I had a conversation with a friend this week about an experience that many of us in the faith community face on multiple occasions in different seasons of life. My friend, who I will call Josh for the purposes of this post, has started a new job recently and one of the other employees has been poking fun at Josh’s faith in Jesus Christ. Even when initiating the faith conversation by asking him questions about what he believes, the coworker responds with what he believes are humorous remarks demeaning Josh’s beliefs. When our followship of Jesus drives our behavior and speech, we will certainly come across foolish to those who do not yet believe. So Josh was asking for some advice on how to handle the relationship with this coworker.
Can you relate to Josh’s predicament? Have you experienced a similar situation?
First of all, I encouraged Josh in the fact that this behavior really bothers him. I think the fact that he is really hurt by his coworker’s comments illustrates that Josh’s faith is a deep part of his identity. His commitment to being a follower of Jesus plays a primary role as he approaches all of his relationships and responsibilities.
Next, we talked about the misconception that we should avoid awkward situations and pursue comfort at all costs. I have not explored this concept enough to know from where it originates, but we tend to grow the most in awkward, uncomfortable, and difficult times, especially when it comes to relationships. To avoid these occasions at all costs is to avoid maturation.
Therefore, I suggested that Josh approach his coworker and be honest about how his comments cause Josh pain because of what his faith means to him. If Josh is able to present his case in a way that does not appear oversensitive nor severs the relationship with his coworker (but is also genuine) then it could establish a whole new level for the relationship.
One trap into which Josh began to fall is the thought process that if he could just think of the right things to say or have the right facts to present to his coworker, then he would be convinced himself to start following Jesus. The more I see God at work in the world, however, the more convinced I become that it is solely love which compels us to belief. When we focus our energy on serving the people around us (including rude and cynical coworkers) and wait for opportunities to share our stories, God seems to use these circumstances to soften hearts toward a relationship with Him.
For Josh’s coworker to get a better understanding of why and how his comments affect Josh, but even more so to see that his words do not cause Josh to serve or love him any less, can provide the best space for God to be at work on both of them.
So when we face a similar situations, could the most faithful response be to confront the person whose comments hurt our feelings, speak honestly about how and why without severing the relationship, and then continue to serve that person well while we wait for further opportunities to share what Jesus has done in our lives? (That might be the longest sentence I’ve ever written. You might want to go back and read it again…slowly.)
Do you have any other suggestions for how Josh can handle the situation?
I needed to read this today. I’m glad I took the time and obeyed God’s nudging to listen to him today. I loved the statement “His commitment to being a follower of Jesus plays a primary role as he approaches all of his relationships and responsibilities.” I struggle to make the right choice in parenting and supporting my 9 year old daughter who is struggling with being bullied. The Mama bear in me is mad, protective, and ready to strike out in defense of my baby girl. The Holy Spirit in me is comforting me and nudging me to pray with my daughter for these “mean girls”. How easy does that sound? Well I’ve been a Christian for 24 years and I can’t seem to move out of defensive mode into prayer protection mode!!
Suggestions for josh? Every day is a choice- to either say yes or no to God. You will not always make the right choice:) but the good news is that God doesn’t give up on using you. I’m thankful for that as I choose YES today after so many NO’s lately:) maybe there’s a yes moment in store for you TODAY! Go ahead, you can do it.:)
Charlene, we live with many tensions being in this world, but not of this world. You name a great one here. Of course we naturally want to protect and defend our children, but we also want to teach them to respond to people with a Christlike love. It’s a struggle.
People do and say things all the time that can hurt people’s feelings, either due to just not thinking, ignorance, maybe even out of a dark place. When possible…. give people the benefit by thinking they are acting out of good intentions. Especially at the beginning of getting to know someone.
But if the behavior continues, escalate your response as needed.
1. Turn other cheek
2. Respond kindly bout that hurts, not nice.
3. Respond firmly. This behavior will stop or else.
4. See me for free advice.
Tim, I agree. I think that it is always healthy for us in the long run if we give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they have good intentions.
I’d say Josh should follow the Holy Spirit’s lead for sure because it speaks to us in all situations. Also take Stephen’s advice to heart…I’m convinced one of his greatest gifts is to relate to and befriend non-believers and he submissive to the Spirit as well so apply his advice religiously!
Teasing hurts. It confirms that the other person is using words in order to seek dominance in a relationship. For me, the most difficult part of being teased is finding and keeping my center because, if the truth be told, I desire affection and approval. When I realize that someone is trying to unbalance me I usually find myself off-centered, I realize that there may something he/she is picking up that suggests I am vulnerable. Once realized how I am impacted, I recenter on Christ and think loving thoughts of that person and remember the love Christ has for me. I tell myself that I am hurt or saddened by the words but then I set them aside and recenter on Christ. I also remember how sad it is that the other person’s ego is stimulated by their own hurtful comments so that I can be moved to love and pity. My father was like this person and I have met others. The best confrontation is just standing solidly on the rock, reaching out with tenacious love, and realizing that our desire for affection and affirmation is being thwarted so that I can let go of the desire and rest in Christ.