9.1% of You Are My Enemies

June 8, 2011

Who are your enemies?

When we think about Jesus saying that we should pray for our enemies, maybe we think of people we don’t get along with at work…or terrorists.  Or maybe when we’re super spiritual, we realize that we are our own worst enemies, which leads to a huge existential crisis when we try to pour hot coals on our own heads.

But you have a lot more enemies than that.

You don’t even know who they are.  They might be just like the people pictured here.  They might be perfectly respectable people who you would love if you knew them.  But right now, they’re out there, trying to take what’s yours.  In fact, you have more enemies than ever before in your life.

Who are these supposedly respectable people trying to steal from you?  About one in every ten people.

Are you praying for them?  I certainly haven’t been.

Enemy Number One

I had some big news a couple of days ago.  I finally got the new teaching job that I had been gunning for over the last month.  That news follows two years of struggle, defeat, impatience and fist shaking.  So it’s a bit of a weight off my shoulders.  It’s not a perfect job, but it’s a huge step.  We can pay off some big student loans now.

I knew I was in a tight race with other candidates.  And because it’s a Christian school, I knew that the other candidates were likely to be wonderful people.  Those other people have hopes, dreams, families, problems that they need to provide for.  I knew they needed this job.  Some of them were probably desperate for this job.

Of course, none of this mattered to me one bit.

I prepared for job interviews with one goal in mind: to walk into an office, guns blazing, to annihilate any chance those other poor suckers would have of getting that job instead of me.  Those other candidates became Enemy Number One to me.

How would I describe myself to an employer?  Three words: hard-working…alpha male…jackhammer…merciless…insatiable.  I am ready to face any challenges that are foolish enough to face me.

Your Pain, My Gain

It wasn’t until right after I got the phone call I had been waiting for that I thought again of those other people.  Because I had received good news, several other families had been disappointed.  Someone else would feel the sting of defeat, the pain of looking for “plan B,” the despair of thinking, “Why not me?” I know those feelings well.

Of course, now I can pray for those people.  But not once during the last two years have I prepared for a job interview by praying that someone else get the job I want.  “Dear Jesus, I pray that I’ll be humiliated in this job interview so some more deserving person can have this job.” Not once have I prayed for my enemies in the workforce.  I’ve prayed more like David in the Psalms that God would make all my enemies fall on their swords or be dashed on rocks or something.

9.1% of You Are My Enemies

Though I have empathy with my fellow unemployed and underemployed Americans, I couldn’t make me go soft on them in the gladiators’ arena.  We live in tough economic times.  Officially, 9.1% of Americans (probably more like 15%) are essentially your economic enemies.  If you have a job, it is partly because 9.1% of able-bodied adults do not.  It’s like eating a hamburger.  An animal must sacrifice so that I may eat.  If you are a vegetarian, then the little critters that get caught in the farmer’s combine die so that you can eat your “guilt-free” veggie burger.

We often imagine that our enemies are far away, or that they’ll have masks on and identify themselves as your enemies.  But that’s usually not true.  An economy that keeps people unemployed longer than the Great Depression reduces people to their most basic natural survival instincts.  Eat or be eaten, just like animals.  It’s pure Darwinism at work.

I really hate that.

And either by stupidity or by design (probably both), nothing the gov’ment has done has helped solve unemployment.  Congress’ manual stimulation of the economy was an exercise in, well, manual stimulation.  Meanwhile, unemployment robs men and women of the dignity of taking home a check.  It denies them a sense of purpose and value.  What’s worse?  Being enslaved to a job you hate, or being enslaved by unemployment?  I think I know.

Tell us, how has the recession affected you?  Do you think things are improving (or have they at least improved for you?)  Are you looking for work?  How can we prevent ourselves from letting desperation set in and becoming animals as unemployment drags on?

34 responses to 9.1% of You Are My Enemies

  1. Yes, currently job hunting. Looking for a job for when I graduate in 6 months time (graduate recruitment happens really early here). It has been frustrating.I missed out on applying for an ideal role by a couple of days because they closed their applications ridiculously early. Got rejected in the first round for a role my undergrad and extra studies should have made me reasonably suited for and that I really wanted. Kinda depressing to not even make it through to the online intelligence testing phase! Have been stuffed around badly by some recruiters for other roles. Had a phone interview for another role today which I think I messed up (please pray they let me through to the in-person interview round so I can have another chance!)

