Spiritual Debt-Forgiveness: The how and why of writing off workplace wrongs and moving on.
A friend sits across me at a café. In measured words they recount a detailed account of a wrong they have suffered. I ask clarifying questions, nod my head, and follow along. At some point, I ask when this injury took place. Without missing a beat they say, “oh, ten years ago.” They say this as if I should know. They say this without any awareness that there might be a problem with being so versed in the intricacies of a wrong on which there is a decade-old timestamp.
Forgiveness. Jesus’ guide to prayer—the one I am applying to our work lives—moves to forgiveness. What is forgiveness? Why is it crucial to the workplace? How do we put it in play?
Ask For and Extend Forgiveness
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
After asking for daily bread—our needs for the day, Jesus instructs his students to ask for forgiveness, forgiveness predicated on their own practice of forgiving others. Jesus statement assumes three fundamental realities of life.
1) People will be wronged by each other and thereby be in a position to extend forgiveness.
2) People will offend God and be beholden to his mercy.
3) The capacity of a person to forgive his fellow human being is intricately connected to that person’s forgiven status before God.
Get Ready to Be Hurt
Jesus assumes that people will wrong and hurt each other. And while we should try to avoid unnecessary injury, we should expect some emotional trauma as we bump into each other in our work on this planet. Deception, neglect, condescension, and a caustic level of competition can all be at play in the work world. All of us in some way fall victim to the sins of others. They owe us a deb. We are in a position to forgive. But we are not just on the plaintiff side of the courtroom.
Get Ready to Face the Truth
Jesus assumes that we all need God’s forgiveness. Whether in overt actions or covert passivity, whether in the hot pursuit of values or activities that offend God, or in lazy nonchalance towards the matters he holds dear, we have offended God and ruptured faith with him. Perhaps directly in our work we have sinned: sinned in our treatment of others. Sinned in our worship of our customized definitions of success that leave God on the sidelines. In the simplest terms we owe him. This is the hard truth. We are not mere victims. We are also perpetrators. We need forgiveness. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts.”The Powerful Link
“Forgive us as we forgive….” What does the “as” mean? For Jesus (See Matthew 18), Jesus expected his followers to realize that God had forgiven them in extreme ways. As the recipients of this forgiveness he assumed that they will lavishly forgive (Matthew 18) and generously love (Luke 7). Lack of that love and forgiveness in a person’s life raises questions about whether or not they have been forgiven by God. An unforgiving spirit contains such pride as to raise questions about whether or not one has truly understood his/her need for God’s mercy. Building on God’s forgiveness, I can make the choice over and over again to forgive: not to make the perpetrator pay in anyway for what they have done to me.
Forgiven and Forgiving At Work
As work place pressures intensify, misunderstandings, underhanded dealings, and cold hearted calculating may bring the need for forgiveness to the fore. Following Jesus means we live as those who are broken, who are beholden to God’s mercy, who are flawed yet loved. Jesus reminds us to pray in such a way that we move in this humble way of being: “forgive us our debts as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
How About You?
How do Jesus instructions about praying for forgiveness shape your approach to praying about workplace wrongs; both those you’ve committed and those you’ve received.
Prior Posts in This Series:
- Teach US To Pray For Our Work
- Why Prayer for our Work, Works
- The First Request
- Greek Gods and Workplace Prayers
- Daily Bread for Your Day Job
Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gozalewis/9461999187: not modified in anyway: License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode