Tough Love & Mercy

Many times in workplaces people are treated as interchangeable & disposable.  This is an unhealthy practice.  Maybe the employees you’ve chosen don’t exactly meet the standards you expect.  The resulting frustration is understandable.  After all, this is your business, your livelihood, & it’s how you provide for your family & others.
If you can remember when you were younger, you probably weren’t the most desirable employee either.  In fact, in my case, I would’ve fired myself many times over & in some cases, even pressed charges against myself.  I was that bad!  This wasn’t always true.  When I started in the work force at 14 years old as a busboy I was the best!  I’m not making this up.  I was really good.  I worked harder than anyone else in the room.  It was my goal to be the best.  I wouldn’t let anyone out work me.  If they stepped up their game, I did more.  I always had the desire to make myself invaluable & impress my superiors.  As the years went by & I took on various jobs, I applied the same work ethic at every occupation.  Amazingly, it created the same favorable results of praise, promotions, & sometimes jealousy among my peers who hadn’t figured out my methods of sheer hard work & focus.
Something happened to me along the way.  I began to allow myself to be influenced by negative influencers & temptations.  It was no ones fault but my own.  Something changed inside of me where I desired to do wrong things & I began to act on them.  Over the course of one particular year, I slowly became someone completely different.  Undesirable, untrustworthy, foolish, & dangerous were some good words to describe me.  I did a lot of stupid things that hurt a lot of good people.  I especially hurt those closest to me.  My family.
I could’ve been arrested for several things but miraculously I wasn’t.  Again, if I was my employer at the time I would’ve no doubt pressed charges on myself.  I’m embarrassed to even admit this as I write.  What saved me & turned my life around was tough love & mercy.  One day my Dad was praying for me.  God spoke to him & told him to go look in my room.  He found the drugs I had been hiding.  He came looking for me in a popular sports bar in our hometown where me & my friends would go for wings.  I lied about where I was going.  I told my parents I was going to a friend’s house to study.  I got high instead & ended up at Sharky’s.  My friends saw him & said, “David, your Dad’s here.”  I thought they were kidding, but the look on their faces said otherwise.  I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach & all of a sudden I sobered up real fast!  The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as he spoke & said, “Let’s go.”  My Dad has a voice somewhere between Darth Vader & that guy from the Allstate commercials.  That kind of deep voice penetrates the soul.  Not to mention, why would he be here?  How did he find me?!  I explained, “Dad I need to pay for my wings!” as he grabbed me up out of the chair.  His response, “Your friends can pay for your food.”  I asked him, “What’s happening?!”  He didn’t answer, but somehow I knew.  We drove the whole way home in complete silence.  
We walked into the living room of our home where my family was waiting & my Mom was crying.  There they were.  Right on the coffee table were my drugs.  To make a long story short, my Dad sent me to my sister’s room which was right next to theirs & told me to pray.  He said, “Pray to God for mercy because I am taking you to the police station tomorrow morning.”  That night I knew I was guilty, but I prayed & pleaded for mercy.  I hadn’t prayed in a really long time.  The next day, he turned me in.  That night I truly believe my life was spared because two days later I had plans to try heroine for the first time.  This moment was a turning point.  This was a pivotal moment that turned my life toward a course of salvation & the pursuit of more than what I had been living & settling for.  Not only did I do drugs.  I stole to support my habit.  I lied to everyone including myself.  I played the hypocrite at church.  I acted out a lot of other destructive sinful behaviors.  That night it all stopped.  I knew I should’ve been arrested & tried.  I had enough possession to put me away for 5 years.  Instead, I walked out of the station without any paperwork to my name!  The only consequence was that the officer trusted my Dad to do the right thing & make sure I stayed out of trouble.
I had been given a great gift that day.  Mercy.  I had been shown mercy.  My life had been ransomed by tough love by my earthy father, one really scary police officer, & an answered prayer for mercy on my life from my Heavenly Father.  Had that day never happened, I wouldn’t be a Chick-fil-A owner-operator today.  The rule states that you can have no federal criminal charges in order to be a franchisee of a Chick-fil-A.  I should’ve gone to jail.  I didn’t.  I had been given a gift that changed the course of my life & my own families’ life forever. 
Remember back.  Maybe once you weren’t so great either.  No one deserves mercy that’s committed an offense, but it’s the greatest gift you could give someone.  By mercy, many lives that are mediocre or worse have been ransomed & transformed into something greater than what they could ever be otherwise.  We practice this daily in our business.  Many people have never had anyone care enough to show them or explain to them that they have flaws & that they need to change.   Instead they are written off & let go.  Don’t get me wrong.  Some offenses need to be dealt with swiftly & letting the team member go is mercy in that instant.  But many times, there’s no warnings, no teaching moments, & no coaching.  It’s just expectations without being shown how to get there & do better.
In my business, we practice patience & show mercy when needed.  We give opportunity to do better & grow.  No one is disposable.  Tough love & mercy is the refiners fire that purifies the gold.  Some of our best leaders have emerged from being mediocre team members because of tough love & mercy.  I want to challenge you to be the kind of person like my Dad.  Be willing to tell someone what no one else has the guts to tell them.  I discovered that many have never received this kind of love because no one cares for them enough to tell them they need to change.  They won’t like it when they hear it & they definitely won’t like it if you have to show them discipline to bring about a positive change in their behavior, but they will thank you for the rest of their lives if they stick around long enough to reap the rewards of the change.  Maybe you’re frustrated & disappointed with your team.  I want to challenge you to see that you may have the right candidates & the best employees right in front of you!  It’s easy to write them off & it’s easy to move on & look for their replacements.  Many employers are always complaining that there’s a shortage of good people in the work force.  Maybe it’s not true.  Maybe there are hidden gems waiting to be cleaned off & polished up right in our midst.  
Are we willing to get ourselves dirty?  Are we willing to have the grit to show tough love just like my Dad did for me?  It hurts.  It’s painful & it’s beyond our selfish nature to go above & beyond for someone else.  But I’m thankful someone did it for me.  Mercy, applied at the proper time can ransom a lost soul & create the exact someone you’ve been looking for all along.  Not only will you set someone free to live their fullest potential but you will also discover mercy & freedom yourself.
“Blessed are the merciful, 
For they shall obtain mercy.”
-Matthew 5:7 (NKJV)
“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”
-Proverbs 16:6 (KJV)