I’m glad I’m not like him…

About a year ago, an executive retired from my company and I celebrated his retirement. I didn’t celebrate in a congratulatory way; I celebrated the fact that he was gone and I would no longer have to deal with his haughty tone, his harsh criticism, or his abrupt demeanor. Don’t get me wrong, he was talented in his area of expertise and I respected that. But he could be a total jerk at times. He and I often clashed and I have to confess that I was happy to see him ride off into the sunset. I’m so thankful that I’m not like him…

Luke tells us in verse 9 that Jesus told this parable to a group of people who trusted themselves and deemed themselves righteous. The Pharisee stood in the temple, looked over at a tax collector who stood with his head bowed, and swelled with pride as he prayed this prayer. The tax collector, on the other hand, says this:

“God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Luke 18:13

I think if each of us honestly looks inward, we can identify times in which our attitude towards another was like that of the Pharisee. Times when we look upon another person, another child of the Father, and feel thankful that we are not like him or her. This self-righteous attitude is borne of pride and it dishonors the One who created us all. When I think back on the evening I hoisted a glass of champagne and toasted Bjorn’s departure I feel ashamed. Indeed, I was the Pharisee. (Yes, I changed the executive’s name).

(Jesus said), “I tell you, this man (tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the other (Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 18:14

Each of us is human, and as such, imperfect. I am imperfect. I wonder sometimes if there are people who feel about me the way I felt about Bjorn. Who have I cut down, dishonored, or hurt? As I read my Bible each morning, I ask God to show me through His Word what a God-honoring life looks like. What attitude does the person who seeks to honor God with his or her life take towards those who can be difficult to deal with at times? How can I be dialed in to my own attitude so that, when the Pharisee in me wants to emerge, I discern it and squelch it?

Merriam-Webster defines “humble” as not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. Jesus tells us here that the one who humbles himself will be “exalted”. The humble, according to Jesus, will be elevated in rank, power, or character as defined by Merriam-Webster. Many business owners and executives that I know and admire consistently approach their work with an attitude of humility. I look up to them and I respect them. Indeed, approaching life, even at work, with an attitude of humility pleases and honors God. Indeed, the one who humbles himself or herself is exalted in the eyes of God. That is huge.

A mentor early in my career offered some good advice that I try to follow to this day. He said to take note of the traits that I admire in coworkers and executives and seek to emulate them in my dealings with others in my daily work. Humility is one of the traits I admire the most. I am convinced of these things: Servant leadership is borne of humility. Mentoring others is borne of humility. Offering praise for a job well done is borne of humility. Deferring to those in authority, even when they may be difficult to deal with, is borne of humility. Humble. This is the man – the husband, father, employee, coworker, and boss – that I aspire to be.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Photo Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2020

The Importance of Listening

I call it, “the bull elephant trumpeting the herd.” Know what I mean? I’m thinking about the person who comes into a meeting at work, or worse yet, at church who has all the answers and is bound and determined to make sure everybody in the room knows it. He is not there to listen or seek to understand; he is there simply to stir the pot and leave others to clean up his mess as he makes his grand exit.

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Proverbs 13:10

Merriam-Webster defines strife, “(1) bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; (2) exertion or contention for superiority.” Why does one behave this way, especially in professional and church settings? This is where pride rears its ugly head. Pride tells a person he must always be right. Pride tells a person she must always be the smartest in the room. Pride tells a person that the people in the meeting with him are of small importance and have little to offer. Pride says, “I will speak, you will listen.” In the church and in business, such behavior not only impedes progress, but it needlessly builds dissention and disunity – both of which can destroy a church and a business if allowed to take root. “Don’t be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

In his book and seminar entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This, my friends, is wisdom. Wisdom casts personal pride aside and puts to interests of the group first. Wisdom looks around the room, sees value in everybody present, and earnestly seeks to hear what they have to say. Wisdom says, “I know I don’t have all the answers, but these people can help me discern the right path.” Wisdom seeks truth and understanding before forming opinions about what to say or what strategy to deploy. Wisdom listens first, asks meaningful questions, and thanks the team for their contributions. “Be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

Which Jeff will I bring to work today? The prideful, arrogant Jeff (he’s there, trust me)? Or the wise, discerning Jeff (he’s there too, thank God). I seek wisdom for my life through God’s Word and the counsel of Christian friends whom I trust. Through this, I am equipped to leave the prideful, arrogant me in the background as I seek to lead my team with kindness, love, and – yes – wisdom. Time to go to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019