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Lust in the Workplace: It's Not Always About You Know What | Mary Beth Bonacci

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Got your attention, didn't I? You thought this is going to be a steamy article about sexual harassment or something.


Those of you who read my last article may recall that we talked about John Paul II's definition of "lust." He didn't just define it in sexual terms. Lust, according to the late Holy Father, is "the will to use another person as means to my own satisfaction, without regard to their dignity as image and likeness of God." It is a violation of his "personalistic norm", which states that "the only adequate response to a human person is love."

Lust is the opposite of love. It is using. Last time we talked about loving and using in the context of marriage. This time I want to discuss them in the context of the workplace.

It has long been a frustration of mine that the concept of "loyalty" has disappeared from corporate America. It used to be that corporations and other business enterprises felt a certain responsibility to their employees. Business owners, in lean times, would often forgo their own paychecks in order to make sure the staff was paid. Layoffs were avoided unless the very survival of the business was immediately threatened. And employees were loyal in return, often remaining with one company for their entire careers and receiving the proverbial "gold watch" upon retirement.

Alas, times have changed. In modern business theory, employees are frequently regarded as "capital"--no more or less valuable than machinery. If the bottom line will benefit even slightly from massive layoffs, the massive layoffs are carried out, regardless of their impact on countless lives and families.

In other words, employees often become "means to an end" for the owners or the stockholders, without taking into account their dignity as image and likeness of God.

These attitudes, of course, trickle down into the day-to-day operations of the business. "Office politics" rule the 9 to 5 world. Often it seems like everybody is out for himself (or herself), seeing underlings and co-workers only as stepping stones to personal career success.

That, my friends, is "lust in the workplace."

Fortunately, the pendulum may be swinging back the other way. Business leaders are beginning to figure out that impersonal or hostile work environments negatively impact the "bottom line." Magazines frequently rank the "best places to work."

And a book promoting respect in the workplace has actually climbed to the top of a bestseller list.

The book is entitled Leadership and Self-Deception, and it was produced by an organization called the Arbinger Institute. I won't go into a whole lot of detail about the book itself, except to say that it is--in my opinion--excellent, and that you can read more about it at www.arbinger.com.

I attended a business training session based on the book last week, and it really made me think. The overall idea of the book, and the training, is that when we see people as "objects" that we can manipulate for our own benefit, we enter into a mindset of self-deception, rationalizing our own behavior and distorting our own vision of ourselves, and those around us. People cease to be "persons" in our eyes, and instead become "problems to be overcome."

Employees in this sort of environment naturally become defensive. And all of that defensiveness and conflict eat up what could otherwise be productive energy, and the business suffers the consequences.

The solution, then, is to change our mindset--to see employees and co-workers as persons with their own individual needs and desires. Once we've done that, we no longer have a need for defensiveness and rationalization. We see situations more clearly. Defensiveness is no longer necessary, trust increases and conflict is reduced. And all of that impacts the bottom line.

I know, at first glance it seems a little cynical--respect for human persons as a means to corporate profit. But the book is pretty clear in warning that this cannot be "faked." The primary goal must be respect for the human person. Increased profits are merely a nice side-benefit--or perhaps a"carrot" to help encourage wayward executives to do what they should have been doing all along.

I don't know if the Arbinger Institute is familiar with John Paul II, but it sure seems that way. What they have done with this book is to apply the personalistic norm to the business world. Of course, being a secular business book, the treatment is incomplete. There is no mention of God, and no mention why, on the deepest level, the human person is never to be treated as means to an end. But hey--the concept is there. And in the secular environment of the business world, it's a pretty big step.

This doesn't just apply to the workplace. It also applies in our families, among our friends. So many conflicts can be defused--or avoided all together--by adjusting our mindset, by making a conscious attempt to see the other person not as an obstacle to our own goals, but as a person loved and treasured by God. That of course doesn't always mean the other person is right, but it can soften our attitude toward them.

Try it at work. Try it at home. See if it doesn't improve the "bottom line" in your life.

• This article originally appeared on RealLove.net on June 10, 2006.

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:

• Practicing Chastity in an Unchaste Age | Bishop Joseph F. Martino
• The Truth About Conscience | John F. Kippley | An excerpt from Sex and the Marriage Covenant

Other IgnatiusInsight.com Articles by Mary Beth Bonacci:

The Love Behind the Rules
The Horrible "H" Word
Teens, Sex, and Real Love | Interview with Mary Beth Bonacci
There's More to Prayer Than "Saying Our Prayers"
Was Pope John Paul II Anti-Woman?
JPII, Why Did We Love You?
A Hero Goes to His Reward
Some Atrocities are Worse than Others
Parents Love the Chastity Girl
The Attack on Abstinence

Mary Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks and writings about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken to tens of thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and television programs, including several appearances on MTV.

Mary Beth has written two books, We're on a Mission from God and Real Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications. She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series, also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award for Best Youth Curriculum.

Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women of America for 1997. Her apostolate, Real Love Incorporated is dedicated to presenting the truth about the Church's teaching about sexuality, chastity, and marriage.

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