“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21
In the late 1980’s the large Wall Street investment firm for which I worked acquired a smaller regional firm here in Texas. Not surprisingly there were cultural differences between the two companies that inevitably led to feelings of mistrust toward those of us who were associated with the large acquiring firm. One longtime employee from the company we acquired, an older gentleman, was convinced that his life had been taken over by some big “evil empire” out to destroy his way of conducting business and his livelihood. Nothing, of course, could have been further from the truth.
For several months it was bumpy ride. The man complained and argued about everything. Nothing we did seemed to suit him. While we could have been argumentative and combative in return, instead we chose to shower the man with kindness, sometimes having to grit our teeth to do so. Finally, he began to calm down and accept us, and over time we actually grew to become really good friends.
It has been said that the best way to get rid of enemies is to turn them into friends. Easier said than done, but the secret ingredient is forgiveness – both forgiving the other person when he or she errs, as well as admitting our own faults and begging the other’s forgiveness. It was through this very process that we were able to turn this man’s mistrust into trust and his bitterness into friendship.
Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions. That is, we may not always “feel” forgiving toward someone, but we can still respond with actions such as lending a helping hand, sending a gift, or smiling at him or her even if we must grit our teeth in the process. Often what we will discover is that right actions lead to right feelings.
That is exactly what occurred between the gentleman and us following that corporate merger. Right actions eventually led to right feelings, mutual trust and respect. It is about this that the Apostle Paul offers great wisdom, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It works!