I used to work with a man named Josh, whose mother loves to tell a story about a time in high school when one of Josh’s younger brothers was being pretty seriously bullied. When Josh heard what was happening, he cornered the bully in the locker room, pushed him hard up against the locker, and set him straight: “If you ever bother my brother again, you’ll regret it.” And it worked. No more bullying.
Isn’t there something so satisfying about that story? On some level, isn’t that exactly what you’d like God to do for you when people pick on you? I sure would. But the hard truth is that most bullying stories—especially the ones that happen at work—don’t end that way.
Mine certainly didn’t.
Battered and Bullied
Almost two years ago, my daughter Annie contracted a serious stomach condition called gastroparesis. For months we were in and out of various hospitals, and there were times when I honestly worried that I might lose her. During the course of her illness I continued to work remotely, but I drastically limited my travel. Most of the people I work with were very accommodating, but not all of them. One coworker in particular, who happened to be overseeing a project I was involved with, gave me a very hard time. She didn’t know or understand how serious Annie’s condition was, and she felt that my physical absence was a sign of apathy. She made it known that she couldn’t understand why I wasn’t “putting in the effort” that everyone else was. In fact, I was fully committed to bringing value to the team and working diligently to do so. But she kept pushing me to “be there,” and finding ways to point out to me and others when I wasn’t.1