Thursday, 26 May 2011

Faith in Business

When I think about being a man of faith at the same time as being a businessman, the usual "don'ts" come to mind.  Don't sleep around, don't take advantage of others, don't lie, don't steal...the kind of stuff that even an atheist would agree is wrong.  Yet we're able to turn a blind eye to our own transgressions with excuses, like "it was only one time" or "it had to be done in this instance" or "if I don't do this, someone else will', or my absolute least favourite, "it was the best of two evils."

Faith in business, to me, goes much deeper than the basic rules of social behaviour with a threat of vengeance hanging overhead, as some might describe the handcuffs that bind the faithful.  Or do they?

I'm not handcuffed by my faith.  Christian faith is actually quite liberating.  Knowing that your Father is in charge of the whole universe makes the trials of everyday business life seem so inconsequential.

There are only two guiding principles on which all the others are founded, for the Catholic business person:  Love God, Love your neighbour.  Matthew 22:36-40

When we Love God, we don't love other things ahead of Him.  We don't worship money, or promotions.  A corner office or a nicer car (at the expense of someone else, at the expense of our soul) are not our motivation.  When I think of all the gods in my life that have come ahead of the one, true God I can trace all my most miserable times to when I had forgotten about God.  The years when my mantra was "40 at 30, 40 at 30" (meaning I would make $40 thousand a year before I turned 30 years old), I managed to do just that but then was promptly laid off from a bankrupt company after achieving that goal.  In my debt-ridden misery the first place I found myself, before I could even drag myself home to tell my wife that we were destitute with no severance package, was to my church. I've never looked back.

When we love our neighbour, that includes our co-workers, our clients, our competitors, and yes, even the boss.  It means we don't talk behind their backs, unless it's complimentary.  We celebrate their success.  We still want to beat our competitors in the game, but we do it with integrity; "winning at all costs" seems foolish.  We don't lie to our customers because it shows a profound disrespect for them.  We assume the best intentions when the boss makes impossible demands and have the respect to point out the impossibility of the demands that perhaps the boss didn't realize.

That's it, only two rules, into which lie the 10 commandments.  The first three are "love God" rules, the next seven are "love your neighbour" rules.

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