Friday, October 31, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: The difference between the outside veneer and the inside reality

How I look on the outside to most people
As I wrote in yesterday's blog, appearances are deceiving.  What looks really good, whole and put together on the outside, may not be what is going on on the inside.  And probably isn't.

I remember years ago witnessing an incident in our church where the Sunday School teachers were gathered together with the pastor to learn more about their classes as the current Sunday School year had ended and a new one was to begin.  When he mentioned the specific classes, he blithely stated that one had been cancelled due to small numbers.  I noticed the teacher in question maintained a stoic face, i.e. her expression did not change at all, but she took a quick step backward almost as if she'd been slapped.  She was a mainstay in the church.  One who was always there with a smile on no matter what. Quick to help out.  Quick to give.  Faithful.  Now her faithfulness over the years was "rewarded" ... by what amounted to an unexpected, sudden, and public dismissal

I wondered how she was taking it.  If she was OK.

BUT ...

... I never got up the nerve to ask her how she was doing.

Instead I observed her over the weeks to come.  She looked OK.  Outwardly, she was her normal self.   She came to every service faithfully escorting her elderly mother just as she'd done for years.  Neither about her outward appearance or behaviour seemed changed.  Outside, she was the same person she'd always been.

Inside may well have been another story as she was dealing with a category #5 hurt (using the hurricane scale with #1 as the least destructive hurricane and #5 the most).

 A few months after that incident, she stopped going to our church.  No fanfare.  No announcement.  She simply wasn't there anymore.  A woman who had been a rock to our congregation including our pastors.  A woman who was faithful in her attendance even with an aged ailing mother to care for.  Even when the Sunday School class that she'd taught for years was suddenly and publicly taken away from her.

Gone.  Suddenly gone.

And I'd never taken the initiative to show my concern.  To ask her how she was doing.  Really doing. Inside where it counted.

Instead I looked on the outside for clues.  And there were none.

To this day, I regret that I didn't go up to her and ask her how she was.  Show my concern.

Several years later, it was my turn for such action.  However, I did get advance notice.  Probably because I was friends with the pastor's wife and had actually said:  "Is he going to restart my class with other teachers without telling me?"

He did.  And he did.  BUT he did tell me first.

His exact words were:  'I want someone younger."

Ironically, if age were a factor than he would give himself, his wife, the organist, the pianist and probably a whole host of others the axe.  All of them significantly older than myself.  So that was just a smokescreen for something else.

It hurt.  It hurt a lot.  Even though I saw it coming and halfway expected it, that didn't stop the raw hurt or the raw emotion.

I did my best to cover it up and remain faithful as my predecessor had done.  Only in my case, I started experiencing horrible, almost constant migraines.  Attending church under the circumstances became a battle for me.  The hurt almost palpable BUT invisible to those around me.  We left the church a few months after that.  By that time, it was obvious something was wrong because of the constant pain of the migraines showing on my face.  But no one connected the dots.  Only one person asked me how I was doing - and that was on the last Sunday we attended.  By that time, it was too late.

We tend to look on the outside.  If a person is up, dressed, has their hair combed and doesn't stink, we seem to feel that they're OK.  We don't go beyond the surface.

Maybe because we don't want to be intrusive.

Maybe because we really don't want to know.

Maybe because we're afraid of what we'll hear.

Maybe because we really don't have the time or the inclination to get into someone else's world, someone else's hurt.

Maybe ....

Having now been on both sides of the spectrum, if I were to do it again, I would reach out in a low key manner to that woman.  I would tell her that I was there and what I saw.  I would ask how her she was doing with the elimination of her class.  I would tell her how much her faithfulness to the church impressed and inspired me.  That no matter what the pastor thought or did, she mattered and that was valued.

In short, I would let her know that I cared about her and her well-being.  I wouldn't judge her.  Although I might have a few choice words to saw about the pastor.

But I would definitely be inclined to stop looking at the outside appearance, the outside veneer, and go deeper.

What I really feel like inside most of the time
*******

I don't want to pastor bash in this blog.  That is not my intention.  It's also not my intention to give Christianity and Christians a bad name.  Especially since I are one. (Although after some of my experiences, I tend to believe that Christians are a bad advertisement.)

However, since I am a committed Christian many of my experiences, both positive and negative, have occurred within church settings.  The story told here could easily have occurred within any setting, any group of people.  It's just the one that I witnessed.

Years later, I ran across this woman at the local Farmer's Market.  Since I had long regretted my lack of action immediately after the incident, I took the opportunity to let her know that I was sorry, deeply sorry, that I had not gone up to her and asked her how she was.  Let her know that I cared.  It was then that she told me her story.  How she felt inside under the put together appearance.  How hurt she had been after all her years of service to the church to be put out to pasture so to speak so suddenly and publicly.  And how unexpected that announcement was.

I got a second chance to let that woman know I cared.  But most of us do not.

If you know of someone in your life who might be hurting, I urge you to go beyond the surface, beyond the well put together outside and let them know you care.

Until tomorrow....




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