He stood in front of my desk, eyes full of rage and language seasoned with words people in our office building rarely used around me. Yet, it wasn’t the cuss words which pierced my heart, but his remarks. “I worked here two years before you even knew my last name,” he screamed. And if the truth of those words didn’t sting enough, he went on to say, “I get tired of being treated like a second class citizen around here.”
This conversation came after three consecutive days of Sam (not his real name) redoing some of his normal responsibilities because he had been neglecting and forgetting them. Even though there needed to be an improvement and I realized he was frustrated, once he left my office I could not get his words out of my head. I still can’t get his words out of my head.
This situation required me to step back and take a personal inventory. Were his words justified? Did my actions and words (or lack of them) make him feel like a nobody? The thought of making an individual feel like a nobody distresses me. Why? First off, because I want to see what Jesus sees and I want to treat people like Jesus would treat them. And Jesus Never. Ever. made someone feel like a nobody! The other reason is because there have been times when I felt like a nobody. I. Don’t. Like. The. Feeling! And I don’t want to ever make someone feel that way.
In reflecting on my actions and/or lack of in the situation with Sam, I had to question if my judgmental, hypocritical attitude had reared its ugly head again. Initially had I not bothered to ask him his last name because of what I saw? Did I look down on him?
Years ago, when God and I were working through my self-righteous, hypocritical attitudes one of the books I read was The Ragamuffin Gospel: Goodnews for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out, by Brennan Manning. In it Manning states, “Whenever I allow anything but tenderness and compassion to dictate my response to life–be it self-righteous anger, moralizing, defensiveness, the pressing need to change others…I am alienated from my true self. My identity as Abba’s child [a child of God] becomes ambiguous, tentative and confused.” In working with Sam, was I once again confused? Even when having to confront him because of work not being done correctly, was it done with tenderness and compassion? Or did I lord it over him?
I Peter 5:2-3 says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Ouch! Even the scriptures give examples of how I am to treat Sam.
Let’s just get down to the nitty- gritty. The answers I found during my personal inventory were not pretty!! The unvarnished truth is I hadn’t bothered to ask Sam his name because I assumed he had an addiction and was just putting in his time. He didn’t look or act like I thought he should, so I just didn’t bother asking him his last name. The second reality God showed me was I thought my responsibilities and tasks were more important than Sam’s. And many days, I didn’t bother to explain to him what I expected. His frustration was justified! Even though I had never spoken how I felt about the difference in our assignments, my lack of action and blatant “brush-off” had made him feel like a nobody!
God used the words of one “ragamuffin,” to open the eyes of another “ragamuffin.” I am praying this time I finally got it. And there will never, ever be another person who feels like a nobody because of my words or actions!