ARSix Habits of Really Effective Christians (Part 1)How do you shine the light as a Christian at work? The first step is getting along with everybody.The first of a six part series, the article gives tips and advice on how to shine the light as a Christian when at work. The article also reveals the first and most important habit of really effective Christians: 1)Get along with everybody. Be appreciative and congenial.
There’s a book by
Stephen Covey called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The book
is a best-seller, and for good reason. It talks about how to set
schedules, manage priorities, be successful in the business world, and
balance your life so that you have the time to do the things that are
important to you. But with all due respect to Mr. Covey, there are some
tips that he didn’t mention that have proven pretty helpful to me. Flash
back to June 1995. For the past twenty years, I’d been a full-time
student. Elementary school led to junior high, high school led to college,
and college led to graduate school. After graduate school, there was no
more school left. So I started applying for a job.
After seven months
of nonstop rejections, insults, and despondency, one week in January I got
a phone call. I spoke to the recruiter on a Wednesday and interviewed on a
Thursday. I was to start work on Monday, at 8 a.m. sharp.
After the excitement
of it all wore off, I started to think. The extent of my work experience
up to that point had been a few part-time college jobs. I’d never really
had to deal with a full-time job. Do they wear suits? Whom will I eat
lunch with? How do I ask for office supplies? What if my boss hates me?
I had a lot of
questions. Not the least of these was, "What do I do?"
In the movie It’s
a Wonderful Life, George Bailey sees a billboard that reads, "Ask
Dad. He Knows." I saw this billboard flash in my head, so I went over
to Dad. I asked him to give me some advice on how to make it in the
business world. Now, Dad’s never been the CEO of a corporation. He made
a decent salary, but nothing spectacular. But one thing I noticed was that
Dad enjoyed his job. And while our family wasn’t the wealthiest family
in the world, I noticed that Dad and Mom did manage to live in a pretty
nice house, provide pretty good food and decent clothes for their kids,
and send their three kids off to college. I know they worked hard, but we
always had time to go on family vacations, do church work, and spend time
So I wanted to know
"his secret." How was it that he’d managed to stay in his
company for thirty years, and all the while remain pretty happy?
He started to tell
me, and I stopped him. "Could you write it down for me?"
He agreed and, a few
hours later, knocked at my door. He handed me a slip of paper with a list
of six things written on it.
1) Most Important—Get
along with everybody. You need all the friends you can get. One enemy
would be too many. Be appreciative and congenial.
My first few months
on the job, it amazed me to see the amount of office politics that went
on. People chose sides and made allies and enemies. It wasn’t uncommon
at all to hear people bad-mouth someone behind his back, and then be as
friendly as ever when they came face to face with that person.
There was a time in
my wide-eyed, idealistic phase when I thought that everyone in our company
was committed solely to the success of the company. I talked about the
subject with a colleague, and he told me something interesting. "Next
time you’re in a meeting," he said, "listen carefully to what
each person says and ask yourself, ‘Why is that person saying that? What’s
in it for them?’"
So I did this, and I
came to a pretty startling conclusion: People are generally selfish.
I once heard someone
say, "Hatred isn’t the opposite of love. Selfishness is the
opposite of love."
In Galatians 5:20,
Paul lists "selfish ambition" as one of the "acts of the
sinful nature," along with quite a few other unpleasant things. At
first, "selfish ambition" might not seem to fit in this list.
Few will deny that all the other sins listed are destructive. But these
days, "selfish ambition" is often looked upon favorably,
especially in the business world.
So what can you do?
How in the world do you get along with everybody when everyone’s in it
for himself, when people wouldn’t think twice about taking advantage of
you for their own gain? Paul gives some pretty good advice:
Do nothing out of
selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better
than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as
that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be grasped. (Phil 2:3-6)
Now these are pretty
heavy words, considering what Paul was going through when he wrote them.
