A door mat or a stepping stone

Key verse: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9 (NIV)

I had taken up yet another assignment for my not so pleasant boss.

Correction: I did not have the courage to refuse yet another assignment from the scariest (short tempered, moody and unpredictable) person in my department.

The assignment was time consuming and monotonous, and I would gain nothing from it- not even praise.

Being at the bottom of the corporate ladder and having lower qualifications than most of my colleagues made me an ideal scrape goat for assignments of this kind.

Also the reason why my colleagues called me the door mat- yet again!

The doormat title wasn’t a new one.

The descriptions changed: in childhood it was called caring, helpful, pleasant, friendly; in adulthood it was called people pleasing, diffidence, irresoluteness, non assertiveness.

The feelings of resentment and anger that rose within me, did not diminish over time.

I love my job and unpleasant tasks like this one are scarce.

But after sleepless nights at the computer, a nauseating road trip of 300 kms, and another degrading comment, I did some introspection.

Where was the boundary between being a stepping stone and a door mat?

Should I turn down assignments that are unpleasant (or from an unpleasant person)?

Should I feel taken advantage of when assigned additional tasks?

A verse in the bible reading that day struck me:”If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”(Matthew 5:39-41)

This was not about developing assertiveness, making priority lists, being productive, and setting professional boundaries.

This was not about self preservation.

The instinct that says: What is in this for me?

 “How do I benefit financially or career wise by doing this task?” “I will not to tire myself out physically and emotionally, so that have energy left to do what I have planned afterwards.”

Our instincts tell us to pursue success, happiness and health.

We falsely believe that we lose something by rendering of ourselves or our possessions.

Our instincts are strong, but blind and need direction. Unless directed towards God, we may lose the very thing that we yearn for. In seeking happiness, we may lose it; in seeking health, become unwell; in seeking satisfaction, become delusional.

Self preservation focuses on self while sacrifice denies self.

The word of God says that it is better to give than to receive.

That pursuing purity of heart is better than pursuing health and happiness.

That in order to reap generously, we are to sow generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

We are further asked to give cheerfully, not out of regret or compulsion. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

God promises that if we suffer, he will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. (1Peter 5:10)

I thought back on my boss, the one universally disliked. Whose entrance into the office, caused others to leave. Whose voice caused people to pretend deafness.

God however seemed to say that day: “He’s my child too”.

Suddenly I didn’t feel resentful, I felt sorry for him. I pitied him for the life he had created, his use of threat rather than love to get work completed and his lack of meaningful relationships in life.

I realized that the only way to overcome evil was with love.

I prayed for him that day.

The boss didn’t change and became a wonderful human being.

This assignment didn’t get me the promotion and raise I was waiting for.

What had changed was my attitude.

When a few days later he sent me a thank you note, I thanked him for the opportunity to help him.

I stopped slandering him, and even attempted to defend him when he was unjustly criticized.

I certainly lost my dread of him, even though there were harsh words carelessly tossed at times.

I learned that you don’t lose anything by giving.

Dear Lord, we pray that you will always be first in our lives. Help us to follow your example in selflessness and look to you when we feel weak, insecure and unappreciated. When we are tempted to indulge in ourselves or disregard someone else, remind us that we are all equal in your sight. Help us to understand that we fulfil your purpose in our lives only when we submit ourselves to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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