Blog - Embodying Truth

Those Vexing People at Work

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Several weeks ago I met with a group of Christ-followers who all work for government. During our "Table Talk” sessions in our dining room, we discussed some of the unique problems of living out their faith while working for a public agency. On the last evening of our four-session series, they all agreed that the most vexing parts of their work was coping with people-problems.

Verbal abuse. Gossip. Angry outbursts. Manipulation. Passing the buck. If you’ve served in the work world for any length of time, you have undoubtedly encountered these and many more. Googling on the phrase, "dealing with difficult people at work,” will bring in enough website links to keep you reading for years. For example, "How to Deal with a Mean Colleague.” "How to Survive Dysfunctional and Difficult Co-workers.” There’s even one on "Dealing with Difficult Lawyers and Other Difficult People.”

Although the websites offer much helpful insight, we who are seeking to live under the rule of Jesus operate under some Kingdom-of-God instructions. "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lk. 6:28). Or, "Do not resist an evil person” (Mt. 5:39). Or, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

I recently asked a few former students in my online theology-of-work course to send me examples of how they had overcome evil with good in their workplaces. Here is one response:

When I was a server/waiter at a restaurant during college, a family often came into our restaurant that obviously didn’t like me for some reason. I hated when they sat in my section because their dislike for me was obvious—but I never really knew why.

One day after serving them, I noticed after they left that I had given them the wrong ticket, which was actually for a higher price than their actual ticket. They had paid without noticing and I now had extra money from the mistake. I knew I needed to repay them the next time they came in, but I was not looking forward to it because they already didn’t like me. This would give them yet another confirmation of their feelings towards me.

A few weeks later, they visited the restaurant again. I told them what had happened and that I was sorry and gave them the money they had overpaid the previous time. Instead of getting angry with me, they offered understanding and even left me as tip the entire amount that I had given back—in addition to their normal tip. Furthermore, from that time on, they always asked for my section when they came in and we actually became friends over the next two or three years before I finally left having graduated college. They even went as far as trying to set me up with their daughter, who was around my age. It was a big turnaround!

Have you been able to overcome evil with good in the workplace? Please tell us about it in the comment box below.

Comments (1)

Robb Shaffer (6/21/2015 5:36:59 PM)
Hi, Larry. My wife, Maria, taught me years ago that we should pray for difficult people in our lives. She had one person where she worked who apparently didn't like her and she told me she was praying for that person. I was amazed by the concept at the time, as it was foreign to me. I live by it now.

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