The Call to Love at Work - Jasmine Bellamy

In addition to being named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 most influential black women in sports, Jasmine Bellamy is an influential figure in bringing the practice of love to transform workplace culture from the inside out. She's the Vice President of Merchandising, Planning and Allocation at Reebok. She also is the founder of Love 101 Ministries, which is dedicated to the theology and practice of love. And she is the creator and co-facilitator of Courageous Conversations, a platform that engages issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and inspires transformation in community. Jasmine earned a BS in marketing and management from Syracuse University, a Master's of Business Administration from Fordham University and a Master's of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary, where she is pursuing a doctorate in global leadership, focusing on the redemptive imagination of the marketplace. She's here today to talk to us about living out the call to love in secular workplaces.

Scripture References

  • 1 Matthew 22:36-40
  • 1 John 4:8
  • John 14-17
  • Matthew 25:14-30
  • Romans 14:15

Additional Resources

Love 101 Ministries:

Reebok’s Jasmine Bellamy Is Dedicated to Leading the Tough Conversations:

Jasmine Bellamy’s LinkedIn profile:

Love 101 Ministries on Facebook:

Love 101 Ministries on YouTube:

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Transcript - The Call to Love at Work - Jasmine Bellamy

Leah Archibald: In addition to being named one of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 most influential black women in sports, Jasmine Bellamy is an influential figure in bringing the practice of love to transform workplace culture from the inside out. She's the Vice President of Merchandising, Planning and Allocation at Reebok. She also is the founder of Love 101 Ministries, which is dedicated to the theology and practice of love. And she is the creator and co-facilitator of Courageous Conversations, a platform that engages issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and inspires transformation in community. Jasmine earned a BS in marketing and management from Syracuse University, a Master's of Business Administration from Fordham University and a Master's of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary, where she is pursuing a doctorate in global leadership, focusing on the redemptive imagination of the marketplace. She's here today to talk to us about living out the call to love in secular workplaces. Jasmine Bellamy, welcome to the Making It Work podcast.

Jasmine Bellamy: Thank you so much for having me here. I'm already worked up just listening to that introduction.

LA: So you have a long list of credentials and these credentials could go in a bunch of different ways. You could talk about leadership, you could talk about innovation, you can talk about power, but you're talking to us today about love. Why is this a central message around which you wanna build your work?

JB: Yeah I love that question. I would say that it was the work that I my soul had to have, and I didn't realize how it would actually transform my life and become the foundation of everything in my life. And so to your point of I could move in a lot of different directions, but I really still feel like I'm really moving in one direction because I'm moving in my context in love, and that allows me to move in theological spaces. It allows me to move in ministry spaces. It allows me to move in corporate spaces. So I think that's kind of how I got here, if that makes sense.

LA: Let's talk a little bit about the transition from the religious spaces that you're in and the secular workplaces. And I'm gonna ask you Jasmine, and then Mark, I want you to weigh in 'cause you've had a career trajectory moving from one to the other. But Jasmine, on your website, you quote St. Theresa of Lisieux saying, 'my vocation is love.' I'm wondering how and when you got the sense of taking love from this ministerial space, like quoting the saint here to a secular workplace environment.

JB: Yeah. Such a great question. I just remember when I first encountered that quote that I knew it was who I was. And so I just latched onto it from there. I was going through my own transitions personally, and understanding that there was love in a way that I had yet to understand. And so I started to cultivate my own love practice. And as I did that, I started to get all of these different signs that yes, this is... You've been so dedicated to this. You've grown. Your life is transforming, but this is just not about your life. This is about transforming every context you're in. And so I started to realize that it wasn't just work for me the individual to do, but it was also the work that communities could do, families could do, corporations could do. And so as I was invited which, is we... That's a whole nother deep discussion, but invited to lead change management at Reebok to be become an anti-racist organization, I knew that was deeply spiritual work.

And so when I started to create this framework, it was all rooted in love. And the interesting thing is, I remember there was a moment, and I'd be interested, Mark, to hear what you think about this, but there was a moment when I remember saying, I don't know how to say this other than in a language that is of spirit. And I felt like in the confession of that, then it was no longer a problem. So I've been able to really, I call myself multilingual in a sense, and so I'm able to translate in a way that is still very pure to what the call is, but doing so in a way that it can be heard in the context.

