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Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 2.2 (2002) 262-264
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10 ways to balance your life on-the-job
Spirituality@work: 10 ways to balance your life on-the-job. By Gregory F.A. Pierce. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2001. 168 pp. $17.95.
There is a trend in popular spiritual literature to react either to the other-worldly piety of bygone ages or to lay adaptations of spiritual traditions originally intended for the clergy and professed religious. The proposed alternative generally is some form of a "spirituality of the ordinary" that can nourish the life of the 99.9% of the church that is not ordained and has not made public vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Gregory Pierce has made a unique contribution to this growing body of literature with his Spirituality@work: 10 ways to balance your life on-the-job. Pierce, who has worked as a community organizer and a publisher, sees his book as an alternative to approaches to spirituality built on contemplation and solitude. The difficulty with these approaches, he contends, is that they engage the believer in a constant struggle to carve time out of one's busy day for prayer and/or spiritual reading. Even if one is successful at this—devoting 30 minutes each morning to prayer, for example—Pierce notes that one will still spend the rest of the day involved in the noisiness of daily life. The difficulty for the contemporary Christian does not lie in finding God in the thirty minutes of daily prayer, but finding God through out the rest of the day. And for most people, much of the "rest of the day" is spent in the workplace. Consequently, Pierce's book focuses specifically on a spirituality intended for the workplace that can help affirm the sacredness of human work.
For Pierce, "spirituality is a disciplined attempt to align ourselves and our environment with God and to incarnate (enflesh, make real, materialize) God's spirit in the world" (16). He is convinced that rather than adapting traditional spiritual disciplines to the workplace, it is necessary to start from the ground up, as it were, constructing a spirituality that begins within the context of the workplace itself. Pierce has been interested in this topic for a number of years and has participated in an internet discussion group on "Faith and Work in Cyberspace." One of the unique features of this book is the inclusion, throughout the text, of boxed reflections offered by contributors to this discussion group. From pastoral ministers to lawyers to CEO's, this diversity of perspective brings an unexpected richness to the book. [End Page 262]
After some opening material addressing basic issues (e.g., developing definitions for "spirituality" and "work," and attending to how we balance our work with the rest of our lives) the bulk of the volume explores ten "spiritual disciplines," all of which must fulfill the following criteria: (1) they must be able to be practiced in the workplace; (2) they must not disrupt one's work; (3) it must be possible to practice them regularly and consistently; (4) each discipline must be triggered by some event, task or situation that commonly occurs in one's workplace; (5) they must be able to be undertaken without anyone else in the workplace knowing what is being done.
The disciplines themselves are often fairly predictable (e.g., dealing with others the way you would have them deal with you; offering thanks and congratulations to colleagues and employees) but Pierce brings a remarkable insight into the difficulties involved in following such simple disciplines as "knowing when enough is enough." The book is filled with practical counsel, as in his suggestion to keep a "work journal" to record and celebrate individual tasks that were done with pride and care. Pierce provides numerous practical cases for reflection, whether it is a consideration of the challenges one faces in dealing with business negotiations or the need to offer one's employees a just wage while...