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Integrity in the Marketplace

Jul 21, 2018

PROGRAM W-1737 – Part I

Business schools are hurriedly designing and incorporating courses on ethics. Seminars and management training are focusing on integrity. There seems to be a sudden awareness of our need for integrity in the marketplace.

What has caused this crisis in integrity? I think it’s because we’re reaping what we have sown. Employers who were willing to cut any deal to get the business, now recognize that they have, by example, taught a generation of employees to believe that anything is okay as long as you can get by with it.

Employee theft is a problem of great magnitude, as well as lack of employee loyalty. After all, how can you motivate loyalty when you engage in wholesale job elimination in order to turn a fast dollar in a buy-out deal? Now Corporate America says, “How can we put values and integrity back in our good ‘ole American system?”

It will only happen as individuals put integrity back into their personal lives and make it a high priority. Furthermore, it will only happen when we are motivated from within, not from without. All the training courses in the world cannot instill integrity into a person’s heart. That must come from a belief system which is committed to doing what’s right—regardless of the cost.

If we do what’s right only as a manipulative tool to get where we want to go—only because that’s the “in” thing to do nowadays—we’ll find ourselves waffling all over the place. Doing the right thing takes an internal belief, a commitment, and a standard by which we operate. It takes absolutes. It also takes an internal power which many seem to lack.

If I asked you what was the best book on business principles, customer service skills, how to succeed, how to get along with people, how to handle a difficult boss, and how to deal with decisions of integrity on your job, what book would you recommend? Not too many people would ever think of the Bible as relevant to those issues but let me assure you that is the textbook and the authority which we truly need.

If you don’t have an authority and a standard by which actions and attitudes are judged, you will never have integrity—personal or corporate. Relative truth doesn’t work; it’s another name for compromise. A moving standard that changes based on how you feel versus how I feel, or contingent upon circumstances, is no standard at all.

The Bible is dogmatic. It gives us very strong guidelines in many areas with no room for argument. This causes many people a lot of difficulty because by nature we don’t like to be told where the limits are. However, the interesting thing is that Bible principles work! They work in the marketplace equally as well as anywhere else.

The best customer service philosophy in the world will be based on what we call the “Golden Rule,” which Jesus set forth 2000 years ago: Treat other people the way you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes. When we base our business philosophy upon that principle, we find that we design an absolutely dynamite system and way to deal with people, whether they are customers, employees, or vendors.

God’s principles, when practiced, will benefit anyone—because he’s the Creator. He knows how things should work; he knows how people are motivated; he knows what makes all of us tick; and his principles are based on long-term profit. God doesn’t go for the “instant answers” which most of us look for. Rather, he has marvelous strategic insight and, when he sets forth a principle, it is always to our benefit to follow it. So regardless of whether a person or an organization recognizes God or his principles, when those principles are followed, they bring success.

Proverbs 21:21 tells us that “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

Pursuing righteousness and love—there’s the secret to integrity. Don’t let that word “righteousness” throw you. It doesn’t mean perfection or weirdness. It simply means doing the right thing. If you and I are committed to do the right thing in every situation in our lives, and to act out of love for other people, then we will be people of integrity. That integrity will bring us prosperity and honor.

More importantly, as Christians in the workplace, it will open a door of witness to those around us, which is stronger than any words we can ever say. A life of righteousness and love is a light that cannot be hidden. It is, what I call, a “question-generating” life—one that causes someone along the way to stop you and say, “Hey, what’s different about you?”

I will take three case studies where integrity is at stake and ask you to consider what is the biblical way to deal with them. These are only three of many situations we may face, but hopefully they’ll give us some food for thought as to how we can apply biblical principles to our ethical dilemmas.

Case #1

Your departmental manager is not liked by any of the employees. She is very unfair, discourteous to everyone and, in addition, doesn’t perform her own duties well at all. Everyone in the department constantly talks about her in derogatory ways. You’ve been a part of that malicious talk at times.

However, you’ve decided that you don’t want to be a part of that character assassination any longer. How will you keep from getting caught up in this office gossip?