LA: Mark, what are you thinking when you hear that? Is that similar to your experiences being a translator? [laughter]

Mark Roberts: Right. Well, Jasmine, what you just said is really helpful, and I think important. That you're not gonna talk quite the same way in a boardroom as when you're preaching a sermon. Either side it would be odd if you... And so you've obviously learned to communicate in effectively in different ways. But I've just gotta say, I find it very encouraging and moving that a person of your stature in the business world is really willing to take seriously the call of God to love, to love God and to love ourselves, and to love our neighbors. And as you say, even our enemies. And I just... 'Cause you know this, you don't hear that very much these days in a business context, in political context, in our broader culture. And so first of off, I'm just really grateful for what you're saying, but also as I was kinda doing my homework on you, I came across a statement that from your website when you're talking about love and you say, you know, we're not talking about warm and fuzzy emotions, but a powerful posture for living, which I just found very compelling. Can you say a little more about that?

JB: Yeah. I think... Well, let me say this, I understand that love moves in a lot of different contexts. There's the cultural understanding of love. There's the familial setting of love. There's the romantic setting of love. And I understand that in all of those things that we think are love, aren't love. So I have to say that piece first because part of the work of Love 101 Ministries is really helping us to unlearn and potentially relearn what love actually is. There's one of my favorite quotes talks about the fact that it's... That there's, there's this, there's a neurosis that is often involved in the things that we think are love that actually aren't.

So part of Love 101 is kinda reframing what love looks like, what healthy love looks like, and then gives us an invitation to put it into practice in our lives. So I would say that what started to happen for me is as I practiced love individually, that automatically meant that I was transforming as a leader. That how I showed up to my team was going to be different because I was practicing love as I led them. But I believe this posture of love is the most durable power. And so because it is the most durable power, and if we think about perfect love, casting out all fear, that creates a different posture of movement through any space. I'm actually, you could maybe say emboldened as I come to work, because I know, not only that I am loved, but that I'm deeply loved that there's a calling on my life. And with that comes responsibility. So I think that's part of that posture. But it's really taking the call to love, the invitation to love really seriously that it's not just some sentimental emotion. That it literally is a force.

And particularly when you think about the workplace, fear is really at the root of what capitalism in the marketplace has been rooted from. And so that's part of where I am now at this venture of, well what happens or what's possible if we actually root out fear and we actually replace it with love? What could love do in that context?

MR: Man, that's so great. Say I got a story for you. This will just like illustrate what you're saying. So this morning I'm reading through your stuff and I'm really engaging and thinking about it. Then there's a little time before our interview. And so I checked my email and I get an email from a colleague that really didn't make me happy. [laughter], and I was angry. And so I had to kind of unpack that, but I've just read your stuff, [laughter] So I'm thinking, okay, how if I approach this in a posture of love, how would I respond? And I found that very encouraging. I found it very challenging. At first I didn't really want to, but I thought, you know, this is right. I actually sort of felt like God gave this to me.

Like, this is... I'm gonna now experiment with Jasmine's stuff. And so I wrote what I think was a loving response, and then I got a great response from my colleague. And I just was so struck by that. So thank you. But an example of how, what you're talking about it is a powerful posture and it is a challenging thing, but it isn't just being nice, right? It's not just smiling and being sweet. It's a deeper sort of thing. And especially, I mean, one of the things that's so striking about what you've done and are doing is connecting the conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion to love, can you say more about that? Because I find that just really fascinating and important.

JB: Yeah. But I don't wanna go past your story. Because that's really important. I say all the time, this is the hardest work I've ever done in my life. The hardest work I've ever done. And it goes through every aspect of my life. And to your point, let me just say this first before I answer that question.

What I realized is so complex about this work of love, it's interdependent. And so it's not just me, it's me and the other. And also it's God in the middle of all of that. And so that is what you did, is that pause, that pause to identify that you may be responding out of your ego and your frustration and all those things, but also knowing that that is not the most loving response. And so that we can have those human moments. And then also think about what would love do in that situation and actually be love in that situation. And so that is the work. And it never stops. It is always ongoing. There is no destination. To me. It is very much a sanctification process that the more we practice it, the more we become it. But to kind of answer your question with, in my head, I'm like, what was the actual question? Because I had the response. [laughter]

MR: Well, no, I appreciate, thank you for that response. And you actually described me and my process so accurately, and I'm thinking to myself, okay, I'm gonna have to like read you more often in the morning. [laughter]

JB: That's a good thing. That's a good thing.

MR: It's a good thing.

JB: You asked about the DEI piece. So I will first start by saying, what I've learned in this journey is that what the invitation is, I see it's more of intercultural formation. It is the spirit at work in us forming us into this interdependence, this diversity that is God's plan. So it's how we are being formed to do that from our individual selfish selves into how we become the body together. And with that comes, what does it look like for me to see you as an image bearer? Because if I don't see you as an image bearer, the way I treat you, the way I respond to you is likely not going to be loving.

