Spiritual Answers for Incivility

What happens if you begin a new job and discover you’ve entered a caustic work environment? Prevalence rates for incivility in workplaces are high; incivility has been correlated with stress, burnout, decreased psychological well-being, and decreased employee satisfaction and performance. Nurses can easily become overwhelmed and distracted by negative work environments.

It’s helpful to go back to spiritual roots when dealing with this problem. Research suggests that more civil environments may result when spirituality is infused into the workplace. Before abandoning the profession or allowing a bad situation to fester, try using these biblical passages to help cope with a negative environment. These six focus points of Scripture can guide and encourage you.

1. Pray for your enemies.

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28, NIV).

It’s natural to wish ill on those causing the pain or discomfort. However, Jesus taught us to love. This is not easy, but it does take the focus off ourselves, allowing us to consider that life circumstances may be impacting that negative, arrogant, or jealous person. The Holy Spirit can help us to see the one contributing to a caustic work situation as a child of God in need of prayer and love.

2. Exemplify Christian love in your behavior.

In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus extended compassion by healing a blind man whose name meant son of unclean. It would have been easy for Jesus to walk away from this distasteful situation and ignore the man's cries for help; however, he chose to exhibit compassion and care.

In a negative work situation, Christians are called to model similar character. When others are gossiping or complaining, or a bully hurls insults, it is not easy to keep silent. However, by aligning with the mind of Christ and his example, our resolve can strengthen.

This verse is encouraging: “To the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21, NIV).

3. Entrust justice to God.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:18-19, ESV).

Our natural inclination is to defend against perceived injustice. However, God asks us to entrust justice to him. God is the only one who can judge with righteousness. Planning retaliation is not a successful strategy, and we should never feel it is our place to get even. Instead, we need to trust God to make things right. Use this Scripture to keep your mind focused God-ward: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me” (Psalm 138:7, NIV).

4. Draw strength from adversity.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV).

Instead of being discouraged, upset, and bitter about a work situation, we have the capacity to change our perspective. Pray intentionally for direction to sense how difficult work situations can grow us spiritually.

5. Consider becoming a change agent.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, ESV).

If you’re being mistreated at work or see a problematic situation has emerged, biblical wisdom encourages us to be a part of making an environmental change. It may not always be in your control; however, you might help with a creative solution.

With assessment for a root cause, you may be able to determine what makes the work environment toxic and discern whether you are to implement change. Perhaps the unit is understaffed, leading to stress. You might join a committee to work on staffing problems. Maybe someone feels threatened or insecure, so he or she acts out. Your positive encouragement may make a difference.

6. Examine your behavior for possible contribution to a problem.

“When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him” (Genesis 37:4, NIV).

When we moved to a South from the Midwest, after sharing what I thought was a great idea in my new workplace, colleagues said everything I shared started with, “Where I used to work, we did....” I had attributed my perception of a somewhat cold reception from this group as related to North versus South cultural distinctions. While that may have been a factor, I realized that my new colleagues had probably perceived me as acting superior. Removing that phrasing and listening first eventually resulted in warming my reception and creating lasting friendships.

This is an excerpt of an article by Linda S. Johanson, ED, RN, in the April/June 2019 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing. You can read this and every other current and past issue, including online exclusives, when you join Nurses Christian Fellowship. Find membership details here: http://ncf-jcn.org/membership



I enjoyed this blog on incivility, it is something as nurses we have all faced at one time or another in our careers. The scriptures are a wonderful reminder of trusting in God and his word to help us redirect ourselves or thoughts when faced with this adversity.

I have dedicated my career to mitigating incivility and nursing violence. I am currently seeking Nurse Executives to complete a brief online interview and teleconference interview with me as soon as possible. I can be reached at 508-638-8578 or klehmann2@liberty.edu.I am striving to complete my doctoral research at Liberty University on the Nurse Executive Perspective on the Persistence of Nursing Violence in the Workplace and need just two more interviews to be able to complete my data analysis. The direct link to the online survey is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7G6HKMN Stay Safe. I hope to speak with you soon.

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