Getting Out of the Gray
Written By Mike Ward June 2nd 2016
I sell furniture for a living. And in the furniture business, we have a rule: if a customer comes in and asks for salesperson who is not available, the commission from that sale is to be split between the assisting salesperson and the absent salesperson. This rule is fairly straightforward and ought to be easy to follow. But…
A couple of months ago, I greeted a customer who had just entered our front door. She asked for a salesperson who happened to be off that day, so I offered to assist on his behalf. After making her selections, we sat down to write up the sale ticket. Intending to split the sale and wanting to confirm which salesperson should get credit, I asked, “And you said _________ helped you before, correct?” Understanding my intention to split the sale, she replied, “Oh no, he’s never helped us. We just have a friend who had worked with him and she told us to ask for him. So he doesn’t need to get credit. You did all the work.”
What was that rule again? “If a customer comes in and asks for salesperson who is not available, the commission from that sale is to be split…” Ok, ok. But, you know, she has a point. I did do all the work. And she’s never even met that other guy! Furthermore, she, the customer (who is always right, by the way) believes that I should get all the credit for the sale (and this is a pretty good sale…). I know the rule, but this seems like a special circumstance. Seems pretty gray to me, in fact. Ordinarily, of course, I would split the sale, but in this case…
So, I didn’t split the sale, because things were too murky in my mind to see clearly what I should do. Fortunately, I know myself well enough to know that when I am in that murky place, I need some outside perspective. So I went to George, a sales manager, and one of the most objective people I know. I explained the murky scenario in all of its exceedingly murky details. His facial expression suggested that George didn’t think it was murky at all. In fact, if “Duh!” had a face, George was wearing it. He said, “Let me ask you a question, if it had been you they asked for, what would you want you to do?”
George’s question hit home. What had seemed so gray was suddenly black and white. If I had connected with a customer and provided them with a service experience that prompted them to refer their friends to me, I would absolutely want to receive credit for that effort! And every salesperson should receive credit for that effort. There was no gray area as I had imagined. As George left me to my thoughts, I was overwhelmed with embarrassment at how easily I could deceive myself into thinking that mine was a special circumstance. I had imagined that the issue was gray when it was not. What a humbling and painful thought! What else could I be imagining?!
And then it occurred to me that George’s question was really just another way of saying what Jesus had taught his disciples: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7.12 NASB). I was embarrassed by my failure to recognize the right thing to do. But at the same time I was also deeply aware of how the godly wisdom conveyed through George’s pointed question had brought me the clarity I needed to do the right thing.
God’s word provides the objectivity that we need to discern good from evil, right from wrong. And I’m sure that I am not the only one who finds himself mired in those foggy gray areas from time to time. Jeremiah 17.9 speaks of human hearts generally when it says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah is saying that the human capacity for self-deception should never be underestimated. It knows no bounds. We humans, fallen creatures that we are, stand in desperate need of God’s truth to guide us or we will, without exception, veer off course. This capacity for self-deception is the reason that the Bible warns us against trusting in our own wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 3.5-7). In fact, the Bible teaches that even when we are self-deceived, God sees clearly what is hidden from us: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways…” (Jeremiah 17.10 NASB). There is never any gray in God’s view. His knowledge is perfect and His perspective includes all the facts.
And this perfect knowledge is the reason that God’s word has the ability to reveal truth to us and enables us to discern truth from all the counterfeit options that present themselves as truth. The biblical authors speak of God’s word as having both illuminating and focusing qualities. Psalm 119.105 says that God’s word is like a lamp that illuminates our way. It allows us to see what we otherwise could not. And if we attempt to walk without that light, we will always stumble. Every time. Likewise, Hebrews 4.12-13 says that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (ESV). Even when I am deceived by the wickedness of my own heart, God is not deceived. He sees clearly through the deception and speaks the truth into my life.
God’s word has this focusing quality about it. When we are in emotionally charged situations (like commissioned sales!), we can tend to see only one dimension of that situation (my work, my commission!). But when we look at the situation through the lens of God’s word, suddenly, what was fuzzy becomes clear. We are able, with God’s help to see the whole picture that our deceptive heart had conveniently cropped for its own purposes.
Are you in an emotionally charged situation? A conflict? A questionable relationship? A gray area? If you have conflict or even uncertainty in any of your relationships (spouse, parents, siblings, work, etc.), I encourage you to seek God’s perspective. You can do this in a couple of ways and you should pursue both. First, seek God’s perspective in the Bible. Search the Scriptures for principles which you can apply to your situation. I guarantee that they are in there. Second, seek godly counsel from other mature believers who study God’s word regularly. They may be able to direct you to those passages of Scripture which apply to your situation.
One thing is for sure: God wants you to know his truth more than you want to know it. So you can trust that he will reveal truth to you when you are sincerely, earnestly seeking to find it. The promise of our Savior is this: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 ESV). Ask, seek, and knock! The Father will reveal the truth you need to do his will. May God’s word be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path as you seek to follow him!