My hands were shaking, and my heart was pounding. I was an hour away from giving a presentation to my boss, a man who was well known around the company for having a terrible temper when he heard bad news.
As a marketing consultant who'd been working for two months to identify what was being done well – and poorly – at the company, I actually had quite a bit of bad news to share.
Two months prior, I'd sought out this owner & CEO and asked if I could intern in his company, and he had agreed. So for two months I investigated every aspect of the organization. The other staff members were gracious and welcoming, and I felt confident and appreciated as I went about my work.
Several weeks into my new job, though, staff members began to question the wisdom of giving this man negative feedback. "He has a terrible temper, and he'll probably fire you," was the frequent comment. Undeterred, I went about my work. I had a job to do, and I was going to do it as best I could.
The day of my presentation, though, the gravity of what I was about to do hit me. Never before in a professional environment had I felt so inexperienced and so scared. Who was I to tell this entrepreneur and hugely successful man that his company needed serious improvement?
So, as I do when I'm in trouble, I turned my thoughts to God in prayer. I quickly affirmed that God was present with me and with this man, and that nothing could disturb the atmosphere of harmony. God had opened the way for me to be in this job, so He would show me how to perform it gracefully.
As I prayed, the thought came to see this man's Christliness. By this I mean his compassion, kindness, meekness, love, and receptivity – qualities that Jesus so fully expressed. I began to think about all the good qualities I'd seen my boss embody. He was incredibly dedicated and committed. He worked hard and was generous with the budget. He had a great eye for detail and was an inspiring leader.
These thoughts began to calm me down. I also prayed that he could, in turn, see only the good qualities in me. My memory was jogged by part of a poem that I looked up later. It's by A. E. Hamilton, and is quoted in Mary Baker Eddy's autobiography "Retrospection and Introspection." It reads:
Ask God to give thee skill
In comfort's art....
For heavy is the weight of ill
In every heart;
And comforters are needed much
Of Christlike touch.
I felt the burden of my presentation melting away after remembering these words. Instead of fearing a potential confrontation, I rejoiced that I could be a comforter – by exhibiting goodness, kindness, and integrity. And, I could bear active witness to the Christliness I claimed – and knew – was present in that workplace.
Well, the presentation, scheduled to take 30 minutes, lasted 90 minutes because he asked so many questions. He was gracious and receptive, and he wanted my opinion on many aspects of the business. At the end of our session, he congratulated me on a job well done and offered to extend my contract.
The best part was not that my contract was extended, although that was a happy bonus. What I'm most grateful for is the lesson I learned to see the Christliness in others – and to know that we are not stuck in an intractable situation; meekness and receptivity will show us the way forward.