Breadbox Media

110 Suffering for Good

May 3, 2020

We all have role models. Some are good and some are not so good. We need good examples to follow and we should be a good example to others. In this episode of By Your Life, we talk about the model that Jesus gave us to follow and why it is good for business.

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 3, 2020

Happy Easter and welcome to the one hundred and tenth episode of By Your Life. I’m Lisa Huetteman and as businesses are beginning to open up again throughout the country, I know that you have a hundred different things you could be doing right now, so I thank you for choosing By Your Life.

My goal is to inspire, empower, support, challenge, and encourage you to connect Sunday, with Monday-Friday, in a secular business world. It’s my desire to help you live our Catholic faith in the marketplace. I hope to offer you practical ways to go forth and glorify the Lord by your life.

In this edition, we’ll reflect on the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter. Three things to take away from this week’s readings:

  • Jesus teaches us how to be leaders.
  • Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything he didn’t do.
  • Everything Jesus does and teaches is for our good, not his.

This week, I participated in a webinar hosted by Patrick Lencioni and the Amazing Parish organization. The target audience was primarily pastors and those employed by Catholic parishes, but because I’m interested in the intersection of Catholic and leadership and I like Patrick Lencioni as a leadership author and coach, I listened in.

After being introduced as a successful leadership guru in the secular world who was bringing his expertise to Catholic parishes, Patrick Lencioni made an important clarification. He said, “I’m not bringing my secular knowledge to Catholic parishes. Jesus taught us how to be leaders. Everything I do in the secular world is biblically-based.” He went on to say that every pastor must be a leader, every CEO must be a leader, and you cannot lead without having a strong personal relationship with the people you lead.

Jesus teaches us how to be leaders

You don’t have to go any further than this Sunday’s Gospel to find a biblical source for this principle. Jesus said, “The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger.” (Jn 10:3-5) He calls his own sheep by name. He knows them. He leads and they follow, but they will not follow a stranger. They recognize his voice. They know him. The sheep and the shepherd have a strong personal relationship. They know each other.

How well do you know that people who work for you? Do you know their spouse and kids’ names? Do you know what their troubles are, and do you pray for them? Do they know you? Do they know your spouse and kids’ names? Do they know what you enjoy doing outside of work? Do they know what your priorities are at work? Do you have each other’s back?

I’m sure that the answers to these questions vary by person. With some people, we do have a strong personal relationship and with others we don’t. Some people are just “easier” than others. But, if you are creating a culture of teamwork, it is essential for everyone to be a part of it.

I was working with a team that had created a toxic culture within their workgroup that was not only disruptive to their work, it was spilling out to other departments that had to interact with them. I worked with them as a team and individually. When I met with one of the members of the group, I asked him how his weekend had been. He told me he was a little sore because he had been painting the nursery in his house. So, I congratulated him on expecting his first child. Later that day, I was meeting with another team member and in casual conversation mentioned something about the baby. She said to me with a slight tone of anger, “I didn’t know he was expecting a baby. Who told you that?” I responded that we had just been chatting about his weekend and he told me. Then, a little angrier this time, she said, “He never told me he was expecting a baby.” She was obviously perturbed that she had been excluded. So, I asked her if she ever showed interest in him and asked him about his weekend. She hadn’t. Now, I don’t know if the lack of personal relationships was the cause or a symptom of the toxic culture in their workgroup, but I do know that one place to start to make a change for the better was for them to show interest in each other as people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that your workplace becomes a counseling center or that everyone has to share intimate secrets. What I am saying is that we are whole people. Our personal lives do not end where our work lives begin. If I didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night because I was worried about a sick child, I’m not going to be as productive at work today as I normally would. If I have financial, physical, emotional, or social problems in my personal life, they will occupy my mind at work. Being aware that something isn’t right with a co-worker, offering to help, perhaps not with the problem but with the work that is being impacted, and just as importantly celebrating their life’s little successes are the Christian thing to do. It is called loving your neighbor who happens to be in the cubicle next to you.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything he didn’t do

In our second reading, St. Peter wrote in his first letter that Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. (1 Pet 2:21) In current business terms, we might say, “Never ask your employees to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.” or “Lead by example.”

