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It's Not Personal, Tom. It's Just Business

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I sat across the table from my opponent. Talking to this man was so frustrating that I could barely stand it. My assistant translated everything he said, but I could tell she wasn’t buying what he said either. He lied, and lied, and lied. Soon he was lying about the lies he had just told me and he kept on doing it. Then he would smile really big, flashing all his pearly whites at me, just daring me to call him out on his lies. He knew that I knew that he knew that he was lying, and he kept on doing it anyway. Finally, near the end of our useless conversation he said to me those all too familiar words that I have come to hate.

“It’s not personal, Tom. It’s just business.”

 

Several days later I was meeting with my opponent’s business partner. I felt I could no longer deal with the first man because of his constant posturing and lying. So I asked to meet with his partner, who had a better reputation as a reasonable man. Our conversation went well, with a few minor points of disagreement. Then I decided to use that same line on him that his partner had used on me, so that I could see how he would react. “It’s not personal,” I said. “It’s just business.” 

He looked at me disapprovingly and responded, “Of course it’s personal, Tom. Everything is personal.” 

Ouch.

It’s one thing to take too many things personally, as if they are all about an affront to you personally. As my mother used to say, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” But to regulate everything to the status of “business” as if it’s divorced from people’s feelings is wrong. Everything is personal to somebody. 

Everything Is Personal To God

In non-Christian religious systems an adherent has to perform a set of rituals or tasks if they want entrance into Heaven, or nirvana, or whatever they believe comes after death. It’s the business end of things that determines our future. 

The Bible denies this.

The Bible describes everything relationally. All sin is against God—a person (Genesis 39:9; I Samuel 2:25). All of the sins listed in the Ten Commandments are relational in nature, they are either against God or against people. God’s promises are also personal. His promise to Abraham for a son was deeply personal. His promise to free his people from slavery in Exodus was deeply personal to the people who needed freedom. When promised his heir would reign forever, King David fell to his knees before God in a moment of deep, personal gratitude and worship. To his disciples, Jesus gave a commandment that encompassed the meaning of personal relationship, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

Remember, at some level everything is personal because everything involves people, their emotions, and their devotions. It’s personal. It’s not just business.