And so for me and this is really what Courageous Conversations was really all about, it was about being able to create a space so that we could actually understand each other, that we could move beyond our, all of the biases that are in us, all of the stereotypes of how we see and group people, but creates proximity. So that in that proximity, we can actually meet the human that is the image bearer on the other side, and then we can grow because of it. And so, to me it's not the... Just the “Harvard Business Review diverse teams are better and outperform homogeneous…” It’s beyond that, it is the function of being more human, and if we actually will take the... Or receive or accept the invitation to be more human, it will transform how we are moving in any space, regardless of how similar or different that we might be. And so for me, that's how I approach any of it, it is a human project.

So I don't really even get wrapped into the DEI piece of it in theory, because if I really focus on... There is an image bearer across the table from me, and if we are both bearers of the image of God, what does it look like to be the body of Christ together? And so that is kind of my baseline of what... And that's how I can really navigate and handle any situation because I am coming from that baseline.

LA: Now, you are using some biblical language here, your “image bearer”, which is a specific idea from the Bible, I would love... First, I wanna ask you, you know, where, what scriptures inform your understanding of the person across the table, you can go into a little scripture study with us if you want to. But then how do you talk about that in a secular context? How do you translate that to the secular workplace?

JB: Yeah, I love that question and so I wanna put a couple of things in conversation with each other, one, I am... This is not a proof texting type of situation right? I am looking at the themes across scripture, but if there were a couple of things that are pillars, and that I put in conversation with each other, I would, and particularly the workplace piece of it, one is the call to love in general, right, to love God, love self, love others, that's the first piece. Then I would add in perfect love, casting out all fear. Then I would also put into the pot there, Jesus's farewell discourses in John, right? You put all of that together, and then you really understand this very solid in my assessment, you can't walk away and turn your head that the call of God is to love. And particularly what I love about that is that in the farewell discourses, it is made really clear that we actually experience God on earth now in loving each other. That is a serious call that I think we under-value in the church, to be really honest. And so if I start with that, that creates a really solid foundation of how I move in love in the context. But then I would add two other pieces into the conversation regarding the marketplace in particular. My pastor always taught about Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents and I remember... When I talk about something ingrained in me, my pastor was a former banker, so he had a corporate background like I do.

So it just resonated with me always, but it was until seminary where it hit me one day, that God is the decider of who had 1, had 5, and had 10 talents, that we do not get to choose that. And if we understand also what is at work in that parable, it is the one who feared, who didn't grow. The one who feared, the one who had this horrible task master view that didn't grow. I would add into that, which was a major scripture that convicted me in Romans 14:15, this idea that the one who is stronger, if they caused the weaker one distress, then they are not acting in love, that put me in my place so quick, right?

Because I could... I mean, I come from a particular privilege. I have two Master's degrees, I’ve got 30 years in corporate experience, I am on a senior leadership team for major global organization. But if I cause somebody that might have one talent, that God ordained that they have one talent, if I cause them distress, I’m not acting in Love? That was... That taught me so much accountability, and it really, really challenged me to understand the practice of restraint. So all of that put together, I would say, are the scriptures really that inform how I bring love into the workplace, and so... I mean what that looks like practically, in Courageous Conversations, for example, the purpose is really built on this idea of understanding and acceptance. If we can facilitate, understanding, and acceptance, all the things that we think divide us will fall away.

And that was what I endeavored to do in Courageous Conversations. And so, this work of change management to walk our organization to be anti-racist, there's four pillars. There's one that we are a community, that we see ourselves as this interdependent being together. Two, that we have a commitment to that community, that we're gonna also commit to change, and we're gonna do that through conversation.

And I had to sit in it and say, what are we actually trying to do here? And those four pillars really summed it up really well. And from that, that's where Courageous Conversation really, kind of started as a springboard and we originally had them as conversations that would go alongside DEI training so that you didn't just go off in a corner by yourself and get an intellectual experience, but that you could come back into the community and hear some new things together, respond to some things together.

Again, another piece that I learned from Fuller is the power of narrative as a transformational force. And so that's really what it was, it was people sharing their stories, it started out virtually jumping on camera, telling their stories, people on one side weeping, the people receiving, and putting hearts all in the Teams chat because they loved what people said, and as our hearts were touched by each other, we all started to change and so I tell people all the time, I didn't change people, but I was willing to be a vessel. And in that vessel, the spirit went to work and changed the hearts of people.

