Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Long Road

If the conflicts that we find ourselves engaged in are not truly business conflicts, but human ones, then that necessarily changes the way that we must handle them. Specifically, it requires that we take the long road.

Business dealings are easy. Transactional realities are easy. It's the short road. If the service, product, offering, whatever does not live up to your standards in some way, then you simply take your business elsewhere. Sometimes, you demand that you be given your money back first, so that you are able to invest it in actually receiving what you thought you were getting in the first place or whatever seems to suit your need better than what you weren't satisfied with, but there's not a lot to it. You just cut and run.

You can't cut and run when the trouble is human, when you see beyond the transactional and recognize what is relational in the situation at hand. Because even when they are employed by an organization, by a business, humans are not business-wired. There's something in us that makes it personal, no matter how hard we try not to.

In this case, that meant sticking with it. Sticking with him. Sticking, actually, with them, because there were actually two human beings deeply involved in the situation from the other side of it. And they were invested. 

So we had to take the long road.

We had to take the long road that said that as long as these two men were willing to continue working at it, as long as they asked for the opportunity to make it right, as long as they were showing due diligence in taking new steps and trying again, then I needed to give them that opportunity. It was ridiculously inconvenient. It took a huge emotional investment from me. It required a major sacrifice on my part, one that was eating away slowly at whatever good measure of heart I had left...particularly as it dragged into its second month. Yes, that's right - the long road took more than two full months when the best road should have taken just a few days.

It took two full months and a good bit of forgiveness, too, for there were mistakes made along the way. Mistakes that, really, should not have been made, but remember - we're talking about human beings here, not businesses. We're talking about actual men made in the image of God and fallen, no longer perfect but still sacred. We're talking about judgment calls and communication errors and all the other little things that plague us all.

And I have to be honest and say that there were not a lot of persons in my world who could understand why I was sticking with them after even two weeks, let alone after two months. All I can say to that is that I knew what it would feel like if I didn't.

Imagine that you're working on a project, a project that is such a passion for you that it's more of an art than a science, even though you know that the recipient of that art expects more of a science. To them, it seems cut-and-dried; to you, it's the building of a masterpiece. And suppose that you do your very best to make sure that every single detail is perfectly right, just the way that you want it, just the way that it seems, to your trained eye, that it ought to be. And then suppose the recipient isn't satisfied. It's not at all what they wanted, not what they expected, not what they thought they commissioned from you.

Now, imagine that the person who received your piece of art doesn't give you the chance to rework it. They just take it and tell you they're going somewhere else with it. They're going to get someone else to "do it right." You're crushed, as you should be. This was your art, and not only was it rejected, but it's about to be taken away from your hand and given into someone else's. That hurts.

Worse yet, imagine that you make things for a living, that you specialize in making things that perform certain functions. And you work very hard to make sure that your final product does what it is supposed to do, but your client calls you back and says it doesn't work. At all. Not a single bit. And then, instead of letting you fix it, instead of letting you try again, instead of letting you even inspect your work to find your error so that maybe you don't make the same mistake the next time, they just take it away and take it to a maker down the street who can "do it right." You're not only crushed; you're discouraged. Now, you're questioning your entire skill. You're questioning your entire work and your ability to do it. 

The hearts of the makers in our world, the hearts of our artists - even if they work in factories - don't sound like business dealings to me. They sound like human ones. 

Because you're not just telling a business that they didn't do a good job. You're not just telling an organization that they failed you. You're not just swapping money back and forth, from one hand to another, and asking for it back because you're disappointed. You're doing the disappointing. You're telling a man or a woman that they failed, that they didn't do their job, that they didn't live up to your expectations. You're not just leaving a Yelp review; you're etching a performance review on the heart of the artist at work, and that's serious stuff. 

And if you think it's not, think about the last time someone said you weren't good at your job. I'm willing to bet that no matter what your job is, it felt personal. Right? 

It's always personal. There is no such thing in our world as business transaction; it's all personal. At the end of every line, somewhere, there is a real human being whose real human heart is at stake. 

That's why we have to take the long road, even if it's not the easy one. It's why we take the long road, even when it's not the convenient one. It's why we take the long road, even if it takes two months. Because if the human being on the other end of the deal wants a chance to make it right, or a second chance, or a third chance, or a fifteenth chance, we need to give it to him. Lest we risk branding the heart of the maker forever with a single moment of failure.

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