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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Forgiving Thoughts

Originally posted July 19, 2009
My last entry dwelled upon the following chain: Thoughts --> Words --> Actions --> Habits --> Character. Specifically, I discussed the people we choose to follow.

I’m pretty transparent I suppose. Anyone who knows me is has heard more than few rants of judgment about those I have worked for. Since this blog partially serves as personal therapy for me, that’s OK...I won’t apologize. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from everyone I’ve followed - some great, some good, some bad, and some very bad. But as I age and continue to pore over the experiences I’ve had, I’m struck by this one notion: Everyone I’ve followed is human and is prone to the same emotions, feelings, influences, and temptations as I. I’ve judged some of them harshly for their failures, especially when I felt I paid a price as a result of their decisions.

In my career, I’ve personally witnessed behaviors which decorum prevents me from enumerating in a public forum such as this. Let’s just say this: People are fully capable of doing things to other people that you simply cannot fathom. Larger companies try their best to put controls in place to protect the investors from renegade managers and executives. Smaller companies are often more prone to the whims of the “entrepreneur”, as he is often not accountable to anyone but himself. In the end, it’s up to each of us to decide what we’re going to do with our power, influence, and resources we’ve been entrusted with. It’s called stewardship. As I’ve already asserted, our character is a reflection of those actions and choices.

Now the hard part: How do we react and behave when we’re on the wrong side of a person’s bad choices? When we’re the victim of a person with weak character traits, how do we respond? How we respond and behave now reflects our own character, doesn’t it? Ouch. This one cuts deep into the red meat.

Are our thoughts, after the fact, those of finding forgiveness or of vengeance? Do we wish them well or do we pray for God’s wrath? Be honest.

I’ve fantasized often about personally witnessing the destruction of some of those who have done me wrong. I’ve dreamt about it in my sleep, fantasized about it while driving, losing track of time while 30 miles passed by unnoticed. I’ve had dinner and cocktails with fellow sufferers where we have cackled in delight at the prospect of the fate that must surely be awaiting the “evil SOB”. Surely their actions will catch-up to them? Surely they’ll be found out? It feels so good to dwell on vengeance.

But vengeance isn’t mine. If I’m honest, my own actions and decisions are not pure. As I confessed in a previous entry, motives for my decisions have not always been pure but are more often then not, self-serving.

I also previously posed questions we should ask about those we follow, including the following during an interview: “Is the conversation all about what you can do for them or are they interested in you as a team member as well? Do they even see you?”

Let me turn this one around - When we deal with others, do we consider our own leadership responsibility in the relationship? We are quick to judge those appointed over us, but what about our behavior with those we deal with every day, whether they are “in our charge” or not?

As a sales person, I rely upon many people to deliver the goods and services I’m selling. If I’m not careful, it can be very easy to be laser-focused on the sale and commission check and deal with these people harshly. Some deals take years to develop and close. If everyone on the team doesn’t perform well, it can cost me and my family our livelihood! I’m not getting a steady paycheck, regardless of how my company and I perform. As we say in the craft, “You eat what you kill”. If either I or the support team miss the mark, the vast majority of my income goes over.

But is the commercial pursuit the most important factor in my work day? If someone screws-up, that deal may indeed die, or at least follow-on business could be jeopardized. But if I blow-up and treat that person harshly, what’s the cost then? Possibly the relationship, my reputation, and depending on the other party involved, possibly much more. Unfortunately, I’m often the first person to expect those I’ve mistreated to forgive me for my slip-up, even while I continue to hold grudges toward those who have done me wrong. Scripture deals with this issue, and our behavior must change:

Ephesians 4:31-32
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Proverbs 19:11
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
James 1:19-20
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

We have been given grace freely, despite our continued rebellion against God and our obsession with ourselves. What will it take for us to offer grace to those we encounter, regardless of the personal cost to us? The forgiveness is the hardest part, which means it’s the part most worth doing.

Blessings to you my friends.

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