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How to change your attitude towards a job you hate

May 23, 2017
Benjamin Spalink

At a recent gathering to explore the connections between faith and work, the following question came up:

Is there anything I can do to “transform my attitude” or do I just need to wait for the Holy Spirit?

The answer to the question is a "yes."  You can transform your attitude and yes, you do need to rely on, or wait upon, the Holy Spirit.

Should you actively work to try to change your attitude? A quick survey of the NT will immediately reveal that even in situations where we're called upon to do work that we don't enjoy, God always encourages us to do everything with a positive, thankful and worshipful attitude:

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:23-24)

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (I Corinthians 10:31)

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (Romans 12:10-11).

A negative attitude will accomplish nothing positive.  It will not endear you to your colleagues.  It will not impress your boss.  It will not earn you a more worthwhile position. But worst of all, a negative attitude casts a shadow over your witness to Christ.  The glory of God is revealed for all to see through work that is done well joyfully, especially when it is hard and toilsome. The ability to maintain a positive attitude in difficult situations is a sign of true character and is the fruit of God's Spirit in you.

The trouble is that actively working to change one's attitude is a challenge.

After college, I worked briefly in housekeeping for the on-campus hotel.  The manager yelled at me once for forgetting to dust underneath the toiletries basket on top of the toilet.  I yelled back, "I wasn't made for this! I can't stand just working alone all day!"  The extovert in me was dying from lack of human interaction while cleaning identical hotel rooms. Thankfully, seminary prepared me to do something a little bit more up my alley - becoming a pastor.

Joseph's story is more helpful than mine - he wound up in prison due to circumstances not his fault. Rather than sulking in misery, he made himself useful and soon found himself becoming a VIP within the Egyptian penal system (Gen 39:21-23).  Eventually, God lifted Joseph from his misery and positioned him to become a game-changer in the entire economic system of the region of that time.

A negative attitude is a symptom of lost hope, isn't it?  It sees "here and now" as useless and pointless, nothing but lost time and lost opportunity.  How foolish and narrow minded!  It's the negativity of one's attitude that is actually useless and pointless.  You just don't know what God might have in store for you and how the discomfort of now can be preparing you for later.  Why treat now with contempt?

Also, consider how suffering that is not embraced is simply suffering postponed.  Avoid the "pain" of exam preparation, and you will fail the exam.  Fail the class and you'll have to retake it. You must keep enduring that pain until you embrace it, study hard, and then pass.  Weed your garden and sweat, or let it be overgrown. It actually gets harder the more you delay it.  Learn to take orders and submit to your boss. It is hard and unpleasant.  But if you don't do it, you'll lose your job. And the next one. And the next one.. until you embrace the pain and submit.

Perhaps God was teaching me patience and humility and giving me time to think about important matters while cleaning toilets in a hotel.  I wasted that opportunity by doing the job poorly. That does not reflect well on me!  Lesson learned.

Where does the Holy Spirit come in?  The Holy Spirit can and will make this happen for you. The Spirit produces the fruit of perseverance and joy. That's his job, to produce fruit (i.e. character) in you (Gal 5:22).  It's your responsibility to change your attitude, but it's the Spirit that accomplishes this. If you want the Spirit to be at work in your life, there are two things that are required: asking (in prayer) and faith (James 1:5-7).  The Spirit is available to all of God's children because the Spirit is living in your heart. If you are not experiencing the Spirit's leading, it's because you're not asking for the Spirit's leading.  God says "yes" to our requests for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).  But you don't "feel" the Spirit?  So, the next step is faith - believing that the Spirit is at work in you and will lead you and help you to grow as you walk in faith (despite how you may feel).  The Spirit doesn't move when we're not counting on Him.  If you ask for the Spirit to transform your attitude, you must believe that He will transform your attitude, and then commence with the assumption that He is doing it.  Understand, of course, that God has his own timing and his own way of answering our prayers, so an open mind is in order.

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