Anaemia of Deeds
I was recently at the Faith in Business conference in Cambridge. Like the Salt Network, Faith in Business is interested in how we live out our values, daily, in our work lives. If you are a business leader, does your Faith impact your deeds in business decisions? In his presentation, one of the speakers referenced Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work, Strength to Love. In this sermon booklet, King states, “How often are our lives characterised by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anaemia of deeds!” Being a big fan of King, I was struck by this phrase and it has stuck with me. In preparing this short article I looked up the reference and read a bit more of the context. In typical MLK Jr style, he doesn’t waste any words and what surrounds this phrase is equally powerful.
The paragraph begins, “One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves.” He actually relates our persistent inability to marry up what we say with what we do to as a type of schizophrenia, and the Bible backs up this thinking. In James, one of the most practical Books in the Bible for practical Christian living, James focuses intently on the need to do and not just say. In chapter 1 verses 5-8 he talks about the person who says he believes, but prays with a lack of faith. One translation calls this person double-minded and another says he is holding on too tightly to this world.
For James then, the main reason we don’t follow through with our faith in our actions is that we are holding on too tightly to the things of this world, the things we can see, and not tightly enough to the things which God says are most important and eternal. Unfortunately, many of the things we value most in this world are the things which feed us (emphasis on the us); the things which make us feel better about ourselves or that make us look good to other people. This selfishness is not a new development. It can’t be blamed on modernity, post-modernity, Gen X, Y, Z or even the Millennials; it’s as old as humanity itself.
This possibility for selfishness had to be present so that choosing the opposite was also possible. Sadly, you could even say that the possibility for selfishness has become a propensity towards selfishness, as the more we practice it, the easier it becomes. The more we become attached to the praise of other humans or the stuff we accumulate, the harder we will work to ensure we don’t lose them. Does this mean we should ignore it and accept it as normal? Of course not, because although it’s as old as time, it’s never felt right. It takes a truly depraved human being to be completely selfish, with no regret or remorse. That’s because we were not made to be this way.
We were created for a different purpose. We were created for the purposes of relationship, community, interdependence, humility, and love. If you are a churchgoer, you will recognize that the actual Creeds, as well as everything else you say you believe as a Christian, echoes this purpose for creation. However, whether we claim to be Christian or not, we instinctively know this to be true, we just have difficulty living it out. We have become so attached to ensuring our own happiness and sustainability, that we too often neglect the wellbeing of our neighbour.
For whatever reason, the distance between head and heart, creed and deed, often seems like light years. If you are a business leader, what steps could you take to ensure that your actions match your values? How can you be certain that what you know and believe to be true is played out in what you actually do? Let us not be the people whose “Practice and Profession” are alien to each other. Let us not choose to live a Jekyll and Hyde existence, but instead to choose the more difficult yet rewarding life of integrating saying and doing. Where will you begin?