Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore
Recently, I overheard a colleague asking her manager about another staff member. He had joined six months ago, but my colleague had not seen him around for a while.
The manager replied, “He has resigned. He was always upset when I tried to correct his mistakes.” I was surprised to hear this because this manager is one of the nicest I have ever met.
The manager’s remarks reminded me of my old attitude toward work. When I first entered the workforce, I was not humble enough to accept corrections. Whenever my manager corrected my mistakes—whether big or small—I became defensive and made all kinds of excuses to justify myself. I was afraid of being viewed as careless and incompetent. Instead of learning from my mistakes, I simply stewed over them.
Unsurprisingly, I never received good reviews and often changed jobs as a result. I was always hoping that a new job would treat me better, but I never changed my own stubborn attitude.
Things finally changed when I came to know God personally through a period of trials in my own life. By reading the Bible, I learned how I should behave as a Christian in the workplace.
I was especially impacted by Philippians 2:14-15, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
As I read the verses, I realized that I was always defensive and argumentative whenever my manager brought up my mistakes. How then could I be blameless and pure? How could I be a child of God without fault when my behavior did not glorify God at all? I became deeply ashamed of my attitude.
On another occasion, I came across Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:12, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” I was reminded again that God values humility. Being defensive when I make mistakes is not an act of humility, and it does not please God. Rather, having a humble and teachable spirit is what pleases God. Because I am a child of God, I should be displaying these God-pleasing character traits at work.
Forgetting the Past, Looking to the Future
So I set out to change my work attitude. At first, I was easily discouraged and often felt inferior to others. My bad attitude had cost me 10 years of work. How many promotions or salary increments have I missed because of it?
But soon I realized that dwelling on my past mistakes did me no good. In order to perform better, I had to move on from the past. I cannot undo any of my mistakes, but I can choose to act positively, learn from them and work better.
I also found strength in the biblical accounts of God’s faithfulness to Israel. Though the Israelites had turned away from God again and again, God never gave up on them. Instead, God told them to forget the past and look to the future (Isaiah 43:18, Joel 2:25). Though I have misspent the past 10 years, I can commit my shameful attitude to God, knowing that God will receive me with mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:15-16).
As I dwelt on God’s goodness, I was reminded to serve in my role with all the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God can be praised through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11). I started doing this daily—asking God for strength to make use of every opportunity to honor and serve Him in my job.
After some time, my manager noticed the change in my attitude. She saw that I was keen to learn and be helpful, so she began to entrust me with new projects and more responsibilities. These became opportunities for me to prove myself. With each opportunity, my responsibilities became more challenging, but I committed my work to God each time.
Some days I felt worried about whether I could cope with the additional workload. I would ask God for help, and He became my source of strength and the reason that I could still smile even under immerse pressure.
At the end of the year, it came time for my appraisal. My manager gave me positive feedback about my work performance and mentioned that she was surprised at my change of attitude. It was the first time after working for almost 10 years that I had a good performance review and a reasonable salary increment.
I have learned to put on a kingdom mindset at work. As children of God, we are more than able to overcome our mistakes. Whenever our bosses point out our mistakes at work, let’s allow their feedback to help us grow so that we can become more competent in our roles, and glorify God through our work.