City Women had a strong start to the new year, meeting at Brewin Dolphin on 13 January for a lunch-time focus on “Truth – Commerciality, Compromise and Cover-up”. The speaker was Rebecca Reading, an accountant based in the city centre and a member of our ChaplaincyPlus network.
The first of the Fundamental Principles that govern Rebecca’s work as a member of a professional accountancy body is integrity, “an obligation to be straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships. Integrity also implies fair dealing and truthfulness”.
Rebecca was challenged last summer by the words of Sam Oldridge at a Christian event, “Every convincing lie is a distortion of some truth”. So the lies which are the most powerful and have the biggest grip on us or are hardest to address are the ones that are masquerading, perhaps, as the truth. In the workplace, do you ever come across respectable lies purporting to be truths?
So what happens in this situation? You are asked to endorse a course of action that has been proposed by someone who “didn’t know what they didn’t know”: although it’s not illegal, you know that it’s not the right approach and you challenge it. This has implications for other people involved, who are quickly backtracking from the proposed course of action or trying to cover themselves. How honest is it really necessary to be? In Rebecca’s experience, it is important to speak out for the right course of action, even if it is uncomfortable: this takes courage, but she has found that her honesty has been appreciated and the client has (eventually!) been glad to feel confident of doing the right thing.
More generally, Rebecca feels powerfully called by God to do her job. She doesn’t see her work simply as a way to earn money to support herself, enjoy life, give to church or other charities – although she does all these things. No, she “believes in” her job in the sense that it is valued by God. As Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col 3:23-4).
Are there times when you feel pressurised to let things go, to turn a blind eye, to overlook something or to do something on the assumption that you won’t get caught? And yet, “We are called out of the darkness to be children of the light” (1 Peter 2:9) – and a sure sign that we are walking in the light is that we will practice the truth (1 John 1:6).
By bringing God’s standards of truth to our workplaces, we can make a massive difference to the culture of our organisations. Professional integrity can sometimes be a convincing lie, which can make it harder to stand up to: beware of the danger of convincing ourselves that things are not so bad and we are just being flexible, commercial or trying to fit in.
If you want to read more examples on this, try Mark Greene’s book, “Fruitfulness on the Frontline”.
Truth has an amazing power. Truth creates trust, building up relationships. Truth can involve displaying weakness, saying sorry, acknowledging mistakes. Truth can involve speaking up for people who have no voice. It can be exposing, to stand up for the truth – and may need careful prayer and also support from friends and colleagues. There can also be a personal cost, in the stress of having to challenge a system or culture. But Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-2).
Rebecca’s talk both challenged and inspired City Women. There’s been extensive feedback on how much it resonated and someone said, “This was one of the most relevant talks I have been to in a long while and I for one have been blessed by the content and the honesty that Rebecca has shown”.
Flowing from Rebecca’s talk, here is a blessing for you in your workplace:
When “Every convincing lie is a distortion of some truth”,
bless us with the courage to challenge
respectable lies masquerading as truth,
respectable lies which are powerful
and have the biggest grip
and are hardest to address.
Bless us in sensing the truth
and responding to it,
allowing truth to create trust,
embracing a truth that is not afraid
to show weakness or say sorry,
affirming a truth that involves speaking
for people who have no voice.
Bless us in living out our calling to our work,
in a way that takes us to a deeper level than
the simple desire to please
and accommodate clients or colleagues,
holding to standards of integrity and truth;
bless us in living out our calling
out of darkness to be children of the light,
in recognising and affirming
the truth which sets us free.
If you’d like to discuss your own experiences, in the light of this, or you would like to know more about City Women or ChaplaincyPlus, please contact Sarah Thorpe.