Updated: Nov 26, 2020
It is a statement, a fact. It is a character trait that is synonymous with humility and gentleness. Fijians and Pacific islanders' unique natural disposition is largely friendly and humble. It’s our most valued qualities that make the South Pacific a popular tourist destination. This is rooted in culture and more importantly our faith. As Christians - we are called to be humble and gentle, like Jesus.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth - Matt 5:5
I would like to attempt to shine a light on humility or meekness in the workplace for women of faith. Humility or quiet confidence has been one of my well-liked qualities throughout my work experiences. And it never crossed my mind how this might be perceived differently until one day, during a performance appraisal discussion with my former line manager. The gist of it was I should be more visible – I knew where he was coming from. I was working in an international context, in S&T defence, lots of moving parts. Unfortunately, the expectation is far from the reality. I am from a BAME background and a woman. My manager represents the vast majority in my work place at the time, white, British, male and in the age 50+. But my point is, I received his inappropriate comment with grace and accepted that we had different ideas of what visibility looked like. A few months later following that day, he confessed that he was finding it tough to gain 'face time' (visibility) with the new Director of the department. I simply gave him a reassuring smile, it will be okay I told him.
This experience didn’t knock my confidence, if anything; it’s reveals how unconscious biases remain rife in the workplace despite mandatory training to remove blindspots. The reality is that with a competency-based system used for recruitment in the civil service, you had to sell yourself to get ahead, to be visible at all times, in a competitive work environment. Agreed, as a community and a minority ethnic group, we generally don't like to talk about ourselves, let alone sing our own praises and we definitely, don't do it well when we have to.
But that's not all, meekness is often misinterpreted as a weakness. Common misconceptions are meek people are too quiet or shy, therefore, lack confidence. This implies that they don't have what it takes to succeed in the workplace. Corporate culture and 'socialised' work environments promote diversity and inclusion. But there is an underlying expectation, that to be influential or visible, you have to fit in and adapt to the status quo. But let’s not believe the hype.
As Christians, we believe that God leads us in dealing with people and situations at work. This is where ministry can be the most effective. Humility is strength under control; it takes so much to stand up for your faith. The Bible teaches us “not to conform to the ways of this world“ (Romans 12:2) and ”do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
A well respected friend of mine who is currently coaching me provided her own experiences in the workplace, and her unique insight deserved to be shared here. For so many, we need to heed this.
Any practising Christian can attest to the fact that working among non-believers can be challenging BUT what I’ve found is that the fruits of the spirit that our Faith in God and dwelling in his word produces in us makes us diligent, trustworthy, respectful, honest, hardworking, caring, driven and professional individuals making us huge assets to whatever organisations we’re a part of. So whilst we don’t go about preaching the gospel to all our colleagues we embody the gospel and only good comes out of that.- Farema Naga.
Indeed so true. And I have seen these fruits in the women I have coached, seeking to build confidence. They were so humble speaking about their achievements and personal goals. I applaud their humility and it warms my soul to remind them that their achievements took courage, confidence and hard work. Time and time again, I tell them that they lack nothing not even confidence. They just need support in dealing with a particular situation with confidence. That situation can be giving a presentation, preparing for an interview or even being heard in a meeting. It only demonstrates a teachable spirit and courage to try something new.
Recently, I was reminded in cultural and traditional contexts, women didn't have a speaking part or contributed to the decision-making process particularly in male-dominant societies. This might have affected women’s confidence in speaking up today. I remember growing up, I didn't have a lot of opportunity to talk amongst adults, the saying 'children are meant to be seen and not heard' was common in those days. We were humbled and had the fear of God instilled at a young age and perhaps, we lost our inner voice in the process?
BUT we are where we are now. Its important we remain humble, it is in our humility we reflect God’s light in our lives. AND we should not be fearful for the wrong reasons. Use your voice when it matters, speak up for yourself or even share your faith - For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Even if you find yourself in work environments that require assertiveness to be more visible or heard, be encouraged to think like God thinks and live by God's standard – Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11: 29). And always surround yourself with meek and God fearing companions, as iron sharpens iron so does one man another. (Proverb 27:17).
Last but not least, there is so much strength in meekness and hold onto that truth to navigate your situation better, knowing what you know now but more importantly, know whose you are!
Coaching with Love,