What Does the Bible Say About Performance Reviews?
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
My wife and I have had the same stainless steel kitchen knives since we got married in 1995. When the blades grow dull, I enjoy grabbing the sharpening steel and scraping metal against metal until everything is nice and sharp again. The sound makes my son crazy. “Like fingernails on the chalkboard,” he says.
Steel sharpens steel. Iron alloy sharpens iron alloy. But it doesn’t always make a pretty sound.
For many folks, it is common to face evaluations at this time of year in our day-to-day lives. Students start taking tests. Politicians face reelections. Employees and employers face the performance review process.
Jesus warned his disciples, “Do not judge,” but this doesn’t mean all judgment is anti-Christian. It is necessary for us to make judgments of each other as we go through life. This is wise so long as we don’t fall into pious self-righteousness in our judgment of others.
In fact, as the Proverb implies, judging others is a way for us to sharpen each other, to give each other a little tech upgrade. The literal Hebrew says one person sharpens the countenance (paniym) of a friend. This word shows up earlier in the Bible when God is displeased with Cain’s sacrifice. First, Cain’s countenance falls, then Cain sins, then Cain is cast out of Eden away from the countenance of God.
To sharpen the countenance of friends, then, helps them to fulfill their God given purpose to reflect God’s glory in everything they do. Judgment and evaluation are important elements in the sharpening process, but the process isn’t fun.
Think about my son who hates to hear me sharpening the knives.
Sometimes in our culture, we elevate “fun” into such a high value that we can become shortsighted. Or we can naively expect important disciplines to be more fun than they are. Being judged by a trusted mentor can make us stronger and sharper, but it doesn’t feel good.
Managers entering into performance reviews would do well to remember this fact. Sadistic reviews are not helpful. Empathy will go a long way.
Employees should show empathy too. The process of judging others isn’t much better than the process of being judged. We want other people to like us. We especially want the folks on our team to like us. Pointing out another person’s faults and “areas for improvement” is not fun when that person is part of the family.
But, you know, God never promised our lives would be fun.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What evaluations and judgments are you facing in the next week? How can you receive evaluations with the spirit of Christ? How can you evaluate others with the spirit of Christ?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Let me extend your mercy as I make judgments today. Let me remember my own faults even as I do my best to help others with their faults.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.
Each year, workers everywhere receive an evaluation of their job performance from their employer and, while most evaluations in the workplace don't go quite the way they appear on some television shows, those annual evaluations are often the source of everything from disappointment and stress, to surprise and a boost of confidence. How do we approach and receive evaluations as Christian workers? What can we learn from Jesus about giving and receiving words of instruction, correction, and affirmation? How can entrepreneurs and the self-employed remain accountable for doing good work and for keeping an eye on weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the workplace? Our series, The Evaluation, takes a closer look.