Do you sometimes at work behave in ways that you later regret, thinking ‘where did that come from’? Is it not true that it is more common to hear unforgiving and unsympathetic remarks about others than forgiving and sympathetic? Are we not often caught up in a spiral of negativity and faultfinding out of our own sense of frustration with life in general? Is it not much easier to join the choir of condemnation of a perceived culprit than it is to reflect on one’s own responsibility and to approach someone personally for better understanding?

No doubt, if we don’t deliberately direct our thoughts to what is responsible, constructive and uplifting, we will contaminate more and more areas of our lives and end up as people in constant battle with life itself.

How to direct your thoughts to what is uplifting

Firstly, stop and fully appreciate that you are in need of forgiveness and mercy – you have been, and you always will be. Surely, no-one will dispute that they sometimes hurt others out of anger or by living selfishly, and that they can’t predict that they will never do so in the future?

Secondly, to be open to mercy is to be open to life; to resist it, is to fight life. When mercy is offered to you, be still and accept it wholly.

Thirdly, the more you show mercy to others, the less you feel the need to protect and defend yourself, the more content you become.

Fourthly, by being merciful you are not ignoring what is wrong and what needs to improve, you are becoming instrumental in transforming hearts. It is not uplifting to turn a blind eye to injustices, laziness or corrupt and unethical behaviour. However, it is also not uplifting to simply shout accusations from a distance. To be merciful is to deal with, or at least attempt to deal with the truth – good and bad – but to do so in the knowledge that we all are fundamentally vulnerable to the dark side of life.

How to be merciful

Be patient. At work, in particular, we are stressed and often under pressure. Impatience easily creeps in. Recognise your own impatience, acknowledge it, and then consciously let your merciful heart dictate your behaviour. It is human to feel irritated by others’ demeanor from time to time. And so of course will others be irritated by ours. We show mercy by being patient with the irritating things we see in others.

Help others. Life is not easy. We all need help from time to time. To offer your help is to show mercy.

Be forgiving and return bitterness with kindness. When we are hurt by others, the worst in us tends to come out. We retaliate with more hurtful words or we sabotage the person in all sorts of devious ways. But, it is also an opportunity for the best in us to come out. To return bitterness or cruelty with kindness is to be merciful and to break the cycle of hurt and vengeance.

Reach out to the marginalised. It is one thing to have your buddies at work, to support them and to be loyal to them. The fact that you receive the same support, friendliness and loyalty from them, makes it easy to sustain the relationships and show acts of mercy. It is a different matter with unpopular people. There is nothing to gain by walking over to them and start a conversation. Or is there? One out-of-the-ordinary conversation with a marginalised person (for whatever reason), can lift a heart to unknown heights of self-worth and self-respect.

Value relationships over rules. The rules we create are often misused to serve our own interests. If I suffer from a lack of attention and recognition, I can always use the rules to get into the good books of the higher authorities. Moreover, by aligning myself with the authorities and their rules, I can create my own world of security and moral ‘higher ground’. I am then a small step away from becoming a merciless person who is bound to defend the little world I created for myself by pointing out even the slightest missteps of other people. If we replace relationships with their often mysterious, challenging but life-giving dynamics, we kill our heart’s desire.

‘Workplace cultures’ is not a small matter. Most people spend most of their time in them. We are influenced by them, but we can also influence them for the better by being merciful.

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg