Nailing Our Colours to the Mast

How many readers out there have ever found themselves at a dinner with some professional colleagues? Probably quite a few of you. I had dinner with some SEs from various other resellers and some vendor representatives tonight. It’s a fairly common occurrence, right?

Well, in how many of those situations did you feel you had to mask or withhold your beliefs or your opinions? This could be on any level; perhaps you couldn’t speak your mind about a particular product because you were having dinner with the vendor that makes that product. (No, this doesn’t have anything to do with any recent events.) More to my interest, for those readers who are also Christians, how many of you felt like you couldn’t fully express your Christian values or beliefs at one of these functions?

Now, this may not have been due to any person in particular, or because anyone said anything out loud. But in today’s society, where people are encouraged to be “politically correct” so as not to offend someone, it’s become increasingly rare to see people willing to show their beliefs, their values, their faith in public. It’s increasingly rare to see people willing to “nail their colours to the mast.”

That saying dates from English maritime history (more information here), basically meaning to openly display one’s beliefs. It can also mean a refusal to surrender or submit. My interest lies primarily with the first meaning, although both meanings can be helpful.

I think its time that we put political correctness aside and started taking a stand for our beliefs. And I say that not just from a Christian perspective, but from a professional perspective as well because these two perspectives are connected. They are linked. How? Being honest about who we are and what we believe—again, in a way that is courteous and professional—builds integrity. Integrity creates respect. Your colleagues won’t respect you if you aren’t honest, and if you aren’t being honest about who you are or what you believe then you aren’t being honest at all, IMHO.

Some might say that “transparency” is a good word to use here—we should be transparent and allow our character to be seen by others. Continuing the maritime flag theme, your true colors will come out sooner or later anyway.

If we don’t like a particular product because we don’t agree with the way it works, let’s just say so. We should be honest, because honesty is a Christian trait. Of course, we can do so in a way that is not offensive or rude, but we can and should be honest.

When we’re out at dinner with vendors or colleagues, we shouldn’t be afraid to say a prayer over our meal before eating. Again, we’re allowing the truth of who we are to be seen, and that honesty will generate respect. I believe people will respect you for not being afraid to be who you are.

Personally, I would rather see someone take a stand for something, even if it’s something I don’t agree with, then be wishy-washy and variable. Wouldn’t you? Maybe it’s time we nail our colours to the mast.

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  1. Matt’s avatar

    Rock on! In a recent church service my pastor pointed out that Paul was on a boat with a bunch of angry sailors. They were caught in a storm, and they had tried all they could to save themselves. Paul received a word from God that they were all going to be safe. So he encouraged the sailors to eat some food. He prayed out loud to bless the food and thanked God that they were all going to be saved from harm.
    At that point my pastor said if we don’t pray in public we should be ashamed.
    I generally make it a point to pray before I eat, but I know there have been times when I skipped it because it wasn’t convenient.
    This can be such a small issue, but we must not be ashamed of the Worthy Creator of the entire universe, who out of love for us who are not worthy, willingly gave the life of His Precious Son.

  2. William Bishop’s avatar

    You should move to the south. You come out as anything other than a christian, you find your car keyed, and yourself ostracized and isolated. I promise the good old christian america is alive and well, and in any area other than a metropolitan one, it’s predominant and DOMINANT.

  3. slowe’s avatar

    William,

    I’m sorry that you’ve had that kind of experience. I don’t condone that kind of approach–it’s definitely not Christ-like. Standing up for your faith does NOT equal belittling others or their beliefs or harassing them.

  4. Eddie’s avatar

    Well said Scott. Thanks

  5. Bill Taroli’s avatar

    I applaud your stance, though I would suggest that while transparency in a professional context may not always include our personal lives. What if someone’s personal beliefs, which don’t really have much to do with our professional lives, get in the way of actually conducting business? I tend to agree that a sense of openness an being honest and upfront are good traits. But if we inject distractions from the actual work at hand, or place wedges between us in a professional context, are we really doing ourselves any good?

    That said, I have personally had friendships with coworkers and colleagues /outside/ the work environment where we openly share and debate all kinds of personal views and beliefs. But we leave those at the door when we enter the workplace.

  6. slowe’s avatar

    Bill,

    Thanks for your feedback. In some instances, you are probably correct, and I appreciate you pointing that out. Driving wedges into the workforce or distracting from the work at hand are not what we want to do. Nor do we want to isolate or offend others.

    Speaking from a strictly Christian point of view, are there specific beliefs you feel might cause this problem? I’m interested in your opinion in this matter.

  7. william bishop’s avatar

    I still find it amusing that people think they have to stand up for their faith, and that they are being discriminated against. I travel frequently, and work in many areas. It has been my experience that those other than christians are a very, VERY small miniority.

    It’s kind of like the romans complaining that all of those gaul bodies were dulling their swords. You have the majority of power, the majority of the population, and most everyone is afraid to ask “does this even make sense?” in public without being openly ridiculed and ostracized. I think it’s a little past the time to be claiming “poor little old me.” It wasn’t that long ago that a standing president said that atheists should be kicked out of the country and not allowed to be americans(bush sr.) and it has not improved in the last 20 years that I can remember, only worse. I personally wish the country were a LOT less religious, and people got back to doing their jobs instead of waxing sorrowful that people are slowing down the onslaught of christian belief blanketing the country, after all, everyone would benefit from being converted(or slaughtered in some instances)right?

