In his book on Anger, Thich Nhat Hanh is teaching me to overcome hurt and disappointment with compassion and forgiveness. In the Gospels, Jesus is moved with compassion and forgiveness. As a chaplain and consultant, I believe these teachings have a place in the workplace. These virtues are sometimes most needed in your area of work.
“Everything is possible when the door of communication is open. So we must invest ourselves in the practice of opening up and restoring communication. You have to express your willingness, your desire to make peace with the other person. Ask him to support you. Tell him, “Communication between us is the most important thing to me. Our relationship is the most precious thing, nothing is more important.” Make it clear and ask for support.
You have to start negotiating a strategy. No matter how much the other person can do, you have to do all that you are capable of doing yourself. You must give one hundred percent of yourself. Whatever you can do for yourself, you do for him, or for her. Don’t wait. Don’t put forth conditions, saying, “If you don’t make an effort to reconcile, then I won’t either.” This will not work. Peace, reconciliation, and happiness begin with you. It is wrong to think that if the other person does not change or improve, then nothing can be improved. There are always ways to create more joy, peace, and harmony, and you have access to them. The way you walk, the way you breathe, the way you smile, the way you react, all of this is very important. You must begin with this.”Except from Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The moment we blame or shame another person is the moment we have lost our peace and ability to communicate with the other. “But what about my anger, the fire burning in my belly?!” You must nurture it with empathy because if you don’t, it will spoil your insides. It will rob you of the person you truly long to be.
I don’t ever want to dehumanize the workplace. It is filled with humans who have hearts and souls, who are working for a greater purpose than simply a paycheck. We are working towards relational awareness as well, becoming humans who love and serve our neighbors.
“God of justice, love, and mercy” are the lyrics to a song. And this God seeks to meet our needs. Jesus says in Matthew 15:32, “I have compassion for these people…” He goes on to meet the needs of the people without them even asking, which can suggest that God sees our needs and longs to do something about it.
Yet God is inviting us to a transformative life where we become compassionate people, taking initiative, and becoming responsible self-leading adults. The work of God to meet our needs is sometimes a precursor for us to learn to trust and become responsible citizens, parents, or employees.
Jesus shows us compassion so that we might be compassionate people. That’s why I’m open to border and immigration reform that attends to both the needs of the people longing for a better life, but also done in a responsible way.
It’s also why I encourage employees to take personal and professional responsibility in order to become just, loving, and merciful people. To be compassionate is to meet the needs of those hurting, to restore them to full function, so that they might become compassionate people who serve others as restored, fully functioning people.
Psalm 25 is a great pre-reading text to prepare the reader for Matthew 18. The Psalmist is shaped by God’s great mercy and love and is appealing to God’s goodness from of old. God has a history track, one that is consistent through and through.
One principle to constantly keep in mind when reading the Bible is to remember the big storyline and major themes, especially as it relates to God’s character. For this gospel text, I’m thinking about God’s compassion, justice, and his covenant faithfulness to us.
The Gospel passage is about having a heart of forgiveness, one that mirrors God’s compassion and covenant faithfulness. That’s why it’s somewhat ridiculous that Peter is asking how many times he should forgive someone. I think that’s why Jesus’ response is a bit cheeky. And yet Jesus uses the opportunity to share a story about a forgiving heart.
I’ll confess that I have a hard time forgiving others who continue the same patterns towards me. But God’s covenant faithfulness and mercy call me to be FOR and UNTO them.
In marriage, the goal is to keep our eyes on God’s character so that we might reflect it in our relationship. Too many times, I’ve seen the speck in my spouses eye and am fixated on it. There is no mercy or compassion on my part. I’m right. She’s wrong. Fix it! I’ll be honest, it’s exhausting to be like this. And my wife doesn’t feel any sense of compassion or understanding. She feels a “self-righteous” spouse. And I’m self-righteous mostly when I’m afraid to share my own pain and losses. I turn inward, not showing myself any mercy, and then turn outward with self-anger towards the other. Not a good cycle.
But God’s mercy is tender, compassionate, and just. His anger over sin and brokenness last but a moment. But His love is enduring. We need more imaginative prayer and thought life over His covenant faithfulness to us. It should seep into our words, feelings, and inner movements! The truth that we are the beloved and are called His own melt away my fears and projections, causing me to see God’s covenantal love and faithfulness.