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Meet Tom Petersen

Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 
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Me Behaving Badly

By Tom Petersen
www.HisWorkInProgress.com

CBNMoney.comI can always identify when a co-worker or company executive is behaving badly. Call it a gift, but my radar is super-sensitive to others’ transgressions. So it is surprising how difficult it is for me to realize when I’m behaving badly.

Which adds new depth to the word “ironic,” when you consider how often I behave badly.

The good news is I don’t misbehave out of ignorance. I know the “right” way to act. I read scripture with Jesus’ instructions printed in red. I listen (more often than not) when the pastor is describing God’s expectations. I am open to what those wise and experienced Christian authors have to say in the dozens of books sitting on my nightstand. I know the right way to act. But when push comes to shove, it will take both a bigger push and a bigger shove to force me to act the way I know I should.

My pastor has an endearing phrase that he slaps me with when I am being particularly unruly. “You already know more scripture than you’re obedient to.” He thinks he’s being clever.

Unfortunately, he’s right. I don’t need to know more truth. I need to act on the truth I know.

I offer as illustration a recent conversation that occurred when a co-worker informed me that another colleague was leaving the company.
Co-worker: “Did you hear that Suzy So-and-so left?” (The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Her real name is Betty.)
Me: “Oh, thank goodness!”
Co-worker: (taken aback by the force of my response): “Why do you say that?”
Me: “Are you kidding?! That woman was an idiot! I never met a bigger idiot! She’s the curator of the Idiot Hall of Fame! If there were a category for it, she would win an Oscar for best performance at work by an idiot! Google ‘idiot’ and she has over a million hits!”

Well, you get the idea.

I wish I could tell you I was exaggerating here, but I’m mortified to say that might be an actual transcript of the conversation. (Now there’s a scary thought. How would our conversations be different if the people we were talking about could read a transcript of what we said about them? After all, God hears everything I say. Meditate on that for awhile, Mr. “Can’t-Say-Anything-Nice-About-Others” Man!)

Because I know I am capable of such misbehavior, what do I do? Well, I know what I should do. First, I repent. (And by “first,” I mean after spending a lot of time denying it, attributing my mean comments to someone else and then pretending that I was “only kidding.”) I spend a lot of time asking God for forgiveness and claiming His grace. I don’t know how full God’s bucket of grace is, but I do know that I have claimed more than the average person’s share.

Second, I need to apologize to the person I offended, even if they didn’t realize I did something offensive. Oh sure, it sounds easy. But it requires a lot of courage, commitment and genuine humility. And there’s no way I can do it until I complete step one (see above).

Third, to prevent recurrence, I spend time with people who encourage me to think more highly of others than I do myself. They are wonderful people who are truly spirit-filled and usually make me feel like a schmuck, because I’m not like that. But you can’t be around spirit-filled people for long without picking up some of their habits. After a while, they rub off on me. (Unfortunately, I can only take them in small increments, lest I have some sort of saccharin reaction. But I think I’m building up a tolerance.)

It is amazing how a truly humble person helps me behave better. In return, I’m sure these friends get lots of valuable things from me.

Like learning a million different ways how to describe someone as an “idiot.”

 What do you do when you find yourself behaving in ways that fail to honor God? What do you do to prevent that kind of behavior? Send Tom an e-mail and let us know.

Tom Petersen works at a company in the Midwest, where he processes e-mail, attends meetings and recalibrates management expectations. His book of essays on work and faith is currently lurking outside of publishers’ back doors, trying to meet a naïve editor. Contact him at www.HisWorkInProgress.com.

 

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