First, let me ask a very basic question: Do you think this is a question of ethics and integrity? Is it unethical to gossip about someone, especially if what you’re saying is true—meaning you’re not making it up or enlarging on it? Would this kind of behavior be viewed as a lack of integrity?

Let’s go back to our verse in Proverbs 21:21: “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”  As I said, righteousness is simply doing the right thing.

Here’s another biblical principle to consider: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

I will grant you that in the world’s view, gossip and backbiting would most likely not be considered unethical behavior; however, God’s Word makes it clear that it is. No unwholesome talk out of our mouths—that’s the standard. Only what will build others up and benefit those who listen. This is not a moving standard; it remains steadfast, regardless of the circumstances.

In this case study, we have a difficult manager, one who makes your job difficult, and it’s particularly hard to keep your mouth shut in these situations. But the standard doesn’t change for the difficult manager. No unwholesome talk—that’s it.

Now, if you decide to live by that standard of integrity, how will you handle situations where others are talking about the boss behind her back? Here are some suggestions: Get up and leave if you possibly can. Walk away from the conversation. Do it quietly, trying not to call attention to it. You don’t want to announce, “I’m not going to listen to this kind of gossip; I’m leaving.” That’s not necessary—not a good idea. However, walk away if you can. Someone may notice, but that’s okay.

If walking away is not an option, try changing the subject. Find another topic and start in, rather assertively, talking about something else which is harmless and not derogatory. That will take some fortitude and “guts” on your part, but you can do it nicely. Remember, it’s okay if someone notices you’re purposely changing the subject. However, do it as gently as you can.

I would also add this: Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t think it’s right to talk behind her back.” There may be occasions when you’ll have to state your objections to the gossip. Again, do it as nicely, gently, and non-judgmentally as you can, but don’t be afraid to stand up for what you think is right.

Integrity can certainly be costly. If we determine to live our lives by Proverbs 21:21—pursuing righteousness and love in all we do—it won’t always be popular. Jesus told us that people like darkness because their deeds are evil. When our integrity turns a light on and exposes dark areas, we may not be appreciated for it. We must be prepared to pay the price, but we shouldn’t purposely expose someone or make an example out of them.

I hope you’ll take some time to consider the biblical imperative for a life of integrity, asking God to show you any areas in your own life where you’ve let down the bars and lowered the standards.

Also, pray that verse in Proverbs 21:21: Lord, help me to pursue righteousness and love in everything I do. Help me to simply do the right thing, no matter what the situation is, no matter how alone I may be, and no matter what it may cost me. Give me your power to make right, ethical choices.

I can only imagine what would happen if every Christian in the marketplace started to pray that way every morning before going to work. I’m certain it would make a difference in our witness for Jesus! We might find ourselves out on a limb occasionally, but if we simply do what is right, we’re never going to be out on that limb by ourselves. Jesus will be with us, and he has promised we will prosper and be honored if we pursue righteousness and love.

I don’t think that necessarily means prosperity by the world’s measure, but prosperity in God’s eyes. A healthy and prosperous soul is far more important than a prosperous lifestyle. Furthermore, the honor may not come immediately, but if God has promised it, it will come. We can trust him.

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How to Thrive from 9 to 5 – Part II

Oct 21, 2017

W-1698 – Part II

These questions all come from my own experience in the business world, and are included in my book, How to Thrive from 9 to 5. There may be other equally important questions, but I believe if you can score well on these ten questions, you’re doing a good job of thriving on your job. Let’s consider our next question:

  1. During breaks and lunch do you and your co-workers usually complain about the company or boss?

Often that’s the major topic of conversation. If you find yourself in that mode, chances are you’re just surviving, not thriving on your job. Let me read you a passage from Ecclesiastes 10: “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say” (v. 20). Solomon is giving us some very good advice here. To paraphrase, he says, “Don’t talk about anybody behind their backs, but particularly people in authority and control. Those words seem to always get back to them.”

I was counseling a young woman who is in a difficult job, and I said, “Be sure you don’t talk about your boss in any negative way to anyone else. Those little gossip sessions have a way of getting around, and they’ll come back to haunt you.” She said, “But I already have done that.” I advised her to stop right then and there. Whatever damage had been done, at least don’t add to it.

Maybe your work environment is full of gossip, backbiting and office politics—that’s not uncommon. You want to be certain you don’t get caught up in that bad habit. It’s contagious, so watch it closely. Many people have done irreparable damage to their careers and job ambitions with loose tongues. I keep reminding myself that you don’t have to say everything you think!

  1. Do you have a co-worker that drives you crazy?

Maybe it’s a personality clash, or the way he or she works—or doesn’t work. Perhaps it’s the attitude that person has toward you or just some irritating habit. If you continue to allow that person to affect you negatively, you’re going to find that you can’t really thrive on your job because that person is always a thorn in your side.

With a difficult co-worker, you need to put a plan of action into place. It begins with daily prayer, asking God to help you see that person as he does. Then get to know that person better. Take him or her to lunch or coffee. Usually that helps greatly. Go out of your way to be accommodating. If that proves unsuccessful in improving the relationship, you may need to be more confrontational. Or…you may just have to learn to live with it. But what doesn’t work is to allow that person to keep you in survival mode when you want to be thriving.

  1. Do you feel you have adequate support from your management?

Certainly support is an important element in liking your job and thriving in it. But I find that employees are very ready to complain about the boss. Let me tell you that managing is not as easy as it looks! If you’ve never been in a management position, keep that old Indian proverb in mind: You shouldn’t criticize anyone until you’ve walked a mile in his or her moccasins.

Now, your grievances about lack of support may be valid. If so, do something pro-active to try to change that situation. Set up a time to talk with your boss and give him or her an explanation of what you feel you need in order to work effectively for the company. It may be a simple misunderstanding that can be cleared up more easily than you ever thought.

If the situation doesn’t change, you must either find an alternative for the support you need, learn how to operate without it, or find another job. What doesn’t make sense is to keep on in the survival mode you’re in now.

  1. Have you ever done the following:
  • Asked for more responsibility?
  • Suggested a better system to give more efficient service?
  • Proposed a re-write of your job description?
  • Asked for a training session?
  • Checked out local opportunities for furthering your education and/or skills on your own?

 

James told us, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). I think this happens in many situations. If you’re finding your job boring or to be a dead-end, ask for more responsibility. Write a description of the job you’d really like to have—even if it doesn’t exist but you think it could be helpful—and take it to your manager. Maybe you need some extra training to be qualified for another job. Have you asked for that training? Maybe you need to ask again, or find a way to get the training on your own.

Certainly, you don’t want to be a pest! However, if you don’t express an interest or desire, how is your company or manager going to know? They’re not mind readers, so go for what you’d like. If you do it in the right way and spirit, it will not be viewed as a negative, even if they can’t do exactly what you want. But if you’re thinking from the viewpoint of what would be good for the company as well as for you, you may be able to sell a new idea that would work to everyone’s benefit.

Now, try asking yourself these survival questions:

  1. Do you often do any of the following:
  • Arrive late for work?
  • Turn in assignments late or miss deadlines often?
  • Take long lunch hours?
  • Make too many personal phone calls at work?
  • Often leave your workstation unattended to chit-chat with others?

 

If you let yourself get sloppy in these areas, it would indicate at least a carelessness on your part, but more likely it would show a bad or wrong attitude toward your responsibilities and duties as a worker. The Bible tells us to do whatever our hands find to do with all our hearts. God doesn’t like half-hearted work habits; it doesn’t bring honor to him. Besides, when you walk out at the end of the day and you know you haven’t given your best, that guilt will drag you down.

Check up on the little things in your work habits and see if you’re just getting by. That’s surviving, not thriving, and it’s really no fun to be just a survivor.

  1. Do you find these things characterize your work:
  • Return phone calls promptly?
  • Keep track and follow-up on every commitment and promise you have made, and every responsibility that you have?
  • Compliment others who do a good job?
  • Ask co-workers for advice and comments, when appropriate?

 

In other words, are you dependable? Are you considerate of the way you react and respond to your co-workers? It’s easy to identify the problems that other people have, but first we need to check out our own behavior. Jesus said “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)

These are the kinds of things you expect and appreciate from others, so make sure you’re not guilty of some of the bad habits that irritate you in others. That will go a long way toward making you into one who thrives rather than just survives.

  1. Are you worried about losing your job?

In this age of down-sizing, lots of people have a legitimate concern as to whether their job will be here next month or next year. What can you do if you’re worried about losing your job? Of course, the main thing is prayer. Keep learning that your source is the Lord—not a company or an income. We learn more about trusting God when our income is threatened than we do at most any other time in our lives.

Then, get creative and pro-active about your future. Learn new skills to prepare you for a possible lay-off. Find out what industries are likely to be hiring and prepare yourself to be qualified for that kind of work. Workers in the future are going to have to be more versatile and flexible in order to thrive in the job market. Perhaps you can think of ways to be self-employed. That’s going to be more and more viable in our service-oriented economy.

Don’t sit back and wait for someone to dictate your future. Pray much about it, seek guidance from God and trusted friends, and act before you’re acted upon. That’s how you’ll thrive, not just survive, in this new climate which is much more uncertain and changing than what we’ve been used to.

Well, this self-test should give you some feedback on how you’re doing. I’m convinced that we cannot be good witnesses for Jesus Christ if we are simply in survival mode on our jobs. Because many of us find ourselves in these difficult and changing job environments, we have an unusual opportunity to demonstrate the power of Christ in our lives. Anybody can thrive in easy times, but it takes an unusual power to thrive in tough times.

That’s the power we have because we have Jesus. I encourage you to remember that you work for him, and he will reward you for good work. He will also hold you accountable for performing less-than-your-best, so I hope you’ll get serious about thriving, not just surviving, on your job!

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Slow to Speak

Sep 30, 2017

W-1695

James has a lot to say about our tongue—what we say and how we say it. In fact, in the third chapter, we are told that if we can control our tongue, we can control our whole body, our entire personality! In order to control our tongue, we have to control our thoughts. After all, we say what we think.

In order to control our thoughts, we need to practice Philippians 4:8, which teaches us to think only what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. In order to practice Philippians 4:8, we have to spend time in the Word and time in prayer. We have to be controlled daily by God’s Spirit. We have to be others-focused rather than self-focused. This is a logical progression: By controlling our tongue we will learn to control all aspects of our lives and bring them under the control of God’s Spirit.

I remember meeting a young woman in one of my business seminars who I discovered was a Christian. We began to share a little about ourselves, as people do when first meeting. She told me about her job and her church, but what I heard was a stream of complaining and condemnation.

The church wasn’t doing its job; nobody ever offered to help her. She was single and felt they should offer her special help. There were no programs at her church for single women. They never called her on the prayer chain.

“But,” she said, “I know God wants me at this church.”

Then she told me about her new job, how they asked her to do too much and they weren’t considerate of her. She had told her boss what she would do and what she wouldn’t do, and wasn’t going to let anyone take advantage of her. Then she went on to tell me that she had been laid off from another job just a month ago and found this new job in three days. That was a blessing from the Lord, and she commented how good the Lord was to give her a new job so quickly.

As she walked away, I just shook my head. “What’s wrong with this picture?” I thought. It was a rather depressing conversation, and I kept thinking about all the people in her life who don’t know Jesus and wondered what kind of testimony she was to them. She did indicate she loved Jesus, prayed, and was thankful for God’s provision in her life. However, that was surrounded with complaining, griping, dissatisfaction, criticism, and self-pity.

Then it dawned on me: James 3:10 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. . .” And, he goes on to say, “My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” When praise and cursing come out of the same mouth, it just isn’t right; something is wrong!

Your words show what’s in your heart. In her heart was bitterness: A “You better not step on my toes,” “I’ve been cheated,” and “Poor me” attitude. She’ll never change her words until her heart changes.