    My question has always been, why should I care what your belief system is? Is it going to make you more efficient at your job? Do your beliefs have to be pushed in my face every day? Seriously, did we have to change the pledge of allegiance just so we could tie communism to godlessness during the mccarthy era? Since that has long passed, can we not go back and remove your particular religion from our money and pledge? We’re no longer fighting the red tide, can’t we just go back to being AMERICANS?

    It seriously has no place except in your home, or your church. It doesn’t belong in my childrens school, and it certainly doesn’t belong at work. That’s for WORKING, not a church service. Again, you are religious, why should I care? Why should anyone? You want to pray over a meal? Go for it, it’s not bothering me, and I’m certainly not going to bother you about it…I just don’t see the angle you’re seeing. Perhaps so many sermons touting persecution doesn’t actually mean you’re being persecuted, but Christians overall seem to feel persecuted–at times I’ve heard it and been awestruck in that no one was even paying attention to someone, let alone infringing on their faith.

    Your own religious text says a little something about those who pray in public doesn’t it?

  8. slowe’s avatar

    William, you and I keep ending up on opposite sides of the coin, don’t we? :-)

    That’s OK, we can agree to disagree–amicably, I hope.

    I would imagine that we can both agree that not all atheists are the same, just like not all Christians are the same. Just because some Christian in the past has proclaimed that all atheists are evil doesn’t mean that I believe that, or that I approve of other Christians who say that. Just because some Christian has mistreated you in the past doesn’t mean all Christians are going to mistreat you, or be rude to you, or anything like that.

    Free speech means everyone is free to say anything, even things we may personally disagree with. For example, you are free to say that there is no God. That is allowed under free speech. Likewise, I am free to say that there is a God. That is also allowed under free speech.

    My angle was simply that as Christians, we shouldn’t be changing who we are depending upon where we are. Christians shouldn’t act one way at church, and a different way at the office. It’s very possible for me to be a Christian, you to be an atheist, us to work together in the same office, and us get along just fine. At least, it’s fine from my perspective. I can disagree with you but still respect you and be courteous and professional with you.

    After all, many beliefs that are promoted by the Christian faith are accepted as positive behaviors by society. You want people to be honest with you, right? You want people to respect your property, right? These are values that are espoused by the Christian faith and are also widely valued by society as well. So what is the problem with being Christian? Christians aren’t supposed to be malicious or overbearing, although I will admit that far too many are. Again, I would warn us all again being stereotypical.

    As for what the Bible has to say about praying in public: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” (Matthew 6:6 NIV) Praying in order to be seen by men is the problem–not praying in public.

    Thanks for your continued feedback and dialogue.

  9. William Bishop’s avatar

    Those behaviours precede christianity a bit(a couple thousand years), but I will not look at the debatable points.

    In fact, I have many friends who are christian, my father is a preacher, and I spent many of my formative years in the church. Didn’t make me religious, or non religious, but it did give ample time to study the bible(among other religions).

    I don’t have issue with most of my co-workers, and most don’t have a problem with me. The few non-religious people are generally very quiet about it, as it can affect one’s career and life in very negative ways.

    I have no issue with you, or 99% of believers. I just don’t see why the country, it’s education, and every other facet of our culture has to be bathed in religion, which I find more a distraction than anything. I don’t know why people literally protest, because some big hunk of rock proclaiming the 10 commandments(seriously, which 10 commandments, thou shalt not kill, or thou shalt not boil a kid in it’s mothers milk–they’re both god breathed yes?!?). Or why someone would protest because a sign says x-mas instead of christmas. No, it’s not really christ’s birth day! Not to rant, but the romans stole a pagan holiday(as they frequently did) and merged it with another holiday of their own so that within 2 generations the original cultural meaning would be gone. It’s what they did! What kind of person gets bent out of shape over the spelling of a holiday?!? Yet, every year, I have to listen to two months of people complaining because they feel like no one is celebrating the way they think they should. Most people just don’t care! It’s a time to exchange presents, and people should really work on getting over themselves. Why must everyone I see, give credit for everything good to an imaginary sky god, and everything bad is the devil? I literally here every week (well, god answered our prayer and our team won!.) Does that mean that the other teams fans, who also prayed, were slighted? Or does it mean that one team was better than the other? Do people understand their own religion to so poorly that they’ve basically taken the comic book version of the bible, much of it wrong, and proclaim that it’s the way they’re supposed to live? Most of what I hear is not only wrong, it’s tragic.

    I am and always was, a concrete thinker, which is why I don’t do the religion thing. But it is terribly annoying at times.

  10. Eric’s avatar

    Scott,

    I have no problems with my religious coworkers praying before a meal, being openly religious in public, etc…. But the problems happen because it’s impossible to set a limit in the workplace on what’s “appropriate” – for example if it’s OK for a Christian to be overtly religious in the workplace (beyond typical social norms, as you discuss above), then what about a Muslim who must pray 5 times per day and cleanse his feet in the bathroom?

