How Many Times Will It Take?
Building Bridges #4
“How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
I really didn’t want to give this man another chance. I had repeatedly been lied to and deliberately deceived, in a professional, public setting no less. In working on a proposal, whenever working with this particular man, almost everything this man said whenever asked, inevitably turned out to be a lie, usually improvised on the spot. I had grown accustomed to my BS detector maxing out every time he opened his mouth.
My team and I even tried to help the guy save some face on the project by saying: “I know things are going to go wrong, things aren’t always going to work out according to plan. Just man up and tell me before I find out after the fact. Don’t lie to me. Please treat myself, our team members, and yourself with some respect.” Absolutely nothing I said or did made any difference, until one day.
I had known the man was overworked as a property manager, but didn’t think much of it. We’re all overworked as a tough economy is turned into a mean economy every day by uncaring corporations, managers, and employers. I expected him to be organized, He wasn’t. I expected him to be on time, he wasn’t. I expected him to be prepared, he wasn’t. I expected him to do what he said he would do, he didn’t. I expected him to be professional, he wasn’t. After putting in several hundred hours of my own time on this particular project, I thought, “The least he could do was show up prepared”. I expected him to get the right proposal out to the right vendors, he didn’t. The vendors which weren’t selected were rightfully upset.
Finally, after another meeting, which this gentleman didn’t attend, and for which he did nothing he was contracted to do, I went, completely frustrated, to where I should have gone in the first place: contemplation. The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant immediately came to mind. I was humiliated, while in contemplation, all of my failures and missteps as I had progressed through my career, immediately came to mind as my conscience was pricked.
I realized that previously on other teams, on other projects, the project managers allowed me to fail, make mistakes and take some missteps, but they never called me out publicly, nor humiliated me. They took the time to show me where my projections were incorrect, or a better methodology could be applied. They allowed me the freedom to make mistakes so I would learn. And, learn, I did. My first professional lesson 23 years ago, was particularly stinging: I didn’t have to make someone else look bad, in order to look good. I wasn’t trying to look good, but I was trying to come in on time and within budget, and was unhappily picking up the slack.
Unfortunately, now that I was the project manager, I was not extending the same grace to this man whom had lied & deceived me so many times, that had been extended to me. Realizing, I then went to the man who had lied to me so many times this year on this project. I started the conversation with “How are things going?”. I then found out, to my astonishment, the extent to which he was overworked: 5000 units for one property manager, 20 different properties and he was also being treated for and suffering from chest pain. I was doubly crushed and humbled. I hadn’t bothered to find out, until now. Recovering from my own heart attack and 3 shiny new stents, I understood stress, work, overwork, and frustration.
The man was amazed that I actually cared about him as a person. I immediately apologized to him. From that day on, he never lied to me again, and we enjoy a good working relationship to this day. I learned that in projecting my own high expectations of myself on to others is never a good idea. Someone else’s effort, may just be their best shot, accept it while being encouraging. Effort does count for a great deal. In digging deeper, I also learned that I really need to extend grace to others in all parts of my life, not just in my personal life. It is a given, and guaranteed, that I will need that same grace from others, on a daily basis, at home, at work, with my friends, wherever, in all areas of my life.
How many times will it take till we get it right? How many times are we to forgive? As many times as it takes.