James goes on to tell us in the third chapter verse six that the tongue corrupts the whole person. When you say these kinds of words, they feed back into your mind, reinforce all the wrong thoughts, and corrupt your mind.

Remember, too many words will eventually get you in trouble. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Make your words at a premium so that people want to hear what you have to say instead of wanting to run the other way because you talk all the time.

James then says that no man can tame the tongue, and he’s right. No man can tame the tongue. But the Spirit of God can tame it, if we will make it a matter of serious prayer and daily commitment. Here is a suggestion.

Work on one problem at a time. Where do you feel your tongue is most out of control? Do you complain a lot? Or is it criticism? Or gossip? Maybe you just talk too much. Choose one and focus on it until you can see change in that area.

Commit to the Lord, for example, “Today I will not gossip or talk about others in negative ways. Lord, please bring to my mind all through this day that I should not gossip or disparage anyone. Please stop me when I start to gossip. Please make me miserable when I do gossip. Please help me to hear myself gossip. By your grace, I will not gossip today.”

It would help to memorize some scriptures about gossiping, or write them on cards and put them in front of your eyes. For example, Proverbs 20:19 is a good one: A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” That’s pretty easy to remember, but harder to practice. However, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, even stopping gossip.

Now, in order to stop gossiping, you’re going to have to stop thinking those gossipy thoughts. Your words are simply revealing what’s in your mind and on your heart. While you’re cleaning up those words, you’re going to have to clean up your thoughts. So, you also need to pray, “Lord, help me not to have a critical, gossipy spirit today—not to allow myself to even think thoughts of gossip or malice. Make me a positive, encouraging person today.”

Then, focus on some areas where you want to start learning to say the right words. Our words can certainly do a great deal of harm, but the good news is that they can do a lot of good, as well. Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue has the power of life and death, so we can choose to use it for harm or for good.

Choose one area where your words can do good—for example, encouraging words. Make a commitment to the Lord that you will consciously encourage at least two people each day. Pray about that as you get going in the morning.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other. . .” That’s a command; we are to build people up. Do you do that regularly?

Start praying about it and ask God to show you who needs encouragement today. I’m certain you can easily find two people to encourage. Look for them; pray for them; and say some encouraging words to them. You’ll be amazed that as you encourage them, you will yourself be encouraged. It takes the focus off of yourself and onto others. That’s always helpful.

Also, anytime you think something nice about someone, put those thoughts into words. When you have a sincere compliment in your mind, why not say it? It could be just the thing that person needs to hear today.

If you and I start focusing on the areas where our tongues are out of control and get serious about using our tongues to bring words of encouragement and hope to others, we’re going to see incredible changes in our own lives. Proverbs 13:3 says that “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” Guarding our lips has to be of highest priority if we are to bring glory to our Lord Jesus.

Let me remind you of some of the great benefits of taming your tongue and being slow to speak:

  • You will get rid of a lot of stress. When your tongue is out of control, you bring a lot of stress into your life. Having to listen to yourself talk all the time is stressful, and when you say the wrong words, you feed the wrong messages into your mind and bring more stress on yourself.
  • You will get rid of a self-focus in your life. I tell you the truth: I’ve never known a self-focused person who was happy. When you get the focus off of yourself, you’re going to be a much happier person. When you stop talking about your problems and complaining about them, you’ll stop thinking about them so much and you’ll think of others. That’s going to make you happier.
  • Your relationships will greatly improve as you tame your tongue. Just think of the damage you’ve done to relationships when your tongue was out of control. Now you’ll be saying words of encouragement and love, and those relationships will blossom.
  • You will improve your performance. When you say the right words, it will greatly influence whatever job you do and how well you do it. That could result in all kinds of good things for you.
  • But most importantly, when your tongue is tamed, you’ll be more like Jesus. You will be transformed more and more into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, as we read in 2 Corinthians 3:18. This means your life will bring glory to him, your testimony will be stronger, people will want to know what makes you different, they’ll be attracted to you, and you will be a good ambassador for Jesus.

