Thursday, August 4, 2011
Out pours the pain
It was just a normal, casual conversation between two friends. There’s a difference in our ages, like about 20 years, but our interests, temperaments and personalities more than bridge the age difference. He’s the younger of the two of us, but I have a profound respect for him as a professional and as a person. Not to mention the fact that we share the same faith.
And then he said something, about a situation he was dealing with at work. I went silent.
He took my silence as listening, and it was. Deep listening. Deep interest. He continued to talk, providing details. I listened harder. I could hear the pain in his voice.
Here was a guy who was unbelievably creative and innovative, a warhorse for work, could handle a dozen projects simultaneously and handle them well, worked hard, and the rewards and recognition went to someone who couldn’t hold a candle to him but did know how to work organizational politics.
It was tantamount to a betrayal.
I closed my eyes. The hurt came pouring out of him. Other people in his organization were just as upset. Everyone knew what had happened. Everyone knew a profound injustice had been done, that in its usual oblivious way the organization ha d communicated that hard work, results and innovation placed a very distant second to telling the boss what the boss wanted to hear.
I listened to his pain in his heart.
What I was hearing was the pain in my own heart.
I’ve been there, I thought. I’ve been there too many times. I know what you’re going through, know it better than you realize. I’ve lived this. You’re telling me my own story.
Then he got to the worst part, and I knew this was coming. I've lived this story.
“I feel like crap for thinking this way,” he said. “I have a good job. Our needs are met. I feel like I’m shaking my fist at God for how unfair it all is.” Nothing like a sense of unthankfulness to dredge up good old Christian guilt.
“It just hurts,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “I know it hurts.”
Then I told him why I knew. I told him about the first time it had happened to me. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. Different people, different organizations, different jobs – but the same thing. Four times. The same thing that you never get used to, the same thing that hurts each time.
Constructed within this image of God that we all bear as human beings is a sense of rightness, of justice, of good work and faithfulness being rewarded. We bristle when unfairness and decisions made on personal preferences prevail. Sometimes we’re outraged. It’s not that we don’t understand the big picture in the workplace, which is what we’re often told. We understand the big picture better than a lot of managers realize.
But we also understand what constitutes fairness. We know when something is right, and when something is wrong.
So what did I say, do I say to my friend who hurts?
“It happens. It may happen again, and it will hurt just as much, because you simply can’t get used to it. Doing the wrong thing four times doesn’t make it right. But you have to find ways to get through it.” I’m quiet for a moment. “When I look back, I realize that, for all my hurt and pain, I wasn’t alone. Those were the times that I grew, that my faith grew. I wish there had been an easier way, but it’s what happened. My faith grew. The injustice of man does not overwhelm the justice of God. And God is faithful, even when I shook my fist at him.”
We’re still talking.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray has asked us to write about a time recently when we’ve felt close to God. The account I’ve written here started in the last week. To see more posts, please visit Faith Barista.
Photograph: Lonely Man by Anna Cervova via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.