It’s midnight and you’re adding another slide to the group PowerPoint, editing someone else’s part of a paper, and wondering how you’re going to get that poster for the How to Not Procrastinate on Your Group Project presentation finished by Tuesday. Everyone can relate to this at some point in their academic career – professors assign group projects thinking that five people will do five times the work, but forget to account for the ever-present social loafing that plagues group projects. While this can be frustrating, I’m going to challenge you to use these upcoming weeks as an opportunity to practice mercy.
More specifically, practicing the spiritual works of mercy of bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, and praying for the living and the dead. Over the course of this semester, I’ve been learning (through much struggle) that group projects and other assignments are the perfect opportunity to practice sharing the mercy we’ve received. Here are some ways we can start doing this:
- Patience: Patience is one of the hardest virtues, but the only way we can grow in it is through being tested by situations like the ones we may face in these upcoming weeks. The next time you want to get angry at someone in your group for being annoying or for presenting low quality work, take a breath and pray for patience. Thank God for the difficult chance to practice it. Maybe this person isn’t doing it on purpose – maybe they have 6 other projects or are about to fail a class and can’t focus on this one that affects you. Maybe they’re worrying about a sick loved one or a failing relationship. Maybe they really are doing the best they can. Regardless of the situation, use it as an opportunity to be patient and show these people the love and mercy that God has shown us.
- Forgiveness: It can be easy to get angry during this point of the semester. You can be angry at your professor for assigning so many unreasonable projects, angry at your group for not doing their fair share of work, or angry at yourself for not starting earlier. Stop. While anger is easy in these situations, it isn’t productive. In fact, it’s a destructive emotion that’s wasting your time. While difficult, the more rewarding response is forgiveness. Look to Christ for a model of forgiveness. Jesus suffered all earthly pain, and while He didn’t stay up until 3 A.M. finishing a History of Pumpkin Seeds paper, He knows loneliness, stress, and dismay. Use this as an opportunity to grow closer to Christ and start to understand the smallest amount of what He went through for us. He forgives us each day. Let’s do our best to imitate Christ and forgive those around us.
- Offer it up: While this phrase is overused to the point that it’s lost its meaning, it can still get you through these next few weeks. Offer the sleepless nights, the stress and anxiety, and the work in general for someone that needs prayers right now. Maybe it’s another friend going through the same thing you are, maybe it’s someone in your family that’s questioning the faith, or maybe it’s someone you know who has passed away recently. Whoever it is, use these late nights as an opportunity to pray for their well-being.
Ultimately, our success on earth won’t be judged on whether you got an A in your Megaphone Appreciation group project, but rather, how we treated others. Although difficult, it might mean explaining a concept one more time because no one was listening or making a compromise to ensure everyone’s input is acknowledged, even if it’s not the most efficient decision. It may even call for you to work with people that you might consider difficult (the ghost partner that left you with the work, the person with the conflicting personality, and everyone in between). We are called to see those people as they are: loved by God.