    I don’t want to cast a stereotype on you, as we’ve never met, but there is a hint of “this is a Christian country” in your perspective. As someone who is not Christian, I have no problem with you doing whatever you want to, but I do get tired of most people just assuming that I celebrate Christmas.

    Free speech is not absolute. Employers don’t want any sort of inappropriate speech in the workplace, where inappropriate is defined by the employer. In our office, they generally frown on open discussions of sex, politics, or religion because there are so many opposing views.

    This is because they are inseparable.

    It’s a slippery slope.

  11. slowe’s avatar

    It’s odd to me, William and Eric, that you guys picked up the “it’s a Christian country” kind of theme from my post; I had no thought of that whatsoever while writing it. Quite the opposite, actually; I was thinking about how many people don’t show any sign of religion whatsoever. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, as are so many things in life.

    Eric, you are correct that in many ways free speech is a slippery slope; we must apply common sense. I’m not advocating the all too familiar “You’re-going-to-Hell-if-you-don’t-live-the-way-I-live” type of mentality, not by a long shot. But I am advocating that those of us who do profess the name of Christ should live that way consistently and openly. Equally importantly, we should recognize that others want to live their lives in their own way, consistently and openly, and everyone is entitled to that choice.

    Thanks to all who have continued to respond.

  12. William Bishop’s avatar

    It IS a christian country. But most people check their religion at the door, it is, and should be to everyone a personal thing.

    By all means pray at your meals, I have many friends, and even the occasional vendor that prays before a lunch or dinner. No one really pays attention, and obviously they are suffering no ill effects….so my question is why don’t you just do your meal prayer and find out?

    It’s not that we see your stance as christian american, it’s more that in my case I don’t understand your dilemna. It’s much more accepted to pray over your meal, than to do much of anything else. So do it.

    That said, my rant mainly focuses on perception. In that christians suffer an unusual dichotomy, at the same time that they suffer from some sense of persectution(that doesn’t even exist), they have an almost obnoxious sense of entitlement–some feeling that everyone should be considerate of their desires(even if it’s to put a 100 foot cross on the lawn of city hall), no matter what.

    That’s my gripe with it. People can believe in unicorns all they want, but their rights and entitlements end where my rights begin…which they never seem to figure out. It’s a nation of separation from church and state. It’s that way because church and state combined is a dangerous thing, and as we’ve seen from our peculiar slant on religion(young earth creationists) it’s taking our education and science with it back into the dark ages.

  13. IC’s avatar

    Can we please get back to technology? :)
    The fact that this has transgressed into a religious debate only goes to prove Eric and Williams point, that Religion detracts from the issues at hand.

  14. William Bishop’s avatar

    It’s scott’s blog, which contains personal, and technological sections.

    Personally, I like that there’s a blend of things, makes it much more interesting. Scott and I only differ on this one thing, and it’s such a small thing….but I read his blog religiously. The personal touch he puts in his site, makes it distinctive.

    Maybe this is an area that doesn’t have to be all work?

  15. Eric’s avatar

    Scott,

    I picked up on that because it’s interesting that Christians are the overwhelming majority in this country, yet feel persecuted when folks who are in minority religions don’t want Christianity shoved down our throats.

    Jews have been persecuted throughout history by everyone, including Christians, yet the Jews in this country don’t feel the same level of persecution that many Christians seem to feel.

    I’ve spoken with a lot of my Christian friends, and none of them have a problem with our town using tax funds for a Christmas celebration, tree, etc…. All of my non-Christian friends feel it’s a misuse of tax funds.

    One of my sales reps is a “true believer” – he believes the earth is 6,000 years old and that Jonah really was swallowed up by a fish.

    I just can’t square that with Government…

  16. David Lee’s avatar

    I really hope this does not offend anyone, but it very well may. Some things have to be believed before they can be seen.

    1 Corinthians 2:13-14
    This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

  17. jeff lowe’s avatar

    Good post brother Lowe!
    We are here to be walking revelations of a living Savior. We are the only Jesus people may see, but the Spirit is more than willing to lead us into divine opportunties to win souls!

  18. mark reiber’s avatar

    i am a pastor and was reading about the term [nailing your colours to your mast ] and found your weblog and what you had to say was right on the money read this from barclay comentaryHilaire Belloc, one of the most famous of English Roman Catholics. After the interview Nichols wrote: “I was sorry for Mr. Belloc because I felt that he had nailed at least some of his colours to the wrong mast; but I was still sorrier for myself and for my own generation, because I knew that we had no colours of any kind to nail to any mast—

  19. Steve Chambers’s avatar

    Just found this via @vTrooper / John Blessing < has to be a believe with a name like that, right? :-)

    I’m an athiest and wouldn’t have an issue with someone speaking to an invisible fairy before eating, though I might check what they were drinking afterwards ;-)

    Only kidding – each to their own, it makes life all the more interesting, and who knows, Pascal might have been right to have his wager…. ;-)

    Cheers
    Steve

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