Is there a place for the quality of gentleness in the ?world of the modern business – ?a world often described as competitive, cut-throat and hard-nosed and where the agenda of the strong and powerful dominates?
After a round of golf this week, I was chatting with a former student who had moved from the world of education to real estate sales. ?”It’s a tough business, ” he explained, “There are a lot of deceitful people out there.” ?While as far as I know my golfing companion is not a Christian, I could sense his struggle to remain true to his principles in the face of a culture where it is very much the ‘survival of the fittest’.
So, is it possible for a Christian to survive let alone thrive in such an environment? ?Stevens and Ung suggest that, “…it is in the shark-infested waters of the business world that the godly qualities of gentleness are most needed.”
The Greek word for gentleness speaks of the bridled horse – a horse that has learnt to accept discipline and respond to the bidding of its master. ?Moses, described as ‘more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth’ (Numbers 12:3) was such a person. ?At Christmas, we sing of Jesus as ‘meek and mild’ (Matt 11:29). ?Paul writing to the Philippians urged his readers to let their gentleness be evident to all (4:5). ?
But this is not some sort of passive, wimpish, give-in attitude. ?Rather, as Stevens and Ung explain, it is being, “… courageous and disciplined people with nerves of steel … an individual who has restrained his or her strength for the good of the weaker one.”
What does this look like in the workplace where it is the survival of the fittest and just lasting from one day to the next can be a struggle (“Have you met my boss?”). ?The characteristics of the gentle leader according to Stevens and Ung are:
- Respect for the dignity of others – refusing to use coercion, intimidation and threats
- Willing to move at the pace of another person’s readiness
- Empowering others in ways best suited to their needs
How might this look in practice?
- Allowing others to make mistakes
- Showing respect up and down the organisation – CEO to cleaner
- Delighting in serving others
- Having a teachable spirit
- Willing to listen and invest in relationships no matter how difficult they are
- Able to rebuke without anger, argue without being dismissive
- Providing feedback that encourages and gives hope rather than despair
How can we cultivate the fruit of gentleness in our workplace? Gentle people, according to the authors, have gone through the process of surrender, renunciation, obedience and subservience. They have a willingness to be molded and radically changed so that they are, ‘… ready to do whatever is good … to be peacable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3, 1,2). ?
The gentleness of such people will be demonstrated by:
- The language and words they use – words that heal and comfort
- Acknowledgement of personal vulnerability to sin and weakness leading to empathy with the struggles of others
- Responding with gentleness and meekness?
- Refusing to buckle under pressure or when ethical principles are at stake.
- Not being overwhelmed when confronted with the pain and suffering of other
How does this work out for you? ?What are the situations your are likely to face this week where a gentle response will require great strength? ?Consider:
- the example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:23)
- be gentle towards yourself remembering how Jesus dealt with people such as you (Luke 7:36-50; 19:1-10, 23:39-43); and
- be gentle towards others (1 Thess 2:7, 1 Tim 6:11. 2 Tim 2:24-25, 1 Peter 3:8-9, 3:15)?
Next time: Surrendered Contentment – Experiencing the satisfaction of who you are, what you have and what you do (Chapter 23)
Stevens, R. P., and Ung, A. (2010).?Taking Your Soul to Work: overcoming the nine deadly sins of the workplace.??Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans