My withdrawal from work and church life consequent upon my depression was a quite a heart-wrenching experience. Through the night on January 16th/17th everything changed. Through disturbed sleep, I gradually moved from a position of contemplating how I was going to arrange myself so as to get through what was ahead, to a position where I had concluded that I had to pull out of everything.
At the heart of myself reaching this conclusion was the awareness that I was only digging myself increasingly into a hole. I had gone on since December 19th thinking that I would right myself and be stabilized mentally and emotionally so as to be able to move forward. Reluctantly I had to conclude by January 17th that I was only going further down and there was no stabilizing and rising up. If carried on I reckoned, I would only drive myself further down.
I believe in retrospect this was the sensible thing to do and was important as regards to me re-establishing myself.
Moreover, I want to assert, that there is a general principle of life here which we need to be willing to apply. There are times when we have to admit that to continue in a certain course is only going to have harmful consequences. In such a situation we have to admit defeat and pull back. To do otherwise is to prejudice the welfare of ourselves and possibly many others. I believe if I had not pulled out it would have been detrimental to the welfare of my family and church.
To admit that the pursuit of a certain course is harmful is not easy, but it is wise. However, there must be discernment between copping out and pulling out. The former is a character fault because it indicates that we will not stick with something when we should. The latter is a character asset because it means we do not continue with something when we should not. To discern between the two is very often not easy, but it is essential that we are aware that the two are necessary to healthy living.
Given the nature of my position I am in, from time to time, I am asked to be a referee for someone. Here are some thoughts on this:
- If you are putting someone down as a referee ask their permission first.
- As someone who writes references, I find the fact that the practice nowadays that jobs are offered ”subject to references” very unsatisfactory. As far as I am aware historic practice was that references were considered before making any offer. But now not so. So if someone has the job offer withdrawn they know that it was the references that precipitated this and that could well have been your reference. This puts much pressure on writing the references. Previously everything would be considered, including the reference, before the applicant was communicated with regarding their success or failure with their application. I suppose one way round this is to say to a person who you feel you will give a negative reference to that they should go to someone else. But this raises its own issues.
- Overall I so very often find doing a reference to be a great heartache. I am bound to be truthful, my conscience before God binds me to that. However, I want to help the person to further their career and get the the job. My practice, as a rule, is to get them dome asap. Having them hanging around can lead to all kind of mental anguish. In all this I so very often wrestle with whether I have sacrificed the truth in order to be seen to generously write favourably about the person.
- Everybody has plusses and minusses in their charachter and abilities; you want in writing a reference to accurately reflect these whilst helping them progress in their lives.
I wrote on Wednesday here about how church elders should act respectfully towards women. In this post, with all the ongoing revelations and debate about harassment at work, I want to look at a workplace which was a harassment-free space.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful account of how the grace of God works out in the reality of life. There is a poignant moment in the story when Naomi is made aware by Ruth that she, Ruth, has been working in Boaz’s fields. The dialogue between them contains the following:
Then Ruth the Moabite said, ‘He even said to me, “Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.”’ Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, ‘It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.’ (Ruth 2:21-22).
The clear implication is that Ruth knew that Boaz’s field would be a harassment-free zone. It is interesting that Boaz’s fields were known to be a place where women would be safe. This is in contrast to other workplaces where they may well be in danger. Naomi says “in someone else’s fields you might be harmed (v22b). If you’re an employer Boaz provides an example to emulate; your workplace should be harassment-free. This should also be true of our churches. They should be harassment free spaces and the elder have a key responsibility to make them such.
But how was it that Boaz got to have such a reputation. It was not that he had obtained this through creating a male-free zone. Ruth 2:9 clearly indicates that there were men around in the fields during harvest time. So what were some of the things which fostered a harassment-free zone. Let us loo for them in Ruth 2.
- Boaz was a man of substance. In v1b we read that he was a a man of standing. He was a man of strength and courage; an upright man.
- He created a sense of God in his workplace. Let us observe this interaction: Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ ‘The Lord bless you!’ they answered (v4). God was openly and reverently acknowledged on his farm.
- There was an interest in people. Workers were not just numbers on Boaz’s farm. When Boaz enquires of the new girl on the block, the overseer knows immediately who she was (see v.6); he has obviously found out. Moreover, Boaz himself makes enquiries about the girl’s background (see v11).
- Boaz was also proactive in establishing practices which prevented any harassment. He tells Ruth I have told the men not to lay a hand on you (v9b). He did not assume no problems would arise; he took action to make sure no problems would arise.
- It was a caring environment as well. He says to Ruth whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled (v9c)’. Then we see in vv14-16 the detailed arrangements put in place to make sure Ruth was provided for.
Work-place harassment would soon be finished if the pattern of Boaz was followed. Oh what a place this was to work. Boaz had a well-earned reputation.
So if you are an employer or any form of manger are you Boaz-like? Are you creating a harrasmenst-free space for all to work in.
And by the way a lot of this applies to churches. I dealt with how Boaz provides a pattern for how we welcome people in our churches here.
Here is an article about what the Christian’s attitude should be to their work.