It has been a tough week- one that has challenged my belief in the innate goodness of my fellow human beings. On Monday I witnessed a theft in my office building, Tuesday found me driving across town to assist my 22 year old son after someone had siphoned all of the gas from his car, and yesterday I had the misfortune of being the recipient of a colleagues ‘strategic business decision’ that amounted to nothing more than simple greed.
Three very unsavory occurrences, but one of them in particular has really rattled me to my core. Which one? Well, it’s not the thief who stole my co-worker’s purse, or even the other thief who siphoned a tank of gas from my son. The person who shook me the most is the one that made a slick business move yesterday afternoon, and likely enjoyed a gourmet dinner out last night never giving our interaction another thought.
He is not a criminal or a thief…he is what is known as a ‘shrewd businessman’. He is someone who could have given a small courtesy to me, but instead he chose to take – simply because he could. Why has this impacted me so much? Because we live in a world that worships this type of business mentality – and it is filling our pockets, but bankrupting our souls.
This is an individual I have done an extensive amount of business with. I have paid him many thousands of dollars for his expertise, and I have never had any complaint about him. I never balked at the fees that he charged, never once asked for a discount, and I was never late with a payment.
Yesterday what I needed from him was a simple permission. I was not asking for something that required any time or attention. I was not asking for anything that would create a deficit for him in any way. I simply needed a verbal permission. He responded to my inquiry with the crisp verbiage of a businessman. Without missing a beat, he quoted a two-part fee structure that would allow me to purchase his ‘permission’ when it was something that should have been freely given. He was so blinded by the bright shiny glare of a business opportunity, that it eclipsed the rather ordinary glint of a simple courtesy that could have been extended to another human being.
We live in a business climate that hypnotizes us to believe that if we CAN take something from someone else, WE SHOULD. We are taught that this is how we get ahead…this is how we succeed. Too many have been sold on the story that being skillful at taking from others is the way to become ‘shrewd’ in business. My colleague may have full pockets, but the wealth he is building has no value at all. Perhaps someday his mantra of ‘Take, Take, Take,” will grow quiet and he will hear the whisper that tells him- kindness is the only commerce that has value in the end.