We face delays every day in the working world. The Internet goes down just as the web meeting is about to start. The copier breaks just as it’s printing handouts for that big presentation.
Delays force us to wait, and we don’t like waiting.
When we are forced to wait, we are reminded that we are not in control. We are reminded that our plans are not the ultimate plans. We are reminded that we can’t always have our way.
How do you respond when you have to wait at work? How do you deal with that guy—you know who I’m talking about—who is always late? If a project fails because a colleague causes a major delay, the other team members are likely to be pretty angry and frustrated with him.
Patience is one of the attributes of love, and in 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul tells us that love is patient. We are called to love our neighbors, and that includes our colleagues. It even includes that guy who is always late.
Impatience ≠ Urgency
How do we balance patience with productivity, diligence, and accountability?
We should be careful not to confuse the ideas of impatience and urgency. The Bible clearly distinguishes these ideas, and we are called to stand in the balance of them.
Many passages in scripture indicate we are to be patient with one another. Other passages indicate we are to be diligent and move with a sense of urgency. Passages falling under both these categories include Romans 2:7, Romans 8:25, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 4:2, and many others.
Patience is the ability to tolerate delay without getting angry or upset. Patience is a state of peace in the heart. Knowing God is in control, we are free to love with patience.
Impatience is an inability to wait without getting angry or upset. When we’re impatient, we’re focused on ourselves. We’ve lost sight of that fact that God is in control.
Urgency, on the other hand, is an indication of importance that requires swift or timely action. Urgency is not a state of the heart, but a state of the facts. If an airline pilot encounters an equipment failure mid-flight, he must act with urgency to land safely. If a company must generate a certain amount of revenue each month to meet the needs of its clients, the sales team must act with urgency to close deals.
A healthy sense of urgency is a key contributor to success in every business. The Bible commends this sort of urgency by calling us to be diligent and excellent in all we do. Proverbs 21:5 says,
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
It’s our responsibility to understand the difference between urgency and impatience. We should pursue our work with urgency and expect others to do the same.
At the same time, we should be patient with our colleagues. When there is a delay, we should empathetically—and lovingly—work to understand the problems and then help to resolve them.
Practicing Patience at Work
Our sin and brokenness prevents us from experiencing a perfectly harmonious balance of patience and urgency. Yet we are called to pursue it as much as we can—for God’s glory and for the good of those around us.
Here are three things you can do to demonstrate patience with your colleagues:
- Be empathetic. When there are delays, listen patiently and without judgment so you can understand the causes.
- Bring perspective. In his helpful pamphlet, Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles Hummel reminds us that important things are not always urgent things.
- Offer to help. Pitching in and helping can be the best way to show patience in the face of delays. Yes, it is a sacrifice of time, but it will go a long way toward building trust in the relationship.
Even with the harsh realities of the workplace, we are called to love with a genuine love. Ultimately, Jesus showed us how to love. We can’t love perfectly as he did, but we can follow him and learn his moves.
Editor’s note: Loving your neighbor at work flows from understanding your calling and purpose at work. Check out How Then Should We Work? by IFWE executive director Hugh Whelchel.
Would you prayerfully consider being a part of IFWE’s outreach to Christians in the workplace by making a gift online today?
On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on June 30, 2014.