In the first article I mentioned that I’ve found the Beatitudes to be in a sequence that matches the consulting problems I encounter. The sixth most common problem I find with leaders and people in organizations is that people do not stay focused on who they are and what they should do. This article presents the meaning of the sixth Beatitude — “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” — and shows how we should live our lives because of this principle.
What does it mean to be pure in heart?
The Greek for “pure” and “heart” are katharos and kardia, respectfully. Katharos means to be “clean,” “pure,” “ethical,” “free from corruption,” “free from mixture” and “genuine.” Kardia means the center of the body, the mind and the soul; the seat of intelligence, sensibleness, desires; and the central/inmost part of anything.
In addition, kardia can mean the heart where blood is pumped. I presume that Jesus was not referring to the physical organ, the heart, but to the other elements of the broad definition of kardia, since the other Beatitudes are more about attitude, belief and behavior.
The sense of katharos is that through a refining process the level of purity increases. This is similar to how gold is refined: As the gold is heated the impurities separate from the gold and float to the top. Attendants remove the impurities, called “dross,” leaving the remainder of the gold as more refined. As purity increases there is less confusion as to what the substance is. So it is with people: As we remove from ourselves what is not us, then others can see more clearly who we are. As this clarity increases, we’re more able to become who we’re meant to be.
This is easier to do than it may seem. People who are focused on who they are know their gifts, talents and their purpose. They don’t casually change their direction as those around them change. People who are focused are open about what they are to do. They don’t doubt what they need to do.
In the article on the Beatitude “poor in spirit” I mentioned that Collins, in his book Good to Great, said that great business leaders consistently possessed two unique characteristics: humility and fierce resolve. It’s this fierce resolve that ties to the Beatitude of being pure in heart.
In organizations where the leader is pure in heart there is a clear mission/purpose for the organization; everyone in the organization knows what the organization is to do and what role the person plays. There are no changes in direction from year to year. There may be differences in method as new methods emerge but the purpose doesn’t change.
The same is true for families in that everyone in the family knows what the family means and what the family does. Dad is always “dad” and mom is always “mom” and sister is always “sister.” Each person knows the values of the family and what each person is to do relative to the family. This doesn’t mean, of course, that parents choose careers or spouses for their children, but that the parents continuously present the essence and unity of the family.
In our relationships there’s a sense of focus as to what the relationship is such that both parties in the relationship know what the other person wants and thinks. There are few surprises. There’s lots of clarity.
Being pure in heart means that there’s such openness about thought and behavior that the high level of ethical, or “good” behavior/thought, is obvious to all. You wouldn’t expect someone who is pure in heart to be indicted for financial misconduct, or to be reported in the news for some moral failure. Those who are truly pure in heart just don’t have room in their mind, heart or soul for thinking/doing what is not right or not in line with who/what they are to be.
I recently visited an organization and heard a lot of grumbling among the employees about how supervisors and managers were more interested in their politics than in getting done what needed to be done. The employees commented about their supervisors’ hidden agendas, complaining that most of the them were just looking for better jobs and using the employees to make them look good. The supervisors had no interest in their employees, regardless of what they said.
When people are pure in heart, there’s a sense of commitment to what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. Usually you’ll find reduced turnover in an organization where the leaders are pure in heart. Organizations run by people who are pure in heart have higher levels of employee satisfaction and commitment to the organization.
What are the benefits of being pure in heart?
The first benefit of being pure in heart is a sense of peace about who you are and what you are to do. This reduces stress and depression.
The second benefit is that you increase the level of credibility and trust among those around you. Everyone knows who you are and what you’re about. There’s no doubt as to what the values and goals are of either the organization … or yourself.
The third benefit is one of effectiveness; you’re only focusing on what you’ve deemed important. This is different from the slogan “keeping the first thing first,” but rather “keep the only thing the only thing.” This allows those who are pure in heart to put all of their efforts into the one thing that they’re to do.
The fourth benefit is that you gain efficiency in what you do since you aren’t spending time covering up improper behavior or hidden agendas. Recall the old adage that if you don’t lie, you don’t have to keep track of your lies.
People like stability and can handle the change around them, even chaotic change, if they know that there is stability in their leaders, family and friends. The result is a sense of peace, which is why this Beatitude precedes the last Beatitude. Conflict resolution is simple since everyone knows what the other party wants and there is less desire to confuse and confound.
I learned this lesson many years ago while running a union-labor printing company. I had a good working relationship with the union but didn’t fully understand the benefits of being completely open. Though I didn’t set out to obscure my intentions, I learned that we can do more by being more transparent.
The company was having financial problems; every day’s production/sales was important to me. I wasn’t opposed to holidays, but when February came around and we had two paid holidays in a short month, it was impossible for me to report a positive profit or even a weak loss for the month. I asked the union to give up one of the two holidays. After much arguing back and forth one of the union representatives asked me: “Bruce, what is it that you really want here? I know you well enough to know that there is something else going on here.”
I explained that I needed one more production/sales day in February, and why the reports to the bank had to show better performance in February. The union representative solved the whole issue by saying: “Fine, let’s trade one of the February holidays for a personal preference day that can not be taken in February. This way you get what you want and we get what we want.” The solution worked. People got to take off a day when they needed it and we did not notice a reduction of production across the other 11 months.
I remembered the lesson, some years later, when I was working for Regent University. There was conflict between my school and another school over classroom assignments for Thursday nights. I asked to meet with the other dean, but the other dean asked to have a couple of days to work through exactly what he wanted.
I went to the other dean that moment and asked to just talk to him as a means of finding out his real needs and wants. In the conversation I learned that he was passionate about his weekend program for students who lived away from the local area and could only attend classes on Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday twice a month. Seeing his passion made me realize that I needed to do what I could to free up Thursday evening. As we talked we realized that because he was scheduling more courses on Thursday, he was scheduling less on Monday and Tuesday. All I had to do was schedule more courses on Monday and Tuesday and the conflict went away.
Simple? Yes, just being pure in heart and open about who you are and what you want makes life simple for others.
The most important benefit of this Beatitude is stated in the Beatitude – you can see God. Only those who are pure in emotion, intellect and soul can see God. The clutter that clouds the impure in heart makes it impossible to see God in the midst of their lives. The more you refine who you are and the more you focus on what you must do the easier it is to see God. While reciprocity is not a factor in the wording of the Beatitude, it seems logical that the more we can see God the more we should be able to focus on who we are, thus further reinforcing our purity.
Are you pure in heart?
How are you doing? Do you know who you are and what you are to do? If I asked those you work with, or your family members or your friends, would I hear clear statements of who you are?
Or, would I hear that you seem a bit confused and move with the whims of those around you? When you hold meetings is there a concern by people as to what your “real” purpose is for the meeting? Do people know your motives? Do you spend time wondering how you will cover up some action or belief? If a news crew showed up at your office or home, would you be concerned about what they found out?
Are you ready to start being pure?
The only step is the only step. Be who God called you to be. If you don’t know who you are, then spend time in prayer and ask God to show you. Ask your fellow workers, your family and your friends to tell you who you are. If you hear the same thing over and over you will know. If you hear different things, then it may mean that you need to spend more time in prayer to find out.
Also, spend some honest soul-searching time to recognize if you have some thoughts/actions that are not ethical or appropriate, Then work at removing the “dross” from who you are so. The result will be fewer impurities in your life with which you must deal.
Copyright 2008 Bruce E. Winston, Ph.D. All rights reserved.