Driving in to work this morning, I heard the song, “I Refuse” by Josh Wilson come on and thought it was the perfect answer to NACSW’s question: “How does your faith interact with your social work?” Here’s the video:
These powerful lyrics always seem to be the perfect reminder for me regarding why I went into this field in the first place. The Persian poet, Rumi, perfectly describes this calling in his famous quote: “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” This desire to engage in the particular work I do, to serve and advocate for others, has been so strong for me that I truly find it to be more sustaining than draining. Being in that “sweet spot” that Max Lucado talks about in Cure for the Common Life is precisely where I’ve found myself by allowing my faith to be a guiding light in learning what I was designed to do.
However, I’ve also found that faith has a whole other role in my social work practice.
While I’m passionate about following and connecting with what Josh Wilson sings about, I have found over the years that a delicate balance must be maintained between giving every last bit of myself to others, and remembering to practice self-care so that I may have the resources to continue to give.
Recently, I was asked to return to Sandra Lopez, LCSW, ACSW, DCSW’s Professional Self-Care class at the University of Houston to discuss Spirituality and Professional Self-Care. While I typically try to keep the lecture objective and focus on the research around spirituality, religion, and health, I was asked to step outside of my comfort zone and talk about how I integrate spirituality into my practice. The discussion that followed made me realize even more that while my faith interacts with my practice by fueling my drive to passionately do what I love and to be attentive and respectful towards clients’ unique religious/spiritual beliefs, I’ve found that my faith is also what helps me hit the brakes when I take on a little too much.
Depending on the situation and what’s going on in my life or practice, my faith keeps me engaged in a toolbox of spiritual practices which helps to center my focus, keep me grounded, remind me of the “big picture,” and offer the permission for me to take a deep breath and remember that “He is God and I am not.” Whether I’m meditating, praying, practicing gratitude, reading, painting, or just meeting with a spiritual mentor, it all is tied to my faith and practice and has a huge impact on my personal and professional self-care plan.
However you find that your faith interacts with your practice, I strongly encourage you to take the time (that I know is limited for all of us!) to reflect on its role in your personal and professional life, and to integrate it into your life in the way that was uniquely designed for you!
Holly has her MSW and is a current PhD student at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work and has been a member of NACSW since beginning her MSW program in 2009.