Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Angry (08/02/07)
TITLE: Attack of the Co-Workers
By Amory Calcott
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One thing that I have to deal with on a fairly regular basis is the fact that my particular Christian denomination is rare in this area, and is often misunderstood by the locals. Sometimes, people make disparaging comments. I once spent my first day on a new job listening to people cutting down my religion. Not only were they being malicious, but they were also spreading outright falsehoods. The "facts" they spouted about my church had no basis whatsoever in reality. I was stunned. I hadn't told anybody about my religion, had not said one word about it, but there they stood saying incredibly hateful things about my beliefs. As it turned out, one of the workers had heard a lively sermon against my denomination at her own church on the previous Sunday morning. By noon, after enduring an entire morning of this nonsense, I was left wondering if I should just walk off the job and never come back.
What gave these people the right to cut down other people's religious beliefs? Did it not occur to them that several of the new employees might actually belong to the denomination they were slamming? As Christians, how dare they tear apart other Christians? Moreover, were they not aware that religious discrimination is illegal on this job site, and could result in a significant lawsuit if I cared to press one? These and other questions raced through my mind.
On my lunch break, I sat alone, since nobody apparently cared to waste their time talking to new employees. I was seething. They had accused my church of slanderous (and very untrue) practices. While attempting to think of a suitable rebuttal, I asked myself what my beliefs do, in fact, teach.
One of the key teachings of my church is tolerance. We must extend the all-encompassing love of Christ toward others. That means all others, not just the ones we personally like. Yes, my new co-workers had shown me disrespect. However, had I shown them love and patience in return? Hardly. I had spent all morning fuming at my desk, probably looking as if I wanted to strangle them all. And if they had snubbed me by refusing to sit with me at lunch, I was equally guilty. After all, had I invited any of them to join me at my table?
I didn't know what Jesus would do in this situation, but it was a safe bet that He wouldn't sit there letting stress and hurt feelings eat Him alive.
"There's room here," I found myself saying to the next person who came into the break room. "You can sit with me." And he did.
Later that afternoon, somebody asked me what church I attended. I wasn't going to lie about it. When I told them, the whole office staff looked embarrassed. For the remainder of my time on that job, nothing more was ever said against my church in my presence. I found it intriguing that they were willing to verbally attack a church until one of that church's adherents was actually sitting in front of them. Then they backpedaled and retreated completely. If they were so bold, then why not be bold to my face and ask questions of me personally? I never did figure that out. But I didn't need to. It became a non-issue, and was never brought up again.
My anger was lessened by my realization that, while my co-workers weren't perfect, I was even less so. They might have bashed my religious beliefs, but I wasn't exactly carrying out those beliefs very well to begin with. Instead of showing them Christian love, I was showing them my own silent contempt. There are multiple ways I could have handled the situation gracefully, but sitting there wishing they'd explode was not one of them.
When I honestly analyze the things that make me angry, I find that the root of it often lies in dissatisfaction with some element of my own behavior, and not merely with my indignation over the actions of others.
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