A dear friend of mine was really struggling at work last week. Her project was in chaos, her boss didn’t understand the complexity of what was happening, she was frustrated with herself for taking on too much of other people’s responsibilities. She was overwhelmed and pissed off.
One morning, as she was preparing for a meeting with the “Big Cheeses”, she unloaded on me. I got the image of her as a wild monkey flinging poop everywhere. It was actually sort of comical.
Luckily for me, for the last five years I’ve practiced NVC (Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg). NVC has saved me heart-ache and pain on many occasions. I didn’t take my friend’s poop personally. I let it fly by and not worry about it. I knew it was her sh—and not something I needed to deal with. I let her rant about work until she calmed down. I did my best to have her see that I understood her frustrations and that she was in pain and needing support. I asked her a few coaching questions to get her to think through how she wanted to handle her meeting. Then I let her be.
Later that morning I took our dog for a walk. As I was scooping up my dog’s morning mess, I thought to myself, “Well isn’t life like that. Sometimes we have to scoop up sh—that other people leave behind.” I just simply put my dog’s poop in a plastic bag and walked on. I wasn’t upset at my dog, I wasn’t angry, I just calmly cleaned up her poop.
Last week I wrote a blog about doing Shadow work. It involves recognizing those aspects of yourself that you don’t want to admit or allow others to see. If we feel we must hide our shi—all the time, we don’t ever get to eliminate it. It seemed like a fitting metaphor for what happened with my dog and my friend that morning. Elimination and not getting hit by flinging poop.
Some times at work people get pissed off. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t nice. Sometimes it downright stinks! Yet we don’t have to own anyone else’s sh—. We can let them fling it while we calmly dodge it. Or we can choose to pick it up without judgment or responding in anger. It takes a lot of compassion and clarity to not let the sh—stick. If you respond in anger or judgments, you’re likely to have the sh—stick. Side stepping it is usually the best trick. Offering compassion for the person in pain likely will stop the poop flinging faster than arguing back.
After my friend calmed down, she called me back and said she was sorry and just needed to vent before her meeting. I knew that was happening. I told her I understood. I didn’t take her crap personally. She called me later in the day and said her meeting with the “Big Cheeses” went well and that she felt more clear going into the meeting knowing what she had to say.
Spirituality sometimes smells like manure
The lesson I want to share here is that spirituality at work isn’t always pretty. Sometimes it means attending to someone else’s sh–. It’s up to you whether you want to step into the crap or dodge it when it’s flying at you. Should you want to scoop the poop of another, best to do so with care, detachment, and non-judgment.
The greater compassion and understanding you can muster for someone who is flinging the poop, the better you’ll dodge it. Work to stay centered and not take it personally. It has nothing to do with you; the other is simply eliminating. Great spiritual practice takes place when you see through the other person’s action to be aware of their pain or stress. Compassion is always a spiritual practice you can offer for yourself or another when the poop starts flying.
And sometimes manure is needed to help a garden grow more fertile.
For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.
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