Personal and Structural Evils in the Workplace: A Response of how to Overcome Evil with Good

Christus Victor

Christus Victor

[This is an adaptation from a paper I'm currently writing.]

Last night, our class had a thrilling discussion on the reality of evil.  While we can’t figure out the origin of evil, we do know that it’s real.  Take the story, for example, of a famous psychiatrist who had to come to terms with evil itself:

“The second element which must be factored in is the psychological one. The famous American psychotherapist M. Scott Peck was for many years an agnostic. He learned his psychiatry according to the standard model in which there was no such thing as evil. But at around the same time as, to his own surprise, he came into the Christian faith, he came to recognize that in some cases at least it was not enough to regard certain patients, or in some cases the families of certain patients, as simply ill or muddled or misguided. He was forced to come to terms with a larger, darker power, for which the only word was evil. He wrote his book People of the Lie to articulate this unpopular viewpoint.”  – N. T. Wright. Evil and the Justice of God
We moved the discussion towards structural evil which is more systemic in nature and involves examples such as power differential in corporations, the rich-poor gap, chronic abuse, and others.
I kept thinking of the workplace and some of the dynamics that HR and the company face.  Sure we can label the issues:  an employee’s negative attitude, stealing, lying, manipulation, greed, misuse of power, etc.  But much of this is influenced by this force of evil, this disposition that many have given into.  And evil is defined as a defiant-rebellious-narcissism contrary to the ultimate character and will of a loving God.  Even half-truths or situations where matters seem grey appear to have slithers of this evil force at work.
Before we are too alarmed or think that we’d never behave like this, might I remind us to look at our own lives and see how we have allowed the force of evil to influence us.  We too are culprits of allowing evil to have some type of disposition and influence in our hearts.
A Christian ethic, in the context of workplace and social ethic, might provide us with a paradigm to perceive the daily interactions among employees and see that many of the of accusations, deceptive mannerisms, and poor judgment could be attributed to an evil force that is influencing some.  I am not trying to glorify evil in this sense, but am trying to offer a view and response to the questions that I concurrently hear throughout the workplace:
  • Why do employees misbehave?
  • Why did so-and-so lie about this accounting spreadsheet?
  • What motivated this employee to sue the company?
  • Why is this manager constantly misusing and abusing their power?
  • Why is this employee constantly threatening others with their snide remarks?
  • How could this employee steal money from us?
A humanist/atheist/agnostic worldview might simply say that evil does not exist.  They might dismiss the issues as childhood trauma, our shadow/dark parts of the self, or a lack of education.  All of these responses might have some relevance (in fact, many times trauma and lack of education are major contributors–and receiving the proper healing and education might help empower the person).  Yet there is an origin, a disposition of an evil force at work during the trauma, in the shadow/dark self, or realizing that because of a structural evil one was unable to attend school due to a lack of finances.  But this humanistic/atheist/agnostic worldview does not have an answer for responding to this force of evil.
The Christian Tradition’s Response to Evil
The ultimate response to evil is seen in the way Jesus acknowledges it, confronts it, and defeats it.  Jesus wasn’t just a great moral teacher or life guru that came to model an exemplar life.  Many subscribe to this but it falls short of the Gospel truth.  Jesus came to proclaim and inaugurate God’s Rule and Reign on earth as in heaven.  Part of this proclamation was to confront the structural and immoral evils.  Wherever evil and injustice existed, Jesus was quick to confront it through a healing touch, shedding light and truth over and against darkness and deception, extending forgiveness to the “unforgivable”, confronting abusive leadership, and ultimately destroying the work of the Devil (1 John 3:8).
In the book of Ephesians 6:10-18, the Apostle Paul teaches the early church how to confront and overcome evil:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

It is my summation that much of the weariness and cynicism that many leaders in the workplace face is contributed to the ongoing work of confronting structural and personal evil.  It is hard work having to confront injustices and systemic problems that just don’t seem to go away.  Yet Paul tells us to take a stand and arm ourselves.  Take note that you are not battling “Suzie” or “Tyler”.  No.  You are confronting the force of evil that is influencing and deceiving many.  This is not to make evil the scapegoat because Jesus has destroyed the power of the evil one and we have the power to choose which voice we will listen to.

The Christian worldview is to live in the authority of Jesus, to act in accordance to His heart and character, to trust the work of the Cross, and to claim for ourselves the victory of Christ over all evil.  While Jesus already did this work, it has yet to be fully consummated on earth.  Part of the Gospel message is that we are now partners with Christ to assail the work of evil in our own contexts.  We are now heralds and agents of the work of Christ.  We are called to promote forgiveness, justice, ethical/moral living, a solid work and social ethic, and to extend healing, grace, and mercy as much as we can in Christ.

