My fingernail started to hurt from biting the nail too short. A terrible, mostly involuntarily habit, that I fall into when anxious.
The 10 o’clock appointment was fast approaching. A meeting that should not be occurring. I should have made an excuse on the phone in the original consultation with this particular client.
Design an adult shop website. What was I thinking in agreeing to this meeting? Money? Business was slow that week. Running low on the old coin is certainly a motivator to seek work.
However, there is this moral line, the one I try to keep in shape. It distinguishes the things I will do from the things I will not do. On the phone, I guess the potential client, Jim, caught me off guard.
What side of my moral line did an adult website stand on?
Jim rolled up five minutes before the appointed time, parking his silver Mercedes in the driveway. On opening the door, my mind raced to get an impression of this man. Well dressed, shirt and suit-like slacks. Heavier build than me, certainly not someone I would want to meet in a dark alley. The muscly kind of guy I’d run from at any sign of a fight, like the Road Runner outrunning the Coyote in the Looney Tunes cartoon.
After the initial pleasantries, saying hello, shaking hands, I led him down the hallway to my office in the back of my house. I work from home, which suits me for my writing endeavors and software development.
Jim took a seat as I moved the mouse to fire up my screen, web browser open, ready to jump to sample sites if required.
“Jim, what products does the adult website sell?” I asked, really demonstrating my naiveté.
He reached into his briefcase, pulled out a catalogue, and passed it to me. While I flicked through the pages he said, “Porn videos, vibrators, dress up costumes,” and with a slight chuckle he added, “blow-up dolls.”
I scanned the pages, some rather visual depictions, especially in the adult video section. I tried to think of something to say politely that would not be construed the wrong way, so I could walk away from this particular development job.
What people do is up to them; I do not judge. But, some things I am not comfortable partaking in. God gives us free will to make choices in life, and I have never felt it my duty to tell others how they should live.
It reminds me of the golden rule for writers, “Show, don’t tell.”
Rather than telling people, I prefer to show what my life affords in following Christianity.
He sensed my hesitation. “Do you have a problem with the content?”
“Yes. I think this is a job I’ll have to pass on.”
He jutted his head towards the crucifix on the wall, adorning the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Then he said, “Are you one of those Jesus-believing freaks?”
I sensed the conversation could turn for the worse without some carefully chosen words. I replied, “I follow his teachings, because when I apply them to my life, my life becomes better.”
His eyes narrowed, and his jaw tightened. “So how does Jesus’ teachings prevent you from developing an adult website?”
“Porn.” I paused for a few seconds, avoiding eye contact, to choose my words. “In porn videos those performers are somebody’s daughter and somebody’s son.”
“They perform by choice,” he retorted.
Since I have a daughter of my own, a million feelings flooded me.
How could I put all those reasons into a single sentence?
I found that impossible, so I tried to turn the tables and bluntly at that.
“Would you want men watching your daughter in a porn video?”
“My only daughter died,” he said, lowering his voice to a somber tone.
Ouch. I felt like someone had grabbed my heart and driven staples through it. I made direct eye contact. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
I was. I can’t think of a larger burden than losing a child. I suspect he saw the sincerity in my expression and probably saw the picture of my daughter on the wall.
He sat quietly rubbing his eyebrow.
At this point, I realized I had handled this situation badly. A situation that would not exist if only I had said no on the telephone call.
That raised an important question for me as a Christian. How defined should I make my moral line? Which jobs were OK to work on and which were not? My line is a bit curvy, not necessarily straight. There are many variables involved. I messed up on this one.
Normally, after deep reflection and prayer, I decide to take each project on its merits. If possible, I do that before a face-to-face consultation. But what happened next with this particular client was unexpected. I asked him, “Would you like a coffee or a cup of tea?”
He took a moment, gazing at me as if to as Why? This meeting is over. Then he accepted the offer. I strode off and made the cuppa then came back. To be honest, I think I needed a little caffeine at that point. Another addiction of mine. Biting fingernails and coffee. At least they are my only two.
Our conversation continued. I asked, “Do you mind me asking how your daughter died?”
“Leukemia,” he said. “The hardest thing was watching her die over a period of time. The chemo extended her life and you know, watching her play, the smiles even with no hair. Those moments were worth the hospital visits.”
My eyes were welling up, and I had an urge to swallow a growing imaginary lump in my throat.
Here was this burly-looking guy, talking about losing his daughter.
Whom he without doubt loved as his little princess. His tone, his demeanor reflected as much. He opened his wallet and showed me a picture of his daughter. She was beautiful. This is odd, I thought. Why is this man opening up so much to a complete stranger?
Our conversation continued for around 15 minutes before he left. The website never came up again. He did go on and get quotes from elsewhere and launched the site.
Six months later, he shut the site down. He called me unexpectedly and told me. During the short phone conversation, he went on to explain he was glad I stuck to my faith. It showed him I cared for others, other people’s daughters, even his own. He told me how that helped him open up about his daughter’s death, which he rarely spoke about.
Four years later, Jim and his wife attend church regularly and have a second daughter, age 2.
I learned from that meeting, never to be frightened to stand by your faith. Standing by your faith shows you care. When you shrug your shoulders and accept all and sundry, it implies you do not care about others and what happens to them.
But Jesus showed us how to live better than that. His actions and skillfully worded parables teach us that better way.
Have you ever walked away from a business opportunity? What happened?
Article originally published on Faith Driven Business. Used with permission.
After a difficult childhood, Steve Goodwin developed a fascination with the nature of the supernatural, spiritual and physical words and how they affect the lives around us. This led him on a journey spanning two decades of studying, experiences and discovery. As well as demonstrating a profound respect for faith and the battles of doubt, he seamlessly mixes reality with creativity, inspired by biblical concepts and personal understandings. Steve's successful faith driven software development career allows him to juggle being a Christian author while still creating compelling software solutions for his clients. He tweets from @sg_author.
Publication date: August 21, 2014