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Mistreated at Work? Here is What You Can Do (Luke 6: 27-28)
By David L. Goetsch
The workplace can be a challenging environment for Christians; it has a way of bringing out the worst in some people. This being the case, it is likely that at some point you have been mistreated by a co-worker or supervisor. Here are some of the complaints Christians make most often about being mistreated at work: having their religious convictions mocked, being persecuted because of their faith, having their good work overlooked by a boss who takes them for granted, having others take credit for their work, having their job security threatened for refusing to violate ethical standards, being lied to by co-workers, being bullied by a supervisor or co-worker, suffering repercussions for doing the right thing, having co-workers let them down or turn against them, having co-workers fail to follow through on promises, being cheated by co-workers, having a promotion or raise go to someone less deserving, having colleagues poach their clients, and having a jealous co-worker sabotage their work.
This list of manifestations of maltreatment is representative but it is not comprehensive. There are plenty of other ways Christians are mistreated at work. If you have been treated badly at work, regardless of the form it took, the maltreatment probably left you feeling used, abused, frustrated, stressed, angry, and even disillusioned. The bad news is that Christians often report feeling this way because of situations at work. The good news is that you are not alone when co-workers treat you badly. Christ is with you in the form of the Holy Spirit.
The likelihood of being mistreated at work is high for everyone, but it is even higher for Christians. Working in ways that are consistent with your faith can get in the way of the often self-serving and sometimes nefarious agendas of co-workers and supervisors. People who work ethically often represent inconvenient barriers to those who don’t. Worse yet, when you are mistreated by a co-worker, your faith can make it doubly hard to cope because, as Christians, we are expected to exemplify the fruit of the spirit in how we treat people no matter how they treat us. A hard truth faced by Christians is this: we must be willing to treat unkind people with kindness, impatient people with patience, and dishonest people with honesty. In fact, we are supposed to exemplify the fruit of the spirit in all of our interactions. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the various manifestations of the fruit of the spirit as follows: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To make this challenge even more difficult, we are expected to forgive people we have no desire to forgive and who don’t deserve forgiveness.
Exemplifying the fruit of the spirit and the willingness to forgive are not just nice-sounding Biblical theories that we leave on the doorstep when we go to work. Rather, they are ever-present expectations of those who follow Jesus Christ. Of the two, forgiveness is the most difficult to do. If you struggle to forgive a co-worker who has mistreated you, remember what Christ said as He hung dying on the cross: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Being willing to forgive is important because it is a Biblical mandate. Think of the words in the Lord’s Prayer: “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Exemplifying the fruit of the spirit and forgiving co-workers who treat you badly does not mean that you don’t confront the wrong doer. Nor does it mean you don’t report their maltreatment and make full use of your organization’s human resource procedures for dealing with work-related abuse. What it does mean is that you don’t retaliate in kind, seek revenge, or conspire to get back at the wrong doer. Further, it means if the wrong doer is contrite and apologizes, you respond by forgiving rather than carrying a grudge. But there is something even more important you can do when dealing with co-workers who mistreat you: pray in accordance with the message in Luke 6:27-28 where we are told to love our enemies and pray for those who abuse us.
When you pray, ask the Lord to: 1) take away the deceitfulness, self-centeredness, jealousy, or other factors that cause the individual in question to mistreat you and others, 2) take away the feelings of anger, frustration, and revenge you may be feeling, 3) give you the strength to exemplify the fruit of the spirit for all of your co-workers including those who mistreat you, and 4) give you a forgiving heart should the person who mistreated you demonstrate contriteness. It can take time and a lot of forbearance but treating people at work in accordance with the fruit of the spirit can have a powerful effect on them. It might even change their lives.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com