Instead of crumbling in defeat, we are to take a stand on the Victory of Christ over death and evil!  We must pray to see how we can all do this in the marketplace.

Some Stories that Highlight the confronting of evil and doing good (don’t be overcome by evil…overcome it with Good!! Rom. 12:21)

*A manager who has been providing care and support to a single mother.  The manager has been periodically checking in on the employee to see how they’re doing and to offer support to the best of their ability.  

*An employee offered his vacation time to anybody who might need an extended amount of time to recover from surgery or an ailment!  It put tears in my eyes to hear that he wanted to do this!

*A manager, the other day, brought in one of his employees to his office because the employee was not performing as usual.  Instead of beating down the employee, the manager shared all the good qualities the employee usually embodies.  And then asked him, “What has changed?  You’re usually on top of things.”  It turns out the employee was going through a slump and just needed some encouragement.

*The other day I had the chance to pray for an employee who struggling with physical pain, as well as the sadness of seeing his brother struggling with cancer.  We prayed and the employee began crying.  Afterwards, they said, “I just needed to release this burden with tears.  Thanks for letting me do that”.  

Let’s continue to overcome evil in our own contexts with good.  And then share the story with someone.  Share it with me if you can!!!  :)

How to Form a Habit, A Scientific Approach

We become our habits, for better or worse.  Here’s a way to engage in habit formation, a virtue ethics of sorts.  [Christian Spirituality has much to offer to the formation of habits as well.  You can read any of Richard Foster or Dallas Willard's works for more info.]

Source:  http://blog.sqwiggle.com/form-habit-scientific-approach/

A great daily routine is the holy grail of productivity. But the building blocks for that routine, habits, are tough to start, and even harder to change. Whether you want to meditate more, drink more water, or floss more than twice a month, these psychology-backed strategies can help you develop a new habit and keep it from fading.

How to Deal with Accusation

The workplace can sometimes be a hotbed for accusation, gossip, and rumors to fly.  Here’s a way to engage and respond to accusation.  By the way, the primary title for the Evil One depicted in the Bible is “The Hasatan” which means accuser.  Accusing others is evil.

Source:  http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/217

  • Accept that there is no way you can erase what has happened. Even though the accusations may be unfair and untrue, the situation is real. You need to get out of denial about that in order to deal with it in the here and now.
  • Watch your catastrophic language. If you keep saying this is “horrible” and your life is “ruined,” you add to the stress. Put things in perspective. An innocent child in a burn unit of a hospital is horrible. Perhaps your situation isn’t as tragic. Perhaps your life isn’t ruined, but just damaged. Change your internal dialogue, and you will feel better.
  • Life Law #2: You Create Your Own Experience. The first person you’ve got to repair your reputation with is you. Are you a bad guy? Are you a bad citizen? Do you hurt people? Do you commit crimes? The answer if probably no. Stop feeling guilty and being angry with yourself. Own your mistakes, forgive yourself for them but don’t continue to beat yourself up. Life is not a success-only journey. Learn from your bad decisions and move on.
  • Ask yourself what you would like to see happen in order to clear your name. Is there anything that anyone — the authorities, your co-workers or someone in the community — can do that could ever make the situation better.
  • Begin with your inner circle. Start rebuilding your reputation with your family, close friends and neighbors. You make sure they know the truth. When your inner circle knows who you really are, they will go out into the world with the truth, and it will create a ripple effect. And if you are confronted with these false accusations again, you look the person in the eye, and you tell your side of the story. You don’t need to bring this up the rest of your life, but in your immediate circle and in this immediate time, you want to step up and tell them the truth.
    Understand that people might come forward to admit they were wrong. And they might not. It is up to you to put this behind you. Give yourself what you wish you could receive from others. You need to say to yourself, “I know I didn’t do this. And I will give myself what I wish the community, the authorities, etc., would give me.”
  • Life Law #8: You Teach People How to Treat You. If you walk into the world, and you’re hanging your head, and you kind of don’t want to look anybody in the eye, and you’re shameful, then people will treat you that way. You have to be your own best friend, and you have to decide who you are at the core. Begin the process of closure by not reacting to what you think people are saying about you. If you allow yourself to be intimidated, feel guilty or shrink away because of what people think, you are putting yourself in a prison.
    Don’t try to address every accusation. If you decide to start defending yourself, that will become your full-time job. If you answer every story, every piece of gossip, every allegation in your life, that’s all you will ever do. You will be completely consumed by this, and it will take over your life.
  • Stop reacting to the rumors. You give it legs by reacting to it. Don’t draw attention to yourself defending the rumor. You need to give yourself permission to just live your life. If there are people out there who think something about you that you don’t like, then those won’t be your friends. There will be other people who will like and respect you for who you are, and they will be your friends.
  • Stand up for yourself and say, “I’m taking my power back. I’m not going to give them the power to pick my feelings. They’re wrong, and I can look myself in the mirror knowing the truth.” You have to decide that you believe in who you are, what you stand for, and what you do, and you just need to go forth and do it. You need to walk forward from the situation. Who you are and what you do, that will win out in time.
  • Know that it’s normal to feel a twinge of guilt even if you’re completely innocent. We always hear about guilt by association. But there is also guilt by accusation. People hear something negative and tend to believe it. If you accuse a person unfairly, he/she still has that twinge — just from having the finger pointed at him/her.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of acting out with non-directional frustration. The stress that comes with being wrongly accused can lead a person to act out with those closest to them, like a spouse or child. Remember that the enemy isn’t your loved one; it’s an outside force.

