Lesson 7: Blessed Are The Merciful
Matthew 5.7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Principle #1: There’s variability in everything that’s a result of a multi-step process. There’s even variability within the inputs to that process, e.g., the exact weight distribution of standing or sitting to determine how much pressure is on your lower back.
Principle #2: Any measured result is just as likely to go up as go down from its previous measurement.
Principle #3: Observation changes the result. Even in a mechanical process, the introduction of a measuring tool affects the outcome. More so with people’s behavior. Just by measuring a result, a team can often achieve a 10% improvement because its importance has increased.
I’ve seen executives “scramble the jets,” causing turmoil when one month’s revenue or profits were not as high as the previous month by an insignificant amount. (Insignificant is used with a statistical meaning.) I’ve seen them look for the scapegoat or sacrificial lamb to put on the altar of shareholders or board of directors. The decrease may be as much as 10-15% but still within normal variation of their sales and operations procedures. And so, the “defcon four” level of activity has ignored the principles above. However, when it goes up 10-15%, they congratulate themselves on their excellent leadership even though they haven’t changed an iota of behavior or processes.
We should be quick to forgive a single incident of error or sinning against us. In contrast to the best management theory of not reacting till there’s a pattern of error or an extremely poor result, Christ calls us to be merciful and forgive “seventy times seven” instances, well beyond a statistical control value (and Peter’s seven times for you, Six Sigma and SPC geeks).
This verse also has the sense of helping others who are struggling. In organizations, we don’t win or lose as individuals. We win or lose as a team. I may be the best operations or financial guy in the company or the world, but I alone can’t save the company. I need others in other departments to “up their game” too. One person dropping the ball affects everyone else. We are interconnected. We all need to understand just how interconnected our activities are within the organization. A tweak here indeed affects someone else in another area. One 20th century management guru would say 80% of problems in a company are caused by management: poor education/training of employees, acquisition of bad materials, improper tools, poor alignment of strategic efforts, lack of resources, etc. Later, another management guru said poor management leads to 99% of a company’s problems because causes and effects are not independent but dependent on other efforts. In quality management-speak, a conclusion that the cause was “operator error” should be rare. Corrective actions should predominantly focus on unclear instructions, contradictory goals, inadequate hardware/software, worn tools, product labeling errors, improperly located goods, etc.
…for they shall receive mercy.
In church, we talk about God’s grace as being freely given. Here, there seems to be a condition. Likewise, in the Disciple’s Prayer taught by Christ, we say, “Forgive us…as we forgive others.”
If we are going to continue to blame and shame employees or bosses, it will be much easier for them to reciprocate the blame and shame. Like trustworthiness— be trustworthy first, presume trustworthiness first—let’s commit to extending mercy and compassion first. Let’s focus on the problem or the issue, rather than the person’s worth or behavior. Let’s not judge or condemn. We are called to be like our perfect Father.
There’s also a paradigm of thinking that company success (or other complicated “processes” like parenting) is like carpentry. You follow the plan for building a table, and you get a table. Instead, many of our activities are like gardening. Because not everything is under our control, we may follow the plan and the results may be far different than we expected. In Isaiah 5, God describes how He laid out the best vineyard, took great care of it, expecting wonderful grapes. Describing His children of Israel, He got “worthless ones.” If God the Great Gardener (and Father) cannot raise good people, and so extends great mercy as well as constructive correction/ discipline to all of us, shouldn’t we likewise extend great mercy to ourselves and others?
- Matthew 5.7
- Isaiah 5.1-4
- Matthew 7.1-5, 12
- Matthew 6.12
- Matthew 18.12-35
1. When have you been on the receiving end of blame or shame for an “innocent mistake” or one-time incident? How did it make you feel? How did you react?
2. When have you overreacted to a single incident of another person—verbally, physically, perception of them, reassignment of duties, etc.? How did you make amends?
3. What will you do differently this week?
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Blessed Are the Pure In Heart