Breaking Gracelessness in Commerce

Breaking_Gracelessness_in_Commerceby Alan Louis, PhD in Commerce

Considering the Matter

One day, while travelling in the car with my father in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, he reminisced about the good old days when he was eighty (sorry Dad, but you still look young to me!) back at a time when he only needed to look at a fly, and the “irritating insect” would pass out. He then expressed his utter frustration, saying: “Today you cannot merely use Doom (poisonous gas) to kill the fly. Now you have to smack it, jump on it and then beat it with a broom.”

I was amused to hear my usually reserved father express his passion to such a degree, but I have to admit feeling exactly the same way about the inner uncaring workings of the marketplace. It is much like an irritating fly, and in this case poisonous gas ain’t going to kill it, which means we need a much more powerful weapon to destroy the prevailing gracelessness in commerce.

The word ‘gracelessness’ is hard on the tongue (and hard on the emotions), but its meaning is simply to express no sense of politeness or decency.

Does the Christian emphasis on grace or kindness have any relevance in a dog-eat-dog world of commerce where force and gracelessness prevail? Yes, it most certainly does, and although I can present many arguments, here is just one valid reason why.

Breaking Gracelessness with Forgiveness

In 1990 the world watched a drama of forgiveness enacted on the stage of world politics. After East Germany chose a parliament in its first free elections, their first official act was to unanimously adopt the following position:

 “We, the first freely elected parliamentarians of the GDR…. on behalf of the citizens of this land, admit responsibility for the humiliation, expulsion and murder of Jewish men, women and children. We feel sorrow and shame, and acknowledge this burden of German history.… Immeasurable suffering was inflicted on the peoples of the world during the era of national socialism.…. We ask all the Jews of the world to forgive us. We ask the people of Israel to forgive us for the hypocrisy and hostility of official East German policies toward Israel and for the persecution and humiliation of Jewish citizens in our country after 1945 as well.”

In a similar world drama of forgiveness, the late South African Statesman Nelson Mandela emerged from nearly twenty-seven years of imprisonment with an unexpected and hopeful message of forgiveness and reconciliation, rather than demanding revenge.

These two powerful world events teach us unequivocally that the chains of gracelessness can indeed snap, and will break in commerce, but the fracturing process begins with acts of forgiveness. If grace holds such incredible power in politics, it will change the world, also wielding power in the marketplace. The fact that a diplomatic relationship exists at all between Germany and Israel; and that peaceful elections took place in South Africa when apartheid was dismantled, are stunning demonstrations of the power of grace and its counterpart, forgiveness.

Colossians 3:13 explains the work of forgiveness and reconciliation this way: “[Bear] with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

I don’t believe secular sources like dictionaries can adequately define the multifaceted term we call ‘forgiveness’, because I believe it is supernatural in nature. And because of its complexity it requires divine guidance and empowerment, simply to go against our human nature to make it happen.

We have many world changing events stirred by reconciliatory acts which teach us valuable lessons about the fruit of grace and forgiveness: not only are friendships made or restored and relationships healed, but we also avoid the awful consequences of the alternative, gracelessness.

Economic Poison of Unforgiveness

We just need to consider the actions of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president for over thirty years, to understand the consequences of harnessing the power of gracelessness – 80% unemployment, 231 million per cent peak hyperinflation in 2008, widespread murder and the collapse of the rule of law.

You merely need to visit Harare International Airport to witness for yourself the ramifications of the polluted fumes of gracelessness on individuals – devastating dejection and the complete loss of self-worth that has decimated an entire culture.

Physical Poison of Unforgiveness

Christian evangelist John Hagee once said: “When you forgive someone, you totally free yourself from the person’s power to control you.” Similarly, Joyce Meyer says: “Un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping someone else would die.”

These are tough words but they help us understand that forgiveness not only fractures gracelessness, but it also has the redeeming quality of un-poisoning and restoring our lives.

In physical terms such ‘un-poisoning’ is associated with a lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as relieving stress. It is also associated with alleviating physical symptoms, reducing fatigue and improving the quality of restorative sleep. In the psychological realm, forgiveness is associated with lower stress, while simultaneously restoring positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours (as illustrated by psychologist Randy Kamen Gredinger in her blog: ‘The Power of Forgiveness’, in Huffpost 20 July 2013).

The Bridge of Forgiveness

George Herbert gave one of the most powerful arguments in favour of forgiveness when he made this statement: “He that cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.”

So urgent is the need for forgiveness that Jesus repeatedly gave it precedence over mere religious duties: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

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13 Responses to Breaking Gracelessness in Commerce

  1. Victoria says:

    I agree with Joyce Meyer that unforgiveness is precisely like drinking poison while hoping the other person dies. It’s so toxic that it must be the reason for many, many deaths around the world. People that never learn to forgive or keep holding grudges are dying because they get sick as a result of “drinking the poison”. Whenever I find myself holding a grudge I immediately try to solve this. Sometimes I will go talk to that person and explain that something they said/done has hurt me and try to make end this quarrel. Other times I just pray to God and ask him to give me the power to forgive that person and soon enough, I am able to do it.

  2. Dan says:

    Forgiveness is something that people think they do for others, when in fact, it is for their own good. Many people become bitter from not doing it and it actually causes disease to manifest in the body. God told us to forgive and Jesus taught forgiveness, not because someone deserved it, but for their own good will. I enjoyed the post very much.

  3. Jeff B. says:

    I agree. Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It is too bad that there are those out in the world that believe it is for them. There is a slight arrogance when it comes to that.

  4. Sebastian says:

    I like how Lincoln used to do things in such cases. When he felt angry about someone (and most of the times he was right in feeling this way) he never confronted that person. He always took a pen and paper and wrote a letter to that person, describing everything he was upset about. And then… he would put it in his desk drawer and never send it. This had the role of “deleting” the bad thoughts from his mind and help him forgive that person. I always try to do the same and it helps me calm down and forgive others faster.

    • Language of Commerce says:

      Thank you Sebastian, I recall this incident and a good reminder.

    • Bradley Demand says:

      This is a very common practice for those that are fighting anger issues. It can also be used to overcome nervousness or anxiety in conversation.

  5. Mark Woodhouse says:

    It’s great that you’ve mentioned the importance of forgiveness is the world of commerce. It seems that people have become so consumed with the idea of “cut-throat” strategies and actions, that they’ve forgotten that one of the most effective weapons at your arsenal is the power of forgiveness. Countless times I have seen just how much forgiveness can do towards not only improving your business, but also putting you in good stead with your competition and clients.

  6. Toby Williams says:

    This post is very enlightening. I am in a business class right now and sometimes we talk about things like this. You brought it up very elegantly and if you know anyone starting out in business, this would be my first suggestion!

  7. Lucy Jackson says:

    I believe that Jesus highlighted the importance of forgiveness for a good reason and that we should all strive to forgive all who cross our paths. If not for the other person’s sake, then for your own, as forgiveness can often be the defining factor between making reliable and useful business associates/clients and having non at all!

  8. Michael Webber says:

    It is so hard to practice forgiveness in the economic world that we live in today, but it is fundamental to the success and future of your business. I’ve seen so frequently how being forgiving can benefit both parties involved, even when the situation may have cost me dearly initially. Ultimately, what results from being forgiving is that you are seen as reasonable, worthy of respect and people are far more likely to continue doing business with you in the future. Not to mention, often when you are forgiving people return the favour should you make a blunder!

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