 

Morning Musings

remembering the dead

remembering the dead

There is no remembrance of men and women of old…

You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

It seems to me that when I talk with people on the cusp of retiring, some are afraid to stop working for fear of not having something to do that is meaningful or purposeful.  Getting old and being old makes some to feel forgotten and obsolete.

It seems to me that people fear not being remembered after they have passed away.  Jesus, as He is about to face death, says to His students, “Remember me”.  This is much of what the Eucharist is about. It’s about remembering Someone who faced the reality of death and was given a new life.  Even Jesus had a need to be remembered.

I told my parents while we were at my Tata and Nana’s burial grounds that I would remember them.  That I wouldn’t forget them.  I cried over the future reality that I won’t have them.  But I promised to remember them.

A couple of thoughts come to mind:

1.  I want to live a storied life that at the end of it, people will remember how much I loved them.

2.  I want to be someone who remembers my close family and friends, even after they’ve passed away.

3.  Remembering that our life is dust and will come to end is a great motivator to live a worthy life now.  There is a wisdom in remembering that our life will end.

Love now.
Have Faith now.
Forgive now.
Do charitable work now.
Pursue a dream now.

Prayers for the Dead

God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.

Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.

In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.

Amen.

the text mirrors human development

I never quite knew how to word this concept until now.  Forewarning:  provocative statements up ahead…

“This is how God trusts incarnation. God allows us to see God and uses that as his word. It’s through us. Therefore the text itself is three steps forward and two steps back. It gets it, it loses it, it get it it loses it…My Jesus hermeneutic is like this: Jesus never quotes Joshua and Judges. Most of Joshua and Judges are two steps backward books. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be in the Bible, I’m fine with that, there’s a lot in my life that’s two steps backwards. The text mirrors human development and growth and understanding” – Richard Rohr

Here’s the second quote I liked: “When it says Yahweh says… I know they [the writers of the Bible] wouldn’t like this but Yahweh didn’t say that. They said that. Like we do. We project our own consciousness onto God to justify our own evil behavior. We still do that-but that’s a totally different narrative for an evangelical.” – Richard Rohr

I always “knew” this as felt knowledge but couldn’t figure out words for it.

http://tmblr.co/Z8QMAt1Lm0cdE

Husband or Wife? The Partner Whose Happiness Matters More For The Marriage

Okay…I agree with this article IF it means that a happy wife is responsible for her own happiness AND that the husband can ADD to this mutually satisfying enterprise.  In other words, I don’t believe that a husband is SOLELY responsible for the happiness of his wife.  That is her inner work to do, with her husband as a partner in the journey.

I have personally noticed that I am happier when my wife is indulging herself in “personal happiness responsibility”.  It spills over into our marriage and my own life.  If she’s happy and I’m not happy, life is still okay.  I can work through with some support.  I would rather see her happy and fulfilled.  It’s easier for me to cope with life when she is in this state.  I’m sure my happiness might affect/impact her as well….That’s been my personal experience and observation.

source:

When the wife is happy with a long-term partnership, the husband is happier, no matter how he feels about the marriage.

For marital quality, it seems the wife’s happiness matters more than the husband’s.