And then it changed the heart of our organization, it changed the very spirit, this very soul of our organization. And because I am a senior leader, I get to hold us accountable and I get to challenge us when we're not showing up like that in a boardroom, or when I see fear being pushed down, I can say things like, well, you know, fear is the antithesis of what we're trying to do here. We're trying to unleash the potential of every human here, to unleash the potential of our brand. And fear is like kryptonite to that, so how are we actually creating fear by the way we are talking to our teams? So it's been really beautiful because it's been this bottoms up conversation, but also holding the leadership from a tops down perspective really accountable as well.

LA: Now I hear a lot of words that I could use in a business context, that aren't necessarily love 'cause even though I, I'll put hearts in the teams chat, I might not say to my boss or my underling, oh, I love you so much, but I can use words like community and teamwork and mutual accountability and trust and I can use fear as an opposite to that, so there are a lot of, different translations of the love concept that apply really well to the business context.

JB: Yeah, I'll add two pieces to that. One, someone told me once that they didn't use the word love, even in their ministry context, they used the word value. So that's another word that I think is very translatable, in the corporate context, but what I've also done is I've created a framework, 'cause if I'm speaking to Org culture leaders and HR leaders, and they're like fascinated by this idea of the call to love or making love work in the culture, they're like, help me understand what that means, and so I use this simple framework using the letters of the, in the word love, and I start with the L. Listening and listening deeply in particular, right, is the first way that we can start to practice love at work. I also love using the idea of Look again, which is the etymology of respect, so that it's not just the first thing that we thought we saw, but if we looked again how could we see more clearly that allows us to kind of wipe the lens and get past our biases.

The O is Open, can we be open to the fact that we don't have to drive to a particular outcome, but we can be open to see what arises in any context, whatever the scenario might be, as opposed to, always being the type A's to make something happen could we actually be open to what might arise, open to difference, to how somebody's difference might actually transform us and help us. I look at the Open very much, through a contextual theology kind of lens, this idea that when we allow many voices into the table, that we all get a broader view of God because of that, so that's where the O is for me. The V is Value, the V is Vulnerable, can I be vulnerable to allow someone to change me?

LA: Which is hard in a workplace.

JB: It is, but if we really are focused on growing, and I think about it with my team all the time, I'm clear what my strengths are I'm clear what their strengths are, and so I'm often vulnerable allowing them to deal with the details that I don't have the human capacity for so can we be vulnerable? And the E is very much about emotional intelligence and expansiveness and what does that all look like? And using those, that framework has helped people go, "Oh, okay, I get it a little bit more now." And so that's... I thought I'd throw that in there for good measure.

MR: So one of the things that you've certainly referred to Jasmine, and is that you're not just calling us to act in love out of... And that's the thing, you're really calling us to a deeper understanding of who we are, and who we are as loved people and as I was reading some of your stuff you quoted a verse from Genesis 16, it's the story of Hagar who is really being mistreated. And then she... God intervenes and she says, if she basically is God... Gives God a name, says, "You're the God who sees me." And that was very striking to me when you were talking about it. Can you talk a little more about how just the God who sees us helps us to discover that we are loved and be people who love?

JB: Yeah, thank you for asking that question. The beauty of that Hagar story for me is you're actually teasing out another piece of me. I talk about often the fact that I come to this work with a very specific context, and part of that context is as an African American woman. And so Hagar in the Womanist tradition has... That's what Delores Williams book Sisters in the Wilderness is really built on. And I've often used the story of Hagar. I also describe myself as a contemplative preacher, I've also delivered one of my favorite sermons on different women throughout scripture that really represent what it is to be the oppressed by the oppressed. And so Hagar to me is very much a symbol of that. And what I love... I remember the first time I heard that she named, this woman pushed at the edges named God.

I mean that is mind-blowing, but not only just named God but named God's character as the one who sees us. There's just something so powerful in that, and that when we look at that particularly in the work context, are we seeing people? And if I'm really honest, in the busyness of our lives, do we even see ourselves? And this work of love is very much based in, can I see who God is shaping me to become? What does this intimacy between me and God look like? And if I can stay connected to that, how does that help me see out what I'm put here to do? And I think that to me has been, that so I would say that I have a very clear womanist view, or a womanist ethic of love that comes from looking at all of this from the margins and it's how do we bring the margins to the center? And that is definitely the... I would say the underlying, view that I specifically bring to the table because of my context.

