Consider the Interests of Others
In part one of this series, I discussed 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15. In this second and final part of the series, I’ll be discussing a couple other passages, the first one being Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing in rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Rivalry is an unhealthy relationship to have with anyone, including our co-workers; it is not healthy to make useless competitions with each other. When management is more concerned about getting their next promotion, it doesn’t suit the needs of the branch/department/organisation very well. Your subordinates will also lose respect for you and end up resenting you. It’s one thing to healthfully compete with someone, but it’s something entirely different to create a hostile work environment out of rivalry.
For example, in the Army I would work out with one or several of my buddies to maintain physical fitness for an upcoming PT test and we would healthfully compete to see who could do more push-ups and sit-ups before muscle failure, just for the fun of it. This healthy competition enabled us to push ourselves harder than we would have if we were just working out alone, thus making us better prepared for the upcoming PT test. However, if we were to just compete to prove who’s better or stronger with our over abundant testosterone levels just to satisfy our asinine masculine egos, that in turn would have created a hostile spirit in the work environment. This creates conceit, which this passage also says to avoid. Instead of being conceited in yourself, you have to humble yourself before others, which is to consider their well-being as more important than your own. That does not mean to neglect your own well-being for another’s well-being. St. Paul says to not only look out for your own interests—meaning: still consider your interests, because they’re important too, but consider also the interests of others even more than your own. Sacrifice your desires for other peoples’ needs, but don’t sacrifice your needs for other peoples’ desires.
By humbling yourself, you can look out for other peoples’ interests instead of solely your own, and the way you can do this is exactly what I discussed in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 in the prior blog entry. Be considerate with your co-workers’ growth in the company and do what’s necessary to help them develop professionally by enhancing their skills and talents or training them with new skills. This is just basic human resources 101.
Dealing with Nuisances
Sometimes when we spend a copious amount of time with our colleagues, they start to become a nuisance—we grow tired of their presence and become easily irritated. This is an attitude problem. Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” And in verse 32, Paul says in stark contrast to this to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” When co-workers become a nuisance, it is only because we have a bitter attitude towards them. Instead of speaking ill of them, we ought to be kind and tenderhearted, and forgiving. How do we do this? St. James writes, “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” (James 1:19-20). As an introvert, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about a lot of people is that they love to talk, and people who talk far too much often have very little to say. I used to have major anger problems when I was a kid, but after my conversion I completely changed. Instead of yelling whatever comes to mind when I’m extremely angry, I just don’t say anything because I don’t want to say anything I know I’ll regret.
Of course, this isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. James continues in verse 21, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” One of the biggest changes the Holy Spirit made in my life (indeed, my entire personality) when I was converted was that He made me meek. Before my conversion, I was rude and abrasive. After my conversion, however, He totally changed me into the gentle soul I am today. The Holy Spirit is more than capable of changing our attitudes. As Christians, God’s Word has already been implanted into our hearts. We just need to refrain ourselves from stifling the Holy Spirit to work in us to rid us of our “filthiness and rampant wickedness.”
Living the Christian Lifestyle
At this point in the series, I believe the following point needs to be made: living like Christ is not a comfortable lifestyle. The amount of lukewarm Christians today is increasing—Christians who cherry pick the Bible. The Bible is not a bag of Trail Mix; you don’t get to pick out the parts you like and leave out the rest. St. Augustine once said, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” Lukewarm Christians do this because they want to live a comfortable lifestyle while claiming to follow Christ. Newsflash: it is impossible to live a comfortable lifestyle while following Christ. Sure, God blesses His children immensely, but troubles and persecution are still inevitable, which He has told us (see John 16:33 and 2 Timothy 3:12).
We don’t want to put ourselves at risk for the sake of Christ, which is absurd considering the fact that He died for us. In the Old Testament, God was the true and only King of Israel, but then the Israelites rejected God as their King and instead wanted a human king so they could manipulate the king to do what they wanted (which is exactly what we do with our presidents and court judges today, which is the only reason why gay “marriage” has been legalised); and therefore habitually falling into the sins of the other nations they desired to be like on the political spectrum, for the other nations also had human kings (see 1 Samuel 8). (However, while Israel had human kings, God still remained the true King of Israel.) In the same way today, we reject God’s Word as the Word and instead create our own word just to follow and believe what we wish rather than doing what God calls us to acknowledge and therefore put into practise. In summary: the Israelites rejected God as their King and demanded their own king in order to follow the ways of the other nations, and today we reject God’s Word and demand and create our own word in order to follow the ways of the world.
