I didn’t spend much time on the porch this morning. I don’t handle the heat as well as I used to. The little buddy on my hip, my IV infusion, makes the heat even more difficult to bear. I’m glad I made some changes in my professional life over the past year, but I really miss being outdoors much of the time. At least I’m able to spend time in my garden, even if it is in short spurts. I’m sure I’ll be able to be out more after this IV infusion therapy is over in a couple of months. Remember the “patience is a virtue” thing…
I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to practice patience today. I’m often guilty of trying to stay so busy that I fail to take care of myself. When I’m so busy that I let myself get run down it becomes difficult to hear the gentler, quiet voice of creation. I begin to feel “irritable, restless, and discontent”, as my elders warned me I would. I start to resent having to meet others needs and move toward total self-centeredness. Feeling too tired and over-stretched is a dangerous place for me to be.
I mention all this because of an article I read this morning that really struck me “right between the eyes”. It was talking about taking on work that compromises my values, my self-worth, and the future of my business. As a business owner and freelance writer, it really hit home. If I’m honest, I’ve been guilty of compromise and thus, suffered the consequences.
Thirteen years ago, I started a back-to-work program for a local non-profit providing transitional housing and social services for the homeless HIV/AIDS community. What I don’t often share, lest it affect my professional life, is that I was one of those on the receiving end of their services. I had only been in recovery for a few months but had lost my home, my health, and my family when I finally surrendered and began a new chapter in my life. I had been fortunate enough to do well professionally (if one can do well) until the last few months of my active addiction. My experience in business writing, operations management, and Human Resources made starting such a program much easier. Still, I’m grateful for the “gift of desperation” that led to a new relationship with the God of my understanding.
The “back-to-work” program, Hope Works, grew quickly: not so much in the number of people participating as in the profitability of the landscape portion of the program. To make a long story short, I was asked to buy-out that portion of the program and spent the last few years as a landscape and an outdoor living contractor. That’s when things changed.
Fear is an insidious beast that creeps in slowly. The article I mentioned earlier said that there were times when compromise is appropriate: like when first starting out for instance. I’m not sure I agree with that. My experience has taught me that lowering price to get the job has far reaching consequences. If the purpose of my business is to gain repeat customers and personal referrals, then the existing or potential customer learns to value my time and energy less for the next job. Moreover, I begin to resent the time I’m spending on their job. My resentment increases and my self-worth decreases. I treat people how to treat me. Go figure!
Every time I’ve compromised to get a job there have been consequences. Personally, and as a landscape contractor I’ve always worked organically, without the use of chemicals and pesticides that I know damage the creation I’m to be a steward of. For the first few years I had a policy of “organic only”. I wouldn’t take on a customer who wanted something other than organic lawn and garden care. However, after my first stroke I lost a lot of customers because I had to reschedule so many jobs. When I got back to full-time work I began to compromise my “organic only” policy. I needed to rebuild my business! The “what ifs” had crept in. It may sound silly to you, but I felt terrible because I knew I had violated my values. Although I’d offered a temporary solution to their landscaping issue, I’d caused long-term damage to their yard and the creation I’m so passionate about defending.
So why do I compromise? Simply put, it’s because I’m scared. Intellectually, I know that God loves me and holds me in high regard. He’s never let me down. Looking backward, the evidence of His care is 100% true. I can intellectually know that and still be in emotional fear. What if I don’t get the job? What if I go without? How do I provide for my family? The questions go on and on. Where is my faith in the middle of all of this? I’m convinced that fear is the root of all my troubles – I compromise out of fear.
There were many reasons why I decided to return to freelancing full-time – I’m getting older, I don’t handle the heat as well as I used to, the frustrations of dealing with employees and subcontractors, and the fact that I can be at home more often for Margaret – but the bottom line is that I’m good at what I do, and I bring value to my clients. Starting this new business venture has been slow-going and frustrating at times. I’ve had to say no to potential business – they wanted me to compromise the value of my services – and there’s been a lot of “what ifs” and self-doubt. The difference is that I set a “no compromise” policy when it comes to potential business – even when I’m scared about the future. Contrary to popular belief, faith isn’t merely the absence of fear. It’s the ability to walk through it. It’s ironic that in doing so, I experience more success than I ever have, and my clients benefit as well. Moreover, it’s brought me far more meaningful projects and one’s that I’m more passionate about.
There are times when compromise is necessary. After all, the world isn’t always black and white and relationships – personal, business, and social – are fluid, never static. We “go along to get along”; but compromising who (and who’s) I am, is not up for negotiation. The Rabbi asked:
“If God gives such attention to the wildflowers – most of which are never even seen – don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do her is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving… Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out! You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met”. (Matthew 6.30-33 The Message)
Fear still creeps in, but I don’t compromise my value today. I do good work. I listen to my client and the needs of their audience. That’s highly valuable to my client, my community, and myself. That seems to spur me on to an even better work for them – and myself. Moreover, I don’t worry (at least not as much!) like I used to. It’s definitely the “easier, softer way” (some of you know where I got that…) of living I always dreamed of. It’s so much easier to do and be my best when I’m willing to say “no” to compromise. I’m a “people-pleaser” by nature so saying “no” wasn’t so easy at first, but it’s become easier, and I’ve grown from it’s benefits.
There was a show on television yesterday about the decade of the Eighties and I saw a clip about Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” anti-drug campaign. I’m not so sure it was a great motto for avoiding drugs, but it sure makes living in my skin a lot easier. My advice to you then is “Just say No”…