into your heart . . . , thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you.” (Proverbs 2:10, 11) So how can you use practical wisdom and discernment to protect yourself? A working woman named Diane says: “I let it be known on the job that I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (Compare Matthew 5:16.) When men know you have high moral standards, often they are less prone to make advances.
A discerning woman named Betty takes yet another precaution. She says: “I’m very careful about associating with my coworkers because their morals are not the same as mine.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) This does not mean being aloof or hostile to fellow workers. But when they insist on discussing matters offensive to a Christian, do not hesitate to excuse yourself. (Ephesians 5:3, 4) Your listening to such immoral talk could give men at work the impression that you would be receptive to their advances.
Maintaining a professional bearing can also discourage unwanted attention. Too, the Bible advises women “to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Timothy 2:9; contrast Proverbs 7:10.) Says the book Sexual Harassment on the Job: “Provocative attire—that is, plunging necklines; sundresses; short, short skirts; and masses of glittery makeup—do not belong in the workplace. . . . Your chances of creating a professional image are vastly improved if you do choose to dress unspectacularly.”
Finally, a discerning woman avoids compromising situations. An invitation to have an alcoholic drink or to remain at work after hours for no apparent reason may well be a trap. (Compare 2 Samuel 13:1-14.) “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself,” says a wise proverb.—Proverbs 22:3.
Of course, it is not realistic to imagine that you can rearrange the thinking of all the men on the job or change long-ingrained behavior patterns. (Compare Jeremiah 13:23.) And it is not fair to conclude that all men who appear rather overfriendly have “eyes full of adultery.” (2 Peter 2:14) So at times it is appropriate to extend the benefit of the doubt.
But when obvious overfamiliarity is involved, take a firm stand. When Solomon made unwanted overtures to a young maiden, she was not coy. She responded to his flattery with expressions of unswerving love for a modest shepherd boy. Since she had refused to yield to Solomon’s advances, she could say, “I am a wall.”—Song of Solomon 8:10.
Show the same firmness. Often advances can be nipped in the bud by saying: “No touching, please”; “Call me by my name”; or, “I don’t appreciate that type of humor.” One Christian woman has more than once simply said, “Cut it out!” At any rate, make it clear that your no means no! (Compare Matthew 5:37.) A weak or vague response may simply encourage a harasser to try harder.
If you are married, it would be good to share your feelings with your husband. He may have some practical ideas about how to handle the situation. If it seems best simply to change employment, remember God’s promise: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5.
Your Job and Your Integrity
So while a secular job is often necessary, it can in some cases present threats to your Christian integrity. Thus Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:16 are quite apropos: “Prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.”
Keeping Christian integrity in the workplace is not easy, but it can be done. Thousands of women among Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing so by following the counsel of the Bible. They keep themselves spiritually strong by means of Bible study, prayer, Christian meetings, the Kingdom-preaching work, and other godly activities. As a result, they enjoy something no paycheck can give. It is the knowledge that they have the favor of Jehovah, the One whose Word promises: “He that is walking in integrity will walk in security.”—Proverbs 10:9.
a Here denoting a woman secularly employed. Of course, housewives, mothers, and other women also work.
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For Maintaining Integrity in the Workplace:
Let it be known that you have high moral standards
Be careful about socializing with coworkers
Adorn yourself with modest dress