 

If we control our tongues, we control our whole body. James told us that and it’s true. It takes commitment, prayer, and the power of God’s Spirit. It is not mission impossible. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

I promise you this: If you’re serious about taming your tongue, and you approach it with commitment, God is going to empower you to do that. You’re going to see changes in yourself that you won’t believe. You’ll hear yourself start to complain, criticize, or gossip, and you’ll stop right in the middle because the Spirit of God reminded you. With this simple method, you can begin to tame your tongue.

Make this a matter of daily prayer. Begin by praying Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Here are some other verses on words and the tongue to write in your prayer journal and pray into your life daily:

  • Proverbs 10:21: “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.” Lord, may my lips nourish people today.
  • Psalm 17:3: Today I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.
  • Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy—may I think on these things today.
  • James 1:19: Help me to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

 

Are you ready to get serious about taming your tongue? If so, you can keep your whole body in check. But it must begin with a strong daily commitment and prayer. Will you go for it?

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Gardening God’s Way

Aug 8, 2017

PROGRAM D-7897

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” I’ve always felt it was unfortunate that this childhood jingle chose Mary to be contrary, but my question for you today is how does your spiritual garden grow?

Gardening God’s way requires that we plant three rows of “peas” in our gardens—peace of soul, peace of mind and peace of heart. We also need three rows of “squash”: squash gossip, squash indifference, and squash selfishness. These are three weeds which will grow rapidly and deeply in our gardens and, unless we take drastic action, they will choke out all the good things.

“Squash” gossip. Why is it we are all too ready to listen to or repeat some tidbit of gossip? It comes from evil in our hearts, and we need to squash it so quick and so hard that it has no chance to grow. How do we squash gossip? We refuse to listen to it. When others start gossiping in our presence, we change the subject or confront it. And we absolutely refuse to gossip ourselves. Ephesians 4:29 will squash gossip at once: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

“Squash” indifference. Did you ever realize that indifference—just letting things slide, taking it easy, living in mediocrity—is a dangerous weed in your garden? “It’s not my job” is a phrase that personifies indifference. If there’s any indifference in your life—that tendency to pass the buck and shun responsibility—you really need to squash it.

“Squash” selfishness. I find this to be a life-long process in my garden because selfishness seems to grow back overnight, and from the smallest seed it can grow into a bush very quickly! Putting self first comes naturally to all of us; we didn’t have to teach our children to be selfish, did we? But putting self first is a recipe for misery and unhappiness. If you want to have an abundant life, squash selfishness.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

Well, how does your garden grow? Do you need to plant some “squash”? I encourage you to squash gossip, squash indifference, and squash selfishness.

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A Proverb a Day Shows You the Way

Aug 3, 2017

PROGRAM D-7894

A Proverb a day can show us the way because the book of Proverbs is wonderfully applicable to the situations we face in our everyday lives.

Proverbs 6:2-5 gives us some very practical advice: “You have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this. . .to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself. . . . Allow no sleep to your eyes. . . . Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.”

How many times have you wanted to crawl under a table because you said something you wished you hadn’t? Perhaps they were words spoken in anger or haste, or words of gossip, or judgmental words. Or maybe they were unkind, untruthful, harsh, and unnecessary words that inflicted harm of some kind.

What do you do? You can’t un-say them; you can’t delete them; you can’t erase them. Those words hang there in your memory and the memory of others. What can you do?

Solomon says to go and humble yourself to the person your words harmed. Go and confess to them—and do it immediately. Apologize and do all you can to free yourself from the damage of those words.

I know that’s not easy to do. But it’s a lot easier than not doing it! Once, in a hotel on a business trip, I accused a hotel employee of neglecting to follow my instructions. I was certain that I had given those instructions. Nicely, but directly, I said, “I’m sure it’s your fault; please correct it.”