Reading Time and Parenting

Here’s a link to a post by a fella named Jeff Gunhus.  He talks about his experience with reading and interacting with his kids.  This has been a struggle for me in the past.  I am seeing some light though.  And Jeff’s suggestions have been confirmation that we’re on the right path.  As an example, my son and I read for an hour yesterday.  And we can’t wait to read today.  (By the way, I’m posting on my site in order to leave a digital footprint for my son’s to have some resources as they grow.)

source:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1002658351

JEFF’S 10 TIPS FOR REACHING YOUR RELUCTANT READER

  • Set up time to read with them. There’s always time. Sometimes you just have to carve it out of something else.
  • Have them read out loud. You’ll know better where they are getting hung up. Kids often avoid reading because they think they’re not good at it. Find out.
  • Read with a pencil. Underline words your reader has a tough time pronouncing or can’t define. Transfer to a separate page later.
  • Make them feel safe. Set the ground rules. Let them know that you didn’t know a lot of words when you were young. Confide that there are still words that you don’t know. There’s no judgment in the reading club.
  • Use books that are fun, easy reads at first. An author who ends each chapter with a white-knuckled cliffhanger helps.
  • Only let them read that book in your sessions. Make it special and use the cliffhanger to get them excited for the next session. Encourage a separate book to read outside the reading sessions if they are getting the bug.
  • Relate to the book. Figure out how your reader’s life relates to the characters. This helps critical thinking and makes it fun.
  • Write your own stories. They don’t have to be novels. But put your reader into the story, even if it’s just their name. Have fun with it.
  • Be consistent. Once you set this appointment, nothing can touch it. Nothing.
  • Have fun! This isn’t school, it’s supposed to be fun. You might be surprised. I didn’t expect to like the Harry Potter books but I loved them. Outside of writing Jack Templar, I had my own burst of reading. It was great fun and the more the boys saw me with a book in my hand, the more likely they were to do the same. The quiet mornings with my boys became some of my favorite times with them. I hope you can experience the same.

First Day of School: Prayers and Hopes

Many are starting school today (this week, this month).  We dropped our boys off and just like that, they’re off to learning and growing.  Here are some things I am praying and hoping for; not just for my kids but for all who are starting the school year.

*For Parenting Wisdom:  I am grateful for our teachers.  But I also know that our children’s education is our responsibility as parents and that it’s tough work.  So the prayer is one of humility, asking God to fill us with the wisdom needed to teach our children to be responsible, hard-working, playful, and thoughtful of others.

*teachers and staff members:  teachers pour themselves out so much every day.  Praying they would have the support needed to be the type of teachers that inspire and equip our children.  Praying that parents would get to know their teachers and see what their needs might be.

*a hope for building community:  it’s a hope of mine to build more long lasting relationships and community with parents.  In community we can give and receive support, help meet needs together, and impact the lives of our students and school.

*a hope for children to discover their talents and abilities:  the educational basics are great, we need them.  I also pray that students would discover their talents and abilities, and that we’d learn to value all the different types of ways students think and experience life.

*for those who don’t have educational opportunities:  I also can’t help but think of children (in the U.S. and abroad) who don’t have the opportunities to get the education they deserve because the country might be stricken by war, political upheaval, or poverty.

“Father, we ask to be parents that model Your love and grace to our kids.  We pray for our teachers and school communities–that they would become transformative communities of learning and compassion.  Amen”

The 12 Steps: A Tutor for Spiritual Transformation

The 12 Steps (a revised version posted below for Christian Spiritual Transformation) has been something I’ve been interested in for the last 5 years or so.  Dallas Willard and Richard Rohr (along with others) have used this machination as a means to surrender our lives to King Jesus and be transformed by the power of the Spirit.  My hope and prayer is for constant transformation in my life.  I am addicted to many things, none the least which include popularity and being right.

Source:  http://www.wheretoreach.us/12-steps/

  1. We admit we are limited and mortal; that we need help.
  2. Come to believe that Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s plan of bringing fruitful and lasting life—starting right now—to anyone who will come.
  3. Make a decision to trust everything to the loving direction and power of Jesus, God’s Christ.
  4. Make a searching and fearless inventory of the ways we are selfish or harmful to others or ourselves, as well as the ways we’ve seen God do better, or offer to do better, through us.
  5. Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the full content of our inventory.   
  6. Become entirely ready to act in the opposite spirit of our wrongs, and be transformed in Christ’s likeness.
  7. Humbly seek to empty ourselves of our selfish agendas as Christ did, and ask God to fill us with his Spirit.
  8. Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continue to take personal inventory and, when we are wrong, promptly admit it.
  11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the Father through his Son and Spirit, praying as Jesus teaches us to pray, and as the Spirit helps us in our weakness. 
  12. Having found real life and love and hope in Jesus, we try to give grace to all, ready to give an answer for our hope, and try to practice his ways in all our affairs.