    Unemployment here in Australia is much lower (4.9%) but it is still scary and very tempting to start freaking out. After today’s bad interview it was definitely tempting to start hoping bad things for my fellow applicants. Even friends who studied in-demand areas, have high marks and extensive work experience are getting knocked back for jobs. I’m graduating with an undergraduate degree in sociology and international studies plus an honours year (which here is like a mini masters program) in sociology. Not as though there is a super clear career track or people begging to hire you with that. As cliche as it sounds, I just try to remember that God is sovereign and has managed to make a lot of things work out to get me this far.
    Joanna recently posted..Book review- Trevin Wax- Counterfeit Gospels

  2. Hi Matt,

    Is there any competition to fill the place God has for me?

    Can there be?


  3. Great post, Matt.
    I could (obviously) relate to the whole “praying for competing job interviewies”… or rather “not praying for” would be more accurate.
    The more I learn about Father, and the more I see of myself… I realize I’m a pretty lousy Christian. But I have an amazing Savior Who loves me regardless.
    heather joy recently posted..The Answer- King James I of England

  4. Thank you for asking:) After four years of unemployment, both my husband and I are now underemployed in a parttime job, still draining our retirement accounts. Unemployment is still awful here in Florida. Finding a job to even apply for is difficult and a daily challenge. But..God has sustained us–we might be eating manna everyday but at least we are still eating.

    • This is us as well. My husband and I both served at a church, where first ge was laid off (20 months ago) and then I was (14 months ago). We’re both piecing together parttime and freelance work, have built up tens of thousands in credit card debt (after finally bring debt free). As much as we say “God is good” the reality is that sometimes we can get very discouraged. It is much harder out there than anyone realizes. 4 times my husband has been a finalist for a job (usually in the top 3 of 800 or so applicants) and 4 times he’s not been the one to get the happy phone call.

      • Jen and Terri, my husband and I are in the same boat. But like Jen said, God has sustained us and we are grateful for the manna!

        It is exhausting to go through the phone interview, the initial in person interview, the second interview and the debacle that is checking references (if they can’t get a hold of someone they call us for advice!) only to be told that you would make a great fit with the company but they hired the person with more experience, or to just not be told anything and have to call/email for your own personal rejection. Exhausting! I’m sick of hearing about how great it is to even be getting interviews in this economy. I’m sick of being told I’m a great fit for companies and jump through all their recruiting hoops just hear someone else was a greater fit. But I digress. In all of this God has spoken to us about His will and seeing what in this life holds real value. Our jobs will never define us, but Christ always will.

        God is always good, but it’s not a crime (or a sin) to be discouraged in these situations. As long as we are not living in that discouragement or wallowing in self pity everyday I think it is important to recognize at times that we are discouraged. As long as in the end we turn to the Lord for our hope.
        Carla recently posted..I am a Rock I am a Christian Island

  5. My wife is currently interviewing for a teaching job, and I’m substitute teaching during the year, and working at Walmart for the summer. We taught in an international school in South Korea until we came back last year, so I have experience but not an education degree. Hopefully I can get an in to take some Master’s courses soonish. The dualism here in Ohio seems to be that everyone’s a teacher, yet teachers’ jobs are less secure by the minute. I thought we haven’t been Darwinistic, but at the beginning of the school year, I attended a room filled with prospective subs at a meeting we all needed to attend, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had to urge to lock them all in that building and run away with my paperwork in hand.

    In answering your last question, personally, trying to develop other skills than those used in the classroom has been a good deterrent for me as well as being just as content if I had to work in a classroom or a bike shop. Defining myself by one job has been my weakness, so this new contentment helps.

    • I sat in a training session for subs at the beginning of last year. It was just for certified teachers. 75 people – our age, no jobs. It was eye-opening, and frightening.

      • That was another thing: I was expecting all the other subs to be just out of college, but all ages and experience levels were fairly represented. Add the conversation I had with a teacher I subbed for one day who said she had subbed for two years before being hired as a full-time teacher and “frightening” seems appropriate.