MR: Oh, it's so great. Yeah, I didn't realize I was gonna get as much, but I'm glad I asked that question because that's powerful and in many ways you might relate more closely to Hagar than I would in terms of life experience so you can... So as you unpack things, it's certainly relevant to you and others who've shared your life experience, but then that's where people like me learn.

JB: Yeah, yeah and that to me again, is the beauty of contextual theology, we all get a more fuller view of the character of God by hearing, how we see God and how we experience. Like what our spirituality is, what our lived experiences with God, we get to learn more together and that's the beauty of it for me.

LA: It seems especially pertinent at work because we pour so many hours of our day into work, and work is so much effort. Work is a word that is synonymous with effort so if over the course of my workday, I may be writing 15 emails and creating five webpages, I'm doing a lot of stuff, and most of it goes unnoticed. So much so that when someone shoots me a quick email and says, "I really liked this webpage that you put together." It feels like such a, "Oh," the clouds parted and a spotlight shown on me just that anybody would see the work that I've done and it seems like such an easy thing, it seems like such an easy small thing, but it takes an extra step for us to do in our day-to-day lives. Such that they're often like corporate systems to do it. I'll give you an example. I worked at a large corporation where they had this whole points management system where you would send your friends... Send your workmates, kudos, thank you for helping with this, and you would give them points and then they could redeem their points for a whole catalog of stuff, I don't know, grill tools, whatever, shoe, whatever, there's a whole catalog of stuff they could redeem their points for.

And you got 2000 points to give away and blah, blah, blah and the HR person kept having to remind everybody to do it, like every month they're like, your points are gonna expire, give away your points, don't forget to, you know, people. And like, even, and even when they did that, and all of a sudden everyone would be like, points, points, points, points, points, it still felt good, it still, even though it was this whole contrived system that the corporation was spending some money on to outsource their positive feedback, it still felt good when someone sent me a high five and 10 more points to my scooter, which just says to me that this is, noticing someone, love is so powerful and so underutilized.

JB: Yeah, yeah can I just also add to that, that practicing love in the workplace fortifies us to go through some really hard things together. I always wanna remind people that again, I'm not talking about some touchy feely emotional thing, I've had practicing love in the workplace for me was practiced when I was laying people off, when I've had to have difficult conversations on a performance review or even most recently for me, when someone was resigning, they actually said to me like, you have no idea, you've given me so much confidence in myself, confidence that I've never had before, but because I have confidence, I can now go try something new and I was afraid to before. So that... But to your point, it goes back to seeing people.

MR: That's great.

LA: I love that, I think that's a beautiful place to wrap up our conversation. Jasmine, can you tell us if people wanna find out more about Love 101, how can they find and access your resources?

JB: Yeah, you were kind enough to mention, the website, People also follow me on LinkedIn to see how this is playing out, at work. So Jasmine Bellamy, at LinkedIn for sure, and also we do have, the Call to Love experience, which happens live, monthly. I kind of... I consider myself a joyful disruptor, so I'm kind of joyfully disrupting the weekly Bible study, in a different form, using some spiritual practices. So those are live, in Facebook, on the second Thursday of every month at 4:00 PM PT or you can catch the recordings, on Facebook at Love 101 Ministries or on YouTube.

LA: I love it. Mark, any last ideas you wanna add from your experience?

MR: So my closing, I mean, I find Jasmine, your stuff is very right on and very encouraging and as I mentioned, even personally challenging to me. So thank you. I think it's just a great thing that God has placed you in the world where you are placed, because a lot of the leaders in faith work who who've done wonderful things are like, they own their own business. And there's a part of somebody who would say, yeah, you can love people in your own business, but it ain't gonna work in a corporation. Well, you are in a global, large corporation and are doing this stuff and I think that suggests to many of us, Hey, there's more potential here than maybe I thought, there's more possibilities. So, I just want to thank you.

JB: Thank you.

MR: For, you know, I mean, and I'm sure you could give all of your life to your day job, if you will but I wanna thank you for the things you're doing to help inspire and encourage others of us, because I think it really... Whether you work in... I work in a religious organization, but the encouragement to love, the reminder that it's not easy that it's about dealing with our own stuff and that ultimately it's how we choose to practice, how we choose to live in service to others. I just think it's really great. So thank you for this podcast, but also just for the larger work you're doing.

JB: Thank you thank you. I honestly would just wanna add to that, saying that I really hope we won't leave our faith at the door when we walk in the workplace.

MR: Amen.

LA: Amen.

JB: That we will be with Christ at work.

LA: Amen, Amen to that. Jasmine Bellamy, thank you so much for joining us on the Making It Work podcast today.

JB: Thank you.

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