25 October, Tuesday — Giving in

Tuesday of Week 30 in Ordinary Time

Eph 5:21-33
Lk 13:18-21

Give way to one another in obedience to Christ.

Since I started my current job, it has been a lot about ‘giving way’ in deference to higher-ups, senior management and learned faculty colleagues who are experts in their respective fields. Then, a few weeks ago, my new boss told me that I should stop thinking that way and to freely express my opinions because he considered me a very senior member of the organization.

It was a bit of an epiphany for me because I had always held my previous boss in the highest regard and totally respected his views. Now, my new bosses were encouraging me to speak up and to ‘be bold’, expressing my views freely on my area of work — marketing and communications. I remember telling my immediate superior that he will be ‘unleashing’ someone who may end up being an issue among his team – which has grown to close to 100 staff in a very short amount of time. However, he encouraged me by saying, “As long as it is in the best interests of the university, who can fault you for having an opinion? And if I am the issue, then we let the President make the decision.”

Of course, I am realistic that I still need to be diplomatic where I feel I need to object but this ‘woohoo’ moment has given me a new impetus to try out new things/ideas, especially in the coming months ahead. For me, the element of ‘giving way’ still applies but perhaps it now can be taken with a healthy dose of ‘agreeing to disagree’ – something I used to treasure a lot in my previous jobs. Yes, back in the day, I had a lot of disagreements with fellow colleagues because we were opinionated, headstrong and fought for our ideas. There was little collaboration but a lot of one-upmanship and internal rivalry – something expected in a multi-national agency where talent was at a premium. But at the same time, there was a healthy respect for one another’s work.

These days, among some of my younger staff, ‘giving way’ to another colleague seems to be a sign of weakness. They question, debate and push back – something I have a lot of respect for and ask of my junior staff. But for most of them, giving in is not in the cards. It takes a while for me to explain and to justify why I disagree with them or make a decision that seems contrary to what they feel should be the way to go.

Today’s first reading touches on the relationship between husband and wife – one that is complicated in our times, especially if there are children to bring up. I am not sure about women having to submit to their husbands (I know many women who are totally the opposite) but I do know that because they love their husbands, they are mindful to not take the spotlight in public. Then again, I know of many husbands who are happy to let their wives enjoy the limelight while they play supportive roles at home and take care of the children.

Then in the Gospel, Jesus used both the example of a man who scattered the mustard seed, and a woman who mixed in the yeast with the flour. Both equally capable of making God’s Kingdom flourish. You could argue that one was outside, hard at work in the field, while the other was at home, performing a domestic chore; but it is clear that both played important roles and none was subservient to the other.

Brothers and sisters, at the end of the day, it all boils down to intention. If, in our hearts, our intentions are good – whether at work, at home or in ministry – then no one can fault any of us for having an opinion or an idea on how we want to achieve our goal. Because, ultimately, it leads to a common good for a larger community. So if you are facing a situation where you feel you shouldn’t give way or submit, take a step back and think about your intentions. Then ask, “What would Jesus do in this situation?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Lord, we pray for your continued wisdom and guidance. To help us navigate the uncertainty we face at work, in ministry and in our personal circumstances. Help us to see that sometimes, giving way to others will help open other doors for us.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for all the coaches, mentors and teachers who have helped us along our journeys. We give thanks for all our spouses, who constantly put up with us and our whims. And we thank you for the gift of Jesus in our lives.

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