A few minutes later I came to realize that I was the one who was wrong, not him. It was embarrassing; I wanted to run away. But I forced myself to go to the phone, call the young man, and apologize to him. Even a simple apology like that wasn’t easy but, once I did it, I felt so free. I could tell that it also made a big difference to him. He kept saying, “That’s so nice of you to call. Thank you.” Well, it wasn’t nice of me; it was the right thing to do.

If you’ve offended someone with words, don’t procrastinate. Go right now—today—and apologize! That’s good advice from Proverbs.

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Proverbs for Business and Management

Apr 22, 2017

The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is the best book I’ve read on improving employee relations, managing people, and helping with career pursuits. We will examine some specific proverbs to see how they apply to our lives as Christians in the marketplace.

First, however, let me encourage you to make Proverbs a daily reading habit. There are 31 chapters, so it’s easy to read the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month. I’ve been doing that for several years, and find the practical advice has been most beneficial in my life, particularly in my business relationships and decisions.

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provision in summer and gathers its food at harvest. (Proverbs 6:6-8)

In the margin of my Bible beside this verse I have written “self-motivated.” The ant is a self-motivated creature. Without anyone standing over all those ants and telling them what to do, they perform their jobs diligently and are prepared for what lies ahead.

Self-motivation is a key factor in our business world today, yet very few people have it. Most people simply try to get by while doing as little as possible. They don’t look beyond their noses to see what else could be done; they take no initiative and are not willing to go any extra miles.

A Christian in the workplace should be like the ant—self-motivated, willing to dig in and get the work done without prompting or constant supervision. Do our managers trust us? Can she or he be assured that we will diligently do our job whether or not anyone is watching? Certainly a Christian should produce that kind of reputation.

Our witness in the world can never be effective if our lives aren’t different. If we have the it’s-not-my-job attitude that is prevalent today, drag our feet and do only what we’re told to do, and gripe and complain about doing anything above and beyond our job description, how will our coworkers and management know that Christ makes a difference in our lives? They won’t. Our verbal witness, if there is one, will fall on deaf ears.

Christians have a power far beyond ourselves to help motivate us. We have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us to give us the strength we need to be self-motivated. We should have the outstanding testimony on our jobs that we do our work, we do it whether or not anyone’s watching, we do it to the best of our ability, and we’re willing to go the extra mile.

Go to the ant and consider its ways. We can learn wisdom and self-motivation from those tiny ants.

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. (Proverbs 9:9)

One of the most important characteristics of a Christian, in my opinion, is teachableness. A person who is teachable is a very wise and truly humble person, one who recognizes that they don’t know it all and there’s always something new to learn.

As a manager, I can tell you that it is a joy to have an employee who has a teachable spirit, who is willing to learn and looking for ways to improve. A manager will endure mistakes and learning cycles, and will hang in there much longer with you if he or she sees an attitude of teachableness—of wanting to learn. Nothing is more frustrating that trying to work with a person who thinks he or she knows it all and has no desire to learn anything new.

How about you? Are you teachable? How do you respond when you’re given helpful hints or suggestions? Do you resent it? Sometimes you can learn from younger people, people who have been in the business shorter than you, people below you in rank. But if you’ve got your back up or you feel threatened when someone tries to teach you something, you’re going to stagnate right where you are.

It is very smart and very mature to accept teaching, to listen to new ideas and suggestions. Managers need this quality as much as—or perhaps more than—anyone else. Many times we managers fail to listen to our employees who have very good ideas that could help us if we were more teachable.

The day we get beyond being teachable, we’re in trouble, because that’s the day we’ll stop growing. And we don’t just stand still, we go backwards.

How about it? Do you need to ask God to make you a teachable person? No matter how good and smart you already are, you can be wiser still, Proverbs says. You can add to your learning and wisdom by allowing others to instruct you.

Drive out the mocker and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended. (Proverbs 22:10)

Have you ever worked with a person who was a mocker and a scoffer? We don’t use those words much today, but I’m sure we can recognize that kind of behavior. That’s the person who makes fun of others, ridicules people and organizations, and is arrogant and causes problems seemingly on purpose. Proverbs 15:12 says that a mocker resents correction and will not consult the wise. They’re unteachable! When there’s a mocker in the group, the work environment can be pretty miserable.