  6. Shoot, I’ve never considered competing applicants my “enemies,” but since you put it that way… I’ve always wrestled the tension during the job-seeking process of why should I come out on top as opposed to anyone else? In fact, my least favorite interview question is “Why should we hire you over all these other super-qualified candidates?” My answer is usually something like “I can’t tell you that. I know who you’re interviewing and they’re awesome.” And then I secretly hope that they’re into weird sounding humility.

    Great thoughts on this. I’m hoping not to have to put it into use again for a little while yet though…
    Lyla Lindquist recently posted..But Does He Have the Ganas

    • That’s always a bad question. Either you know the other applicants and they’re great, or you don’t, so how can you compare yourself to them? If I had an interview to waste because I knew I wouldn’t get it, I’d tell the interviewer that it’s really his job to find out why I should be hired, isn’t it? Why should I do his job for him by telling him why he should hire me? :)

  7. Great homage to the wise Mr. Schrute. I really haven’t seen much personal affects of the recession, but my friends have. It’s been hard for me to empathize, admittedly. I hate this about me, but part of me gets frustrated with them, thinking to myself, “Why can’t you just get a job?”

    This is terrible, I know.

    To answer your question, I think that we overcome this by learning that this isn’t a free-for-all; we’re all in this together. We need each other. When one part of the body is suffering, the other parts work together to support it.

    If we realized we belonged to each other, I’m certain the judgment would go away, as would this idea of “enemies.”
    Jeff Goins recently posted..How to Overcome Perfectionist Tendencies as a Writer

    • Exactly – I hate the idea of looking at my fellow human beings as my enemies. But I can’t deny my basic human instinct is to try to take care of #1. Then again, Jesus acknowledged that we have enemies. Maybe it’s a natural state in a fallen world.

  8. I have met a few people who seem to have no enemies. They seem to find joy and common ground with everyone. You can’t help but like them. I have never heard them complain either. It seems that being enemy-less helps you in complaining less. It is amazing. It is refreshing. It is so far from where I am at.
    Jeremy @ confessionsofalegalist recently posted..Confession 61- I turned God into a formula

  9. Congratulations on your new job! I bet your summer just got a lot sweeter, knowing it’s waiting for you at the end.

    Since our ministry is supported by donations, we’ve definitely felt the economic impact. We’ve had to find other ways to generate funds, as ministry giving has pretty much disappeared. For the past five or so years, paychecks have been sporadic at best.

    Until last month I could confidently say that God was providing for us–we were miraculously debt-free (except for our mortgage) and all bills were paid on time. But in May, for the first time ever, we had to borrow to pay the bills. That has really shaken my understanding (although not my faith in God). Did we miss some direction somewhere? Does God really want us to borrow?

    We’ve learned so many lessons about contentment, giving, trust, patience… but I guess there are always new lessons to be learned!

  10. I’ve been out of work for almost four months now. It’s hell.

    I hate it.

    Seriously, (profanity deleted) hate it.

    I’ve sent out hundreds upon hundreds of resumes and only had three responses, all rejections. I had WalMart manager tell me I had shown too many ethics on their employee test to get a job there. Jobs I know I can do I don’t get a sniff on because I was out of the field for a few years; the field I was working isn’t opening up because there are people with years more experience than me; jobs at Subway and other places I’m told I’m too qualified for and they don’t want to hire me because they know I’ll get bored and leave or find a better job.

    I feel trapped, stuck, hopeless and desperate.

    And it makes me wonder what God’s doing that He won’t provide a job for me.
    Jason recently posted..Day 158- Asking the right questions

    • I know man. It sucks. I think about you every day that goes by. It’s ridiculous that you tested “too ethical!” I guess that’s illustrative of the way WalMart does business. I don’t know what to say about being overqualified for certain jobs. Maybe when a manager starts to say that, you’ve just got to argue back and set your case out. Show him that this recession is keeping people unemployed for years. So he can count on having you at least that long. I don’t know, say what it takes to get in the door. I’ve done my share of shouting at God when things seemed hopeless.

  11. Matt, first congrats on the new teaching gig – you are going to be awesome at shaping young minds. I also appreciate your fresh perspective on and definition of “enemies.” Very thoughtful and insightful!
    Tor Constantino recently posted..Cute Caption Contest Winner!!!

