By Christine Ziegler
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. ( 2 Corinthians 2:7)
I work for a Christian company, a distributor of religious education materials. Several years ago, when I was a young programmer, I made a mistake that virtually shut our company down for three days. When I removed some testing language, I failed to tell the program when to stop. I knew something was wrong the moment I stepped off the elevator. Several people informed me they couldn’t access the computer system. I rushed to the computer room, dropping all my things outside the door, including my excellent lunch of leftovers.
When I got inside, it was clear that my program had run amok. I was devastated. My boss joined me and soon the company president and vice president came in as well. After we killed the program, the president’s first response was to lead us in a prayer for wisdom in figuring out the extent of the damage and how to repair it. He patted me on the shoulder and assured me it would work out.
It was bad. I had combined two-thirds of our item database into a single item. The order takers couldn’t take orders because most of the items didn’t exist. Accounting couldn’t invoice our customers. We couldn’t receive or ship items at our warehouse. Every aspect of our business ground to a halt.
By 2 p.m., we had a plan. To recover all the lost data, we had to go back to our last good backup and slowly apply each change to the database until everything was back to the way it was right before I started my program. It would take three days.
While we waited for our offsite backups, I stepped out of the computer room for the first time in six hours. I saw my long-anticipated lunch and realized it would be foolish to eat it unrefrigerated. Just as I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, one of the order takers came around the corner with a bag from Burger King. She had seen my poor leftovers and knew I would need help. It was an excellent lunch.
Throughout the next three days, no one said a critical word to me. At least once an hour, a coworker would stick his or her head in with a prayer or word of encouragement. I was covered in kindness.
Once the system was back up, I had to go to the warehouse. George immediately came up and thumped me on the back and said “Have you ever seen the warehouse so clean? We were able to get a lot done while we were down.” That was the extent of it from the warehouse.
The next Friday as my boss was heading out the door, she reminded me to double check my code one more time and start my program before I left.
I can imagine a workplace where a person making such a mistake would be punished for years. It could have been brutal. That wasn’t what happened. Throughout the whole experience, I was forgiven over and over by the words and actions of my coworkers.