This proverb says that by getting rid of a mocker, we get rid of strife. For those of us who are in management positions, it’s good to remember that there are times when the right thing to do is to let an employee go. I hope that doesn’t sound cruel, but a person who is intent on offending others—and some people are—can totally undermine an organization.

Of course, as Christians, we still must care about people regardless of how unlovable they are. Though we can never change people, the Holy Spirit can, so we shouldn’t give up praying for them. But that doesn’t mean we allow them to ruin the working environment for everyone else.

Solomon said, in his wisdom, that we’re better off driving out the mocker and the scoffer, for by so doing, the strife and dishonor will stop, people will be able to work productively together, and everyone will benefit, including the person who is the trouble maker. Allowing them to continue to get by with that inappropriate behavior doesn’t help them.

My experience in business tells me that many managers need to bite some bullets for the good of the organization by driving out the mockers and the scoffers who are disrupting the workplace. That is some good advice found in Proverbs.

Have you ever noticed how someone’s choice of words can have a very strong effect on you?

Have you become irritated when someone said, “Do this for me, and have it ready by 2:00,” or something like that? He or she just dumped the work on your desk while barking a few orders at you, and walked off, and you felt yourself getting angry at having to do that work.

In retrospect, you realize that it wasn’t what this person asked you to do, but the way he asked you to do it that really irritated you. Had he said, “I know you’re busy, but could you please help me? And if possible, I need it by 2:00,” you would have reacted differently.

Our choice of words largely determines how others respond to us. Wise Solomon knew that, too. There are many proverbs that talk about the power of the tongue. Proverbs 16:21 says that pleasant words make a person persuasive; verse 24 says that pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Here’s a way to help you choose your words more appropriately. Keep in the back of your mind this thought: How would I feel if someone said that to me? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine what it would feel like to hear what you’re going to say. I guarantee you, if you do this, your choice of words will improve.

Instead of saying, “You’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” you’ll likely say, “If you don’t mind, could you wait until tomorrow?” After all, nobody likes to be dictated to. Instead of dumping bad news on people, you’ll soften the blow: “I’m so sorry to have to tell you that it is just not possible for me to get this for you today. If there was any way I could, I would.” I’m always amazed to see how people just dump bad news on you in the business world, without any empathy. Think how you feel when you get bad news.

Remember, keep asking yourself, How would I feel if someone said that to me? You’ll discover your words will have a different effect on people when you do that.

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. (Proverbs 18:17)

This Proverb teaches us to withhold judgment and opinion until we’ve heard both sides to any story. We shouldn’t be gullible and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

This is a particularly difficult area for me, for I am very impulsive and very much an over-reactor. And every time I do that, I regret it. I am, by God’s grace, focusing prayer and attention on learning to wait to form an opinion until I hear both sides of any story, to make sure I’ve got my facts straight, and to remember that there may be something to the story I don’t yet know.

I remember coming into the office on a very busy day to find a message that irritated me at once. With only partial information, I thought this other person was doing something way out of line, and I overreacted. I went to the phone and started dialing the number in order to get things straightened out. Thankfully, she was not in and I didn’t get to speak with her at that time.

When she returned my call and explained the situation, I realized that the message had not been complete. Had I talked with her earlier, I would have overreacted and probably hurt her feelings. God protected me that time, and reminded me how much I need to learn not to overreact.

Wise Solomon warned us that the first person to present their case can sound very convincing, because we haven’t heard the other side of the story. We need to listen to people, but not be too quick to agree or disagree with them until we’ve sorted the facts out and know what we’re dealing with. This is good advice for managers and employees alike.

The book of Proverbs is never out of date because it is the inspired Word of God. God knows the human heart better than anyone else, and people are still people even though we are thousands of years removed from when this book was written.  The Bible has lots of good, common-sense advice for us and is very relevant to the kind of situations we deal with today on our jobs. Develop a plan today for daily Bible reading so you may gain the great wisdom God has for you to apply to your business and management challenges.

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