Forgiving Your Co-Workers
Why did I digress about the Christian lifestyle? Because we need to stop expecting it to be a comfortable lifestyle when that is a false impression of Christianity, especially with the next point about forgiving others, even our co-workers. As C.S. Lewis said, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” Christianity is not about living the happiest, most comfortable and prosperous lifestyle; it is about the redemption from sins through our Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledging the reality of our natural wickedness, and it includes obedience to our Lord not that it adds to our salvation, but rather for the benefit of our neighbour, which includes forgiveness.
Jesus said, “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). As manager, if someone disrespects or disobeys you, rebuke him or her, no matter how many times they sin against you (and this definitely applies to all other areas of life). To rebuke someone is to reprove their trespasses, which is to gently correct their action. (If it’s something severe, however, such as illegal activity, then deal with it accordingly in a serious and assertive manner.) After this is done, you must forgive him or her, especially if they apologise. When they come back with an apology, no matter how many times this happens, we are obligated to forgive them; forgiveness is not a consideration based on contingencies. Even if they don’t apologise it is still required of us to forgive them, otherwise you’ll just end up living your life in the futility of grudges. After all, we are to forgive our trespassers as God forgives our trespasses (Matthew 6:12).
First Peter 3:8-9 says, “Now finally, all of you should be likeminded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.” Once again, there are several principles listed here as well, which I will briefly expound on. It first says to be sympathetic and to love believers. Remember, however, we shouldn’t love believers alone, but also our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Anybody who is not Christian is an enemy of God (James 4:4). All Christians were also enemies of God once (Romans 5:10). So, anyone who is not Christian is God’s enemy, and therefore our enemies. However, God loves His enemies, and we know this because He does not desire the wicked to perish but for them to turn from their wicked ways and live in Him (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). So He commands us to love our enemies so they may turn from their wicked ways and come to know Him.
When someone does wrong against you, be sympathetic. Who knows what could’ve caused them to act the way they did? Perhaps it was stress or any number of things, so it’s important to show them sympathy and understanding because we have no idea what’s going on in their life. Remember also that they’re sinners, even Christians, so people are bound to act sinfully towards one another. This just makes forgiveness all the more necessary. After all, we’re no different, and I’m sure we’ve all been in a similar situation before—snapping under stress. However, if they’re just someone who’s difficult to deal with at work and is one of those conceited or rude people by nature (aka, a “bad apple”), then they either need to be reformed (with brotherly love) or terminated. It’s good to try and reform their behaviour first, especially if they’re a vital asset to the company, but if they refuse to change their detrimental attitude or actions, then it’s likely best to terminate them because studies show that bad apples in a group of people decrease performance from 30-40% (Sutton, 2011). If termination is the end result, then forgiveness must follow. Vengeance, or payback, is unwise and unloving, and that’s not how we are to respond to such events as Christians, but on the contrary blessing them, and as a result we will be blessed in return for God’s joy because God calls us to do this. But we don’t do it for rewards; we do it because God has called us to do it. Again, if termination is absolutely necessary, then do so. (One of the principles of managing is “don’t be afraid to say no.”) To bless people, just show them sympathy, love, compassion, and humbleness, as Peter says.
Doing everything I’ve discussed eliminates a hostile work environment and creates room for a positive work environment. By your actions alone, the people you work with can witness the compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, acceptance, and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we act on the things discussed, we forget the workplace is tough because we stop focusing on our own problems and begin focusing on how we can help others. Acting in Christlike ways is against the flesh, but His Spirit enables us to practise His ways so that way we can control our hearts. Lastly, we must be thankful to God who enables us to do all this because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sutton, R. (2011, October 24). How A Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203499704576622550325233260