Just a chapter before, Paul explained his situation. While he was locked
in prison, some preachers came to the Philippian church. In Paul’s
absence, they spoke disparagingly of him in front of the very church that
he loved deeply. They sought to fill the vacuum that Paul left, to jockey
for position, and to obtain some glory for themselves.
Now if you were
Paul, what would you do? There are a bunch of evangelists out there who
are in competition with you. They take advantage of your situation to
boost their own egos and better their political position. And on top of
that, because they’re so jealous of you, they say anything they can to
make your suffering even worse.
Paul chose to
continue to glorify God, by not giving way to Satan and by recognizing
Satan’s attempts to break his spirit. So over four chapters, Paul
mentions the words "joy" and "rejoice" over and over
again. Even though Paul had every right to condemn these men, he chose to
look the other way and, furthermore, to rejoice at the work they were
In this simple
statement, Paul showed to all the Philippians—and the rest of us as well—what
his attitude was in his work. He didn’t feel he had to defend himself or
coddle his ego. And so his silence spoke louder than anything he could
Ambition: Good or Bad?
If Paul were to tell
these preachers what they should have been told, he probably would have
said something along the lines of what James wrote:
Who is wise and
understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done
in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy
and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the
truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is
earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish
ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (Jas
Notice how both Paul
and James use the term "selfish ambition," not just
"ambition." There’s an important distinction. Ambition by
itself is not a bad thing. It’s one of the things that makes you do the
very best work you can, and it pushes you to achieve to the fullest of
The difference is in
motives. Is your ultimate goal your own fame and fortune? Are you
motivated by pride or ego, or by jealousy of what others have? Or is your
ultimate goal to make an honest day’s wages for an honest day’s work?
Is your ultimate goal to glorify yourself or to glorify God?
These are important
questions, and you need to be brutally honest with yourself in answering
them. Proverbs 16:2 says, "All a man’s ways seems innocent to him,
but motives are weighed by the Lord."
The Trap of Envy
Selfish ambition and
envy usually go together. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, "And I saw that all
labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor."
It’s so easy to be
caught in this trap. Our society breeds it. If you make $40,000 a year, I
want to make $60,000 a year. If you have a Toyota, I want a Lexus. If you
get promoted to District Manager, I want to be promoted to Division
Manager. If your kid goes to MIT, I want my kid to go to MIT on a full
scholarship. It’s an easy trap to fall into, because it seems that
everyone does it. But it’s a trap that leads to destruction. Remember Proverbs
14:30: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy
rots the bones."
How do we fight it?
Let your ambition be motivated by something other than competition, greed,
or self-glory. So what should your ambition be?
Make it your
ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work
with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win
the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on
anybody. (1 Thess 4:11-12)
In the world out
there, people who know how to manipulate situations and people, with no
concern for the welfare of others, usually do very well for themselves at
first. They get what they want immediately. But ask anyone who’s worked
many years in a company, and they’ll tell you that while such people
tend to rise like a rocket, they tend to fall like a shooting star. They’ll
tell you that the people who lasted in the company were those who gained
the respect and admiration of others around them by displaying character
Happily, if you are
a Christian and strive for righteousness, character and integrity come as
part of the package.
The Answer: Love & Humility
So to sum up, how do
you get along with everyone?
Finally, all of
you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers,
be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with
insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you
may inherit a blessing. (1 Pet 3:8-9)
Let us not become
weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we
do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all
people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
There’s a theme
throughout all the verses we’ve read. Learn to show Christian love and
humility toward others. Despite what anyone else does around you, do good
to others. Shine the light of Christ wherever you are. Show the fruit of
the spirit in your everyday life, not just on Saturdays when you go to
church. And seek the glory of God in everything you do.
quotations in this article are taken from The Holy Bible, New
International Version (North American Edition), copyright (c) 1973, 1978,
1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan
"In the Workforce" is a recurring column dedicated to survival tips and advice on how to shine the light as a Christian at work.
If you have some advice or anecdotes from your own work experience that you feel may be edifying to the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ, please send it to