I read an article recently in Authority Magazine that was an interview with Tony Cole, the Chief Technology Officer at California-based Attivo Networks. Tony learned a lot about leadership during his career in the military and in the interview, he shared military leadership lessons for business. Lesson #3 was “Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do or haven’t already done.” He told a great story about a leader in the Army that was trying to get a soldier who was late for everything back on track. Besides this bad habit, the soldier was outstanding. To cure the soldier of his tardiness, he was ordered to be out and in proper duty uniform during Reveille every day for an entire month. The leader was also there saluting the flag every morning. The soldier respected that his leader shared his punishment and as a result, it truly was a learning experience that led to his fine career in the Army.

Unlike the military, for most of us, leading by example does not involve risking our lives for our fellow workers, but it certainly involves self-sacrifice. It means you are there if your team is working late or over the weekend to meet a deadline. It means you pick up trash on the floor when you see it. It means you are vulnerable and acknowledge your weaknesses. It means you honor your company’s core values even when there is a financial cost. It means that when you’ve violated those core values, you humbly acknowledge it and make it right. And, as Tony Cole said, “When things go wrong, it’s your fault and no one else should ever take the blame. One of your jobs as a leader is to take any hits for your team.” If you do, you’ll build loyalty, and loyalty builds teams.

No one took the hit for the team in a greater way than Jesus. “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.” (1 Pet 2:24) He didn’t do it for himself. He did it for us. He had nothing to gain except our salvation. He did it because he is love itself.

Imitating his example requires you to be “patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.” (1 Pet 2:20) It is easy to do good when you are rewarded for it. It is easier to suffer consequences when you did something wrong. But suffering patiently for doing what is good? How do you do that?

You’ve likely experienced the person who you were kind to, helped in a difficult situation, or went out on a limb to support, and instead of gratitude, you received indifference, or worse, hostility or abuse. Responding as Christ taught defies common logic. Instead of answering in kind, we are called to accept the hatred and suffer for doing what is good. “This is a grace before God.” (1 Pet 2:20)

I know a CEO who financially assisted an employee to help him out of a tough spot, only to have the employee turn around and steal from him. What impressed me the most about this CEO was that even though he had to deal with the issue of the theft, he said he if he had to do it over again, he still would have helped the employee out because that was the right thing to do. He didn’t allow this employee’s bad behavior sour his love for neighbor. This is a grace that comes from God.

So, we would never be like this employee, would we? I mean, would we ever turn on the person who extended us kindness, instead of responding with gratitude? Every time we sin and it doesn’t cut [us] to the heart (Acts 2:37) and we don’t repent, we are turning on the one who “bore our sins in his body upon the cross.” (1 Pet 2:24) Knowing this truth about ourselves, knowing that we are guilty of failing to respond with gratitude, may help us to find the compassion for others who do it to us.

Everything Jesus does and teaches is for our benefit

This is hard teaching to put into practice. I get it. Suffering for doing something good isn’t easy. It doesn’t make sense. It certainly isn’t commonplace. We live in a world where fighting back is the default position, not the last resort. Suffering for good is countercultural.

So is Christianity. Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who maltreat you. Living a Christian life is hard. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, and it certainly isn’t common in the marketplace. Businesses are subject to the to the laws of economics, but those laws are not mutually exclusive to living according to the laws of Christ. Jesus taught us to love, and according to St. Thomas Aquinas, to love is willing the good of another, and that is a choice. That is choosing self-less giving. When businesses seek what is good for their employees and their customers, it is inevitably good for business.

Just remember, everything Jesus does and teaches is for our good. He said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) A Christian life is a more abundant life, at home, at work, and for eternity.

So, let’s pray for the grace to follow Jesus’ example and suffer for others as he suffered for us.

God our Father, thank you for the abundant grace you freely give us. Help us to follow your Son, to overcome our self-interest and to patiently suffer for what is good. We know that your grace is enough. Amen.

May God bless you abundantly with his grace this week and may you glorify the Lord by your life.

If you liked this episode, spread the word. You know what to do, forward, share, or click to post. Also, check out the Resources page where you can find a link to the books and other resources mentioned in other episodes of By Your Life. I’m always interested in what you think, so give me some feedback by leaving a comment.