Male targets of workplace bullying

Men can be bullied too.

Minding the Workplace

Many of us in the workplace anti-bullying movement have understood that men who face workplace bullying are less likely than women to talk about their experiences and to seek assistance. However, thanks to the work of Dr. Sue O’Donnell (U. New Brunswick, Canada), we have an excellent seven-minute video that captures a cross section of the male experience of being a bullying target. I had the privilege of watching the video as part of her presentation at the 2017 Work, Stress and Health conference currently underway in Minneapolis.

A nursing school professor, Dr. O’Donnell worked with New Brunswick colleague Dr. Judith MacIntosh to conduct interviews of men who had experienced workplace bullying and then teamed with Nick Wilson Videography to turn those interviews in a form of live testimony. It’s a powerful video that will resonate specially with men who have struggled with workplace bullying and how to talk about…

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Shame-based organizations: When workplaces resemble dysfunctional families

Many religious institutions are run on the same shame that we learned in our family system.

Minding the Workplace

Please excuse the disembodied hands!Please excuse the disembodied hands!

What can shame-based family rule systems teach us about less-than-wonderful workplaces?

At the annual Workshop on Transforming Humiliation and Violent Conflict hosted by Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, Dr. Connie Dawson, author of the forthcoming book, Life Beyond Shame: Rewriting theRules, facilitated a discussion group on shame-based rules for family systems. Here are the rules drawn from her poster board pictured above:

  • “Do and be right” (“Do it my way”)
  • “Blame shifted elsewhere”
  • “Do not acknowledge feelings”
  • “Keep secrets”
  • “Don’t expect accountability”
  • “Control to get what you need” (“Manipulate to ensure own survival”)
  • “None of this is happening” (“Deny reality”)

If you’ve ever experienced a workplace built on a punitive, negative culture, then these rules may resonate strongly!

Dr. Brené Brown has a lot to say about shame-based organizational cultures in this Fast Company excerpt from her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We…

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Self-awareness, the precursor to justification?

I’ve recently been thinking about the critical place of self-awareness in emotional health and maturity.  It’s a critical skill and personal trait that we continue to recognize as perhaps the most important in a leader.  It’s also a trait that seems painfully lacking among some of the current celebrity pastors that have “fallen from grace” before the gaze of an onlooking world and a confused church.  It’s interesting that it figures so largely in some very well known passages in just that way.  James talks about a person who “looks in the mirror” and in short order, “forgets what he or she sees” (James 1:22-25).  This person is described as “self-deceived,” a term synonymous with a lack of self-awareness. They are “hearers only” rather than “doers.”  They “talk the talk” but fail to “walk the walk.”  In our modern American evangelical version of the gospel, have we so emphasized faith alone (the utterance of one “sinner’s prayer”), that we have made passages such as this irrelevant?  Is self-awareness, the opposite of self-deception, required as a precursor to true faith that justifies?

Jesus Himself weighed in on this subject, using a graphic and shocking parable depicting the way in which self-awareness factors into our being right with God, justified. It’s found in Luke 18:9-14 (ESV):

9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayeda thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Notice the contrast as it relates to self-awareness.  The Pharisee has none.  He did not see himself as “needy” but successful or “victorious,” a term thrown around in many circles of Christendom today.  His lack of self-awareness not only affected his relationship or lack of one with God but also factored largely into the way he treated others, “with contempt.”  He failed to see himself as he was and that lack of healthy self-awareness had devastating effects.  Contrast the tax collector who saw himself in the mirror of God’s law and felt the appropriate sense of need.  He looked into the mirror and saw things as they were, not with the distortion of the Pharisee.  That self-awareness produced in him a healthy dose of humility which was the precursor to being justified.  Is our “faith” that does not flow from healthy self-awareness, saving or justifying faith at all?  How critical is this accurate view of self to not only our emotional maturity and relationships with others now but also to our eternal destiny?  Jesus and his half-brother James challenge our contemporary thinking around these subjects.

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matt. 5:3-7, ESV)


Easier to Ask Forgiveness?

One of the most irritating phrases used in our culture is, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” What this means is that we ought to simply do what we want to do in the moment with total disregard for the rightness or appropriateness of our actions. To me, this is the epitome of the cheap grace Bonhoeffer warned us about. It presupposes forgiveness (from God and others) before it proceeds with its own unmitigated desire. It is consistent with our culture that informs us to “just do it.” With no disrespect intended to Nike, I disagree. Don’t just do it; think about the impact of your actions on others. Consider the rightness or wrongness of what you are considering and if you determine that it is wrong, “don’t do it.” It is the height of arrogance to presume on God’s grace or the grace of others around us. Maybe the clue is in the word “easy.” It may be “easier” to do it and get forgiven later, but is it “right?” This seems like another parallel to the contrast between the narrow and broad ways. The broad way that leads to destruction is easy. It comes to all of us quite naturally. I just think that followers of Christ are called to a higher standard than this. Your thoughts?


The Benefits of Suffering

I’m reading Tim Keller’s 2013 book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.  For the most part, this is one of the better books I’ve read on suffering from a Christian perspective.  Having said that, Keller borrows from psychologist Jonathan Haidt as he claims that there are three primary benefits of suffering.  With all due respect to Haidt and Keller, I’m not sure that I agree.  The three benefits of suffering according to these two experts are:

1. Suffering creates resiliency.

This thought is quite popular thanks to Kelly Clarkson.  As she says it, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  This thought is not original with Clarkson, but goes back to Friedrich Nietzsche, an interesting philosopher to inform evangelical thought.  A recent article in Psychology Today says it better than I can.  Suffering and adversity take a toll on us as humans.  There are things that people can do to one another that leave lasting and irreparable marks.  The hope of the Christian faith is that on “that day” all things will be made right.  We will be whole and He will wipe every tear from our eyes.  Until then, I am convinced that many of us are operating from the possibility of wholeness that remains after the damage.  Each time we encounter soul-destroying suffering, our highest potential may be reduced.  For example, when a soldier nobly goes off to war and comes back with PTSD or a traumatic brain injury, it is ignorant to think that they will ever fully be restored to the state in which they were prior to the trauma, at least in this life.  We are left with the goal of helping them cope with their injuries and of being the best self they can be in light of all that they have gone through.  If this is our operating definition of resiliency, I have no problem seeing resiliency as the frequent outcome of adversity.  However, the notion that trauma and loss doesn’t permanently affect us or that “good people” will inevitably bounce back from suffering and be better than ever is unfounded myth.

When trauma and hardship do leave a mark, it is usually a bruise under the skin, not a notch on the belt. [Noam Shpancer]

2. Suffering deepens relationships.

It is true that in adversity we often find out who are true friends and loved ones are.  Pain and an empathetic response to it can serve to create deep bonds that we can argue would not otherwise have been forged.  But, I have just as often and probably more often seen suffering destroy relationships.  Most parents who lose children divorce.  How often do we hear people stories of abandonment in the midst of suffering?  This is not a new phenomenon.  Job experienced it.  The Psalmists walked through it.

Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life. [Ps. 31:11-13]

Suffering will actually tend to polarize our relationships.  Those who care enough to walk through suffering with us over the long haul will become closer.  Others, who are themselves scared by the potential of suffering, will likely see us as having a contagious disease and keep their safe distance.  Those who are willing to pay the high price of entering into the suffering of another are few.  Our greatest consolation is found in the fact that though all forsake us, God will not.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.3. Suffering changes our priorities and philosophies, often redirecting our lives. [Ps. 34:18]

3. Suffering changes the priorities, philosophy and direction of our lives.

On this third point, I tend to see and agree with the point.  Many people will tell you that their life purpose has arisen out of their suffering.  Their adversity has shaped them and specifically equipped them to help others in related ways.  As C. S. Lewis says, “suffering is God’s megaphone.”  It is often in the midst of pain (or more properly in the aftermath) that we rethink and redirect our lives and purpose.  Seeing the big picture and the way that our suffering is woven into the great tapestry of our lives, that the pain was used of God to direct our steps, is in no way to imply that suffering itself is good.

The Benefit of Suffering?

Can God redeem suffering?  Yes.  But this subject is rarely addressed in a compassionate manner by professing Christians.  They are prone to platitudes and other thoughtless comments offered to those who suffer.  Christians, like everyone else, want to believe in a just world, where those who suffer somehow deserve it.   This makes them feel safe, immune from similar suffering, as they do not see themselves as potential sufferers.  Protecting themselves, albeit outside of their conscious awareness, trumps having empathy for those who experience adversity.  We want to believe that if we live right, we will experience “victory” and be “blessed.”

And yet, the Captain of our salvation Himself endured suffering.  It was through His suffering and obedience that He was made perfect.  He is the model.  We follow Him.  Or do we?  We want to believe that somehow suffering will not be a part of our plan.  When other believers around us experience it, we are ill prepared to offer God’s perspective.  Suffering may not make us stronger.  We may well limp across the finish line.  The promise, however, is sure; we will be made whole.  Our relationships with others may deepen or disappear in the midst of suffering.  We will know who truly cares for us.  Only one thing is sure; God will not forsake us in our suffering.  Lastly, God will often redeem the things that He allows to occur in our lives and somehow mysteriously use them to direct our steps and give our lives renewed purpose.  Suffering may have benefits, but it still hurts.