Recognizing Business Relationships That Move Us Away From God
Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, of course, you fail the test. I hope you will discover that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do evil, not that we may appear to have passed the test, but that you may do what is right, even though we may seem to have failed. (2 Corinthians 13:5-7)
Today’s business world can become difficult to navigate for people that proclaim their belief in Christ as the Savior of the world. That said, navigate it we must. Often we fail and sometimes we succeed. With Christ as our guide, we can live and learn. With The Word of God as our guide, learn we must.
The focus of this post is to help others learn from my own experiences, those shared with me by others of the years and the failures that occur when we do not to live up to Christian principals as a business owner. I hope this will help others find ways to work their way through toxic business relationships.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses business dealings very specifically. Below is a small excerpt:
2411 Contracts are subject to commutative justice which regulates exchanges between persons and between institutions in accordance with a strict respect for their rights. Commutative justice obliges strictly; it requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely contracted. Without commutative justice, no other form of justice is possible.
Simply stated, good Christian business practices are a matter of justice.
I have been in the working world for some forty years. During that time I have, on occasion, come up against people that are willing to cheat, lie, steal or do damage to others for their own personal benefit. Some were bullies and others were charming, in the end some were both.
The more glaring offenses of cheating, dishonesty and theft are the easiest to deal with. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, the greatest danger to our faith are the more subtle offenders in business practices. They will draw us in, stroke our ego, we become blinded to the truth and fall to the sin of false pride.
What comes from Satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference and apathy. – St. Padre Pio
Padre Pio, great Saint and true mystic, gives us a glimpse on how to recognize the movement of evil in the business place. Evil does not typically approach us with attacks and vitriol. It comes with a calm and soothing voice that distracts us from the good of our life and business relationships. Evil will build a false sense of pride, break down our humility and separate us from a Godly focus in our business. Our faith commands to remain focused on God in all our business dealings.
Over time, humility crushed and our focus on the Divine Will distracted, we become subject to small temptations that will do damage to our soul.
But, I digress.
How do we recognize a problem with a business relationship. In my experience, it builds in stages.
First, the “business partner, employer, coworker or colleague” will build up the partnership with promises that seem to good to be true. This is the first warning sign.
Answer: If something is too good to be true, it is most likely built on deception. Step back and make an honest assessment of the situation. Is it pride or greed that is pulling you forward or is this an opportunity to build a greater common good? Often this can be difficult on which to come to a conclusion. Beware of promises made and excuses that may follow. These are warning signs.
Second, does the “business partner” complain and gossip about other individuals they do business with while continuing to make promises to you? This is a sign two and represents a failure in judgment and humility. Take a giant step back and consider your options. Without a doubt, if they are complaining and gossiping about other people they work or do business with, they will absolutely gossip about you. Chances are, most of what they have complained about is over exaggerated at best and blatantly dishonest at worst.
Answer: Consider your options? What is the spiritual and financial cost of remaining in this relationship. Can you exit the relationship without breaking the contract? Can you keep the party at a polite arm’s distance and maintain your contractual relationship? Watch how they treat others they have disagreed with in business and personal relationships. This can be a sign of what is to come. Do not get caught up in the gossip even if this associate presents themselves as a “friend” or valued business partner looking out for your best interests. They are not.
Third, seeds of discontent will be planted. Some will be subtle and others will be more direct. Do not be blinded. Do not make the mistake of getting drawn into a public battle. (Sometimes our warrior’s heart gets challenged. I have made this mistake myself.)
Lastly, decisions must be made. For the sake of your faith and reputation, toxic business relationships must be exited. This may take legal action. If not exited, expected to be exploited, stolen from and your reputation attacked. (See number 2)
The most difficult part of reflecting on these types of business dealings is recognizing our own failures which, if we kept our own pride or greed in check, could have been avoided. God, in His infinite wisdom, has given us free will and the grace to overcome our failings. If our state in life is to be engaged in the business world, these types of relationships offer us an opportunity to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, humbling our self before God and His infinite mercy.
So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Recently, I spoke to a wise elder friend of 25 years, whose business advise I admire greatly. He simply stated, “When we stop praying about our decisions and take our eyes off of our Savior, we make bad decisions for all the wrong reasons.” This is wise advice indeed.
JMJ, pray for us.
God is good!