Regardless of your faith, it can often be hard to remain true to your beliefs while living in a society that doesn't share your desires and values. As a Christian business owner myself, I often struggle with when to chat about my beliefs and when to be careful with what I say so that I don't offend the person or people that I'm talking to. In this article, I explore the conflict that inevitably arises from the juxtaposition of faith and business. Whether you share my faith or not, I aim to make this informative from a neutral perspective while using myself as an example throughout.
This is a tricky article because there are few things that are more divisive in this world than politics and religion. Religion & Faith, while being incredibly divisive, is still an incredibly important part of many people's existence. That's why I've chosen to approach this topic.
This article comes from a perspective of my faith. I am not trying to convert anyone. I'm just coming from my experience and hopefully, whether you share the same faith, you have a different faith, or you think Faith/Religion isn't for you, there's something you can take from this. My belief is, regardless of what you claim as your faith, you have a core set of values and a core set of beliefs that guide everything you do also.
I'm a Christian business owner and honesty is a huge struggle in my business and in the world of marketing. Honesty isn't always viewed as black and white. For me, it is black and white, but here's a thought: how honest do you have to be to get the point across that you are trying to. For example, if I help a client with one page on their website, am I then able to say that they hired me to do web design for them?
The reality is, there is a truth to that statement. I did do some web design for that client. That client didn't have me design their whole site however. They just had me help them with a page and the picture my comment paints is that I was responsible for their entire web design.
Honesty can be very tricky in marketing. Marketing is one of the few professions where you're constantly trying to make yourself look better without getting into the territory of lying. A business may say, "We were voted the best!" but if you actually dig and research it was a competition that the organization actually arranged and they were voted best by themselves. This creates an element of truth but also has a huge element of dishonesty.
I constantly struggle with where that line is. Often the perception in business is that it's always good to make yourself look bigger and greater than you are. I refer to Wapiti as "The Team." I'm a one-man show (currently). I have a team made up of quite a few different external resources including people that I've known through my life. I use this team to accomplish what I need.
I do all of the client relations and I have people who I rely on for pieces when I'm unable to do them or I don't think I can do a great job myself. Is it dishonest for me to say "The Wapiti Team?" I struggle with that because I can see how somebody would look at that and construe that as dishonest even though I do not. There starts to be a little bit of a conflict.
Using that website design example earlier, there're many instances like that where I have to find what I believe to be truth and try not to blow it out of proportion. In my estimation, it's never justified to blow stories and ideas out of proportion.
I feel that a lot of businesses run into this. Just working with clients, a lot of them are like, how do we say "this" but make it sound better? My recommendation is always to say the truth. Also, if anybody goes to fact-check you, you're on the up-and-up. You can always find a way to justify blowing things up a little bit and people will sometimes understand but, for me, it's always best to err on the side of honesty.
This can be a tough topic for business owners. With honesty, you can set a bar to dictate what is honest and what isn't. Your faith will dictate your rules - such as the Bible in my case. Selflessness is a huge part of the Christian faith. In business, however, you're in it for yourself, right?
You want to make money. You want to provide for your family. While providing for your family could be looked at as selfless in one light, it's also selfish in that it's your family. It's your job to provide for them. There can be a huge conflict when you're looking out for yourself and family because you have to. So how do you be selfless as well?
I've tried so many different things in my struggle with selflessness. I've helped people for free when they can't afford it. That rarely works out as you'd think and often becomes a worse situation that makes you feel taken advantage of. I do try to give a portion of what I bring in towards charities and organizations that I care about and things that I'm interested in and that is definitely one way to be selfless. But once again, it's things "I" care about and things that "I'm" interested in. The amount of times that I can use the word "I" throughout this kind of points to the whole selfish aspect.
I think as a business owner, if you're trying to be successful and selfless, you need to look beyond your income. Income is always going to be a bit of a selfish motivation and I don't think there is a way around that. It's hard to be effective as a business owner when you don't have a home, a car, and your family is falling apart because you can't provide. You have to look beyond the income no matter the level.
You have to focus on the effect that you can have with the blessings you've been given. This is my struggle and this is where I've been spending a lot of time lately in life. I keep trying to learn how to take the blessings I've been given and how to become selfless with those blessings. Sometimes that's finding someone who's in need and not necessarily just giving them money - because giving money is rarely an answer - but finding how to meet them at their need.
For example, is someone moving? Do they need help moving? I've got a really bad back and when people need help moving, I rarely speak up. If you've been blessed with extra income, you could rent a moving truck or hire a team of young guys to come help out. In business you come across similar situations whether it's a customer or a fellow co-worker.
If you're a business owner, a manager, or professional that is in charge of hiring your own team, you can practice many ways of being selfless with your staff. You can be involved in their life selflessly in ways that allows you that ability to both practice your faith as well as show your faith without being preachy. Whether you share my combination of faith and business views or not, these are some values that most people want to reflect.
My hope is that a lot of people end up reading this article and listening to the included podcast. The more "famous" you become or the more people recognize you the harder and harder humility is to hold. That is also often the truth when you receive monetary blessing - aka lots of income.
The more gain and increase that you experience, the harder and harder it becomes to practice humility. And whether you are a Christian like myself, from another faith, or don't prescribe to a faith, humility (not weakness) is a quality that everybody respects.
I'm no better than you. Isn't status one of the biggest divisive things in politics? Everybody keeps saying that they're better than the other side for whatever reason. The reality is, nobody's better than anybody else. We have different views and we have different opinions.
Someone from Haiti is no better or worse than someone from London. Someone from London is no better or worse than someone from the Seattle area, like myself. Nobody is any better or worse than anybody else. We just have different life circumstances. Humility is ignoring your position or status in life and realizing we are all flawed human beings in faith and business.
When you forget that, you start worrying more about yourself and less about others. This relates to being selfless as well. You can't be selfless without humility. You cannot do truly selfless things without humility. Humility, for me, is a huge deal.
Love has so many different definitions depending who you talk to. For me, it's 1 Corinthians 13 from the Bible:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
It's also the Biblical depiction of God. I fail at it, daily. I'm not talking about sexual desire. I'm talking about caring and putting others before yourself. That is humility and selflessness as well - these all tie together. Without love, you're going to feel empty in your business and life.
If one of your employees goes through something life-changing or life-altering and you hold them strictly to policies that keep them from being able to properly grieve, love is absent. That sounds really harsh, right? The sad thing is that it's a very real reality for a lot of people. There can be a huge difference in response which shows a level of empathy - a level of love.
Think of the name of a large corporation. If the word "love" also comes to mind as a description for that corporation, you have found a definite outlier. The reality is, in Corporate America, it doesn't get much colder than it is. Even in these corporations, however, you can find managers and others that show love. That's ultimately the point I'm making. Whether you're in a corporation or you are a one-man show, you can incorporate care, love, and empathy into each day. It's a way that your faith and business personas can intersect and your faith can shine through you.
These are things that I struggle with on a daily basis and I finally just decided I wanted to record my thoughts. I'm definitely not coming to you as "the guy who's got all the answers." I only bring up four different areas that you could focus on and think about. In my opinion the important part is struggling with it.
If you enjoyed this article, I highly suggest subscribing to my podcast, The Business Growth Podcast.