Have you ever been forced to be around someone you don’t like? If you’re a responsible adult, in a work setting, then the answer is probably yes. You can break off an abusive, long term relationship, ignore your in-laws, or cut ties with a toxic friend, but leaving a great job because of an annoying coworker isn’t always economically feasible, and I’ve found myself in this situation lately.
Have you ever been so irked by an itchy personality that you imagine yourself throttling that person? I know, not very Christ-like, but let’s be honest; we’ve all been there once or twice. Some people can just be so different from us, and it’s like they know all the wrong buttons to push! This was what happened to me.
This lady was so prideful. I remember Southern ladies describing it as, “she thinks her sh*t don’t stink.” And that seemed like a pretty good description of this situation. The woman I’m referring to thought she was always right, everyone else was always wrong, and her way of doing things was the only way. It doesn’t make for a conducive workspace.
One morning, I had just sat down booting up my computer with another scheduled, early-arriving coworker, when she walked in. She wasn’t supposed to arrive for another hour! I thought I had time to drink my coffee and get my heart and mind in the right place for her abrasive personality, yet there she was.
“What are you doing here so early?” I asked, even as my mind wondered if she was just checking to make sure we came to work on time in an environment without a time clock to keep us honest.
And so it began. She started droning on about the changes she was instituting for the workplace (as the most senior person in our office), and about all the things we were all doing wrong that she could improve upon.
Y’all, it flew all over me. I had spent the past couple of days she’d been off cleaning up her messes and mistakes! My work-plate had been overflowing thanks to her missed steps, and it made my blood want to boil at her audacity to suggest anyone else was the problem!
The thing was, I wasn’t the only one! Everyone in the office felt the same as me. They were fed up with her constant slacking of job duties, but even more so with her attitude that suggested otherwise. Grrr. It made us all crazy. In fact, when she wasn’t around we talked about how insane she made us all feel. We laughed at her expense, and made jokes about her holier-than-though attitude. It somehow made me feel better, you know?
After a full day of hard work, also filled with plenty of gossip about my troublesome coworker, I drove home and started feeling conviction. I knew it wasn’t right. Not any of it. Not my anger, not my judgement. I shouldn’t be making jokes at her expense, ridiculing her behavior with others, or gossiping period. I confessed of my behavior and asked the Lord to change my heart. Man, it is so easy to fall into sin, and fall away from the heart of God! I asked Him to give me His heart towards this problematic coworker, to help me see her with His eyes. That’s a tough sale, guys, cause when you do that, you no longer want to dislike a person for their erroneous behavior; you want to embrace them in their brokenness. Have you ever realized we’re all the same in that we’re not yet whole?
The next time I worked with this person, it was great! I told my husband it had to be the Holy Spirit. I usually grew angry at her pride and easily offended when her comments suggested I was less of a good worker than she. Because really, isn’t that what these situations really come down to most of the time? Personal offense? But on this day, I took no offense, and we got along swimmingly. I left the office lighter, in a better mood, because instead of feeling angry, I felt peace.
Have you ever noticed how off your behavior is when you’re angry? It’s the opposite of the fruits of the spirit. Instead of peace, we feel unease. Instead of joy, we feel rage. Instead of patience, we feel frustration. Instead of kindness, we feel vengeance. And most importantly, instead of love, we feel the opposite! If God is love, what is the opposite of love? Well, I can tell you, it’s not of God.
The thing is, many times when we feel offended, it’s selfishness. Instead of service, like Jesus modeled, we have placed ourselves to be served. By assuming our desires, opinions, or even our life, are more important than a brother/sister, we are elevating ourselves, which never pans out well in the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom way, we are asked by Jesus to lay down our lives, to take up His cross, and to put on His yoke. Cause, you see, any other yoke is one of slavery. Slavery to anger, pride, selfish action, and again, the opposite of God’s essence, love. It turns out, His yoke, His way, is easy. That’s why after being a slave to offense, we feel terrible, but after being a slave (servant) to love, we feel amazing. I don’t think we always realize why we’re feeling so bad. We think it’s because of other people’s actions, but I would suggest, perhaps it’s our own hearts causing us harm.
When that person passes you in traffic haphazardly or cuts you in line! Arghh!
Remember justice is His. He will lift you up. Ask yourself these heart questions. What makes our time more valuable than that of another? What ranking does this particular offense hold in light of eternity? Does our response negatively affect our heart, and does it display the light of the One we claim to love? Are we reflecting Jesus to a lost and hurting world? This is something I desire more than anything.
When someone disagrees with something that is very important to us, it’s hard. When someone maliciously hurts us, it’s even harder. It’s crazy hard to lay down the desire to be right, the desire to be vindicated, and the desire to be esteemed, but as a Christian, that is what we are called to. We are asked to humble ourselves, to lay down our swords, and to serve in love. I still find myself in this crazy world, getting offended, but I try to not let that offense rule me, define me, or steer my actions. I’ve found that the true offense to being offended isn’t against the one I perceive as the offender, but rather it ends up being an offense to my own heart and the spirit God has given me. And who wants that!