  12. Thanks be to God! As you know I am cranked that you got a great job in spite of the fact that others do not.

    The competition angle is a tough one, but it is part of capitalism, Intelligent Design, and for those of faith, the will of God. I do pray for unemployed friends, there are a few.

    I do not think that the economy is recovering. It took out the weak first (those with huge debt), but now it is affecting the strong. The housing market is NOT recovering, and that is the only sign of recovery that tells the story. As long as folks do not have equity (the US lives on credit), they will not make the purchases that grow the economy. Many Americans use the equity in their homes to clear up debt. Without equity, they can’t spend what they can’t borrow. Bankruptcy has doubled from about 800K (2006) to 1.5M (2010) Stats

    I am not looking for a job at the moment. As a Christian I need to hear and trust God. I was laid off 2 years ago. In prayer the Lord directed me to a web site for IT guys a few days later. I found one post, for one job that fit me perfectly. I applied on Monday morning, had an interview on Tuesday and job offer on Thursday. A few months ago, I decided that I did not like the commute, so I interviewed and was offered another job closer to home for a little less money. The Lord said, “don’t take it.” I turned it down wondering why. Then the heart attack in April, and my current company has bent over backwards to advance me time off, and expedited my disability payments. Let’s say I would have been really screwed if I had just started a new job.
    David recently posted..
    The End- You Know What I Mean

  13. Congrats on the job, Matt!!
    I’ve been barely employed (as a part-time tutor) since I finished grad school (with an MA) 6 months ago. I relate to what Jason said in his comment above…. it’s a pretty hate-able position to be in. Very discouraging! I’ve gotten lots of interviews, but no hire.
    I guess I’m trying to think creatively about combining part-time jobs, homesteading, traveling, volunteering… I want my values to be reflected in how I live, even if I’m not bringing home a paycheck. Still, I’m looking forward to figuring out how to make ends meet.
    Bristol recently posted..Call and Community

    • Ugh, I know that all too well – trying to cobble something together. Truth is, the new job is a cobble of small jobs, so it’s still not ideal, but it’s a step. Best of luck to you. Hang in there, even when you’re wondering when it’s going to be your turn!

  14. What recession? :)
    Charlie Chang recently posted..Blue Like Jazz movie trailer

  15. If the teaching thing doesn’t work out, you could always apply for a sales job at a mid-size paper company. Infinite Paper In A Paperless World.

    I love this thought, and I wonder if you have any advice on how to translate it for junior high students.

    They have trouble grasping praying for their enemies in general (pray for Osama? TO DIE!!! is a pretty common response from them). I think this view of enemies is important, it is closer to home, and I would love to hear other examples of this type of enemy you see.
    Matt S recently posted..How Small We Make Something Big

  16. You asked a very thought-provoking question. It’s tough when we see only finite resources. The solution is to look at the infinite God, who has infinite resources and we receive a better perspective.

    I realize that it’s easy for me to say that, as I am not in the 9.1% that are unemployed. Canadians have scored better in the overall recession but I know several friends that are struggling until their next job.

    Congratulations on your job – that’s something wonderful to look forward to over the summer.

  17. Thank God…work down here in Texas has been good….and he has giving a great Job…that pays the bills….so I can’t complain…

  18. I hope I’m .9!
    Steve Martin recently posted..The Ascension of our Lord

  19. Great post here- we recently did a round of hiring here at my office, and it was so hard for me to interview so many great people, and know we could only hire a fraction of them. And since my gig’s a one-year AmeriCorps stint I’m beginning to face the need to find something else… at least I have seminary to plug that hole, and tryin’ to keep the faith that God plans to take care of me…

  20. This may be a little off topic BUT this genius of a sentence…
    “If you are a vegetarian, then the little critters that get caught in the farmer’s combine die so that you can eat your “guilt-free” veggie burger”… really made me smile. thanks.

    So I’m checking out the chicken soup at the buffet of our local co-op and a the woman next to me turns and yells, “Do you know that the chickens in that soup had eyes once?! and BEATING HEARTS?!?!” i just stood there with a stupid, meek look on my face, wanting to cry cause im socially awkward, shy and far too meek. boo for me. I wish i had said to her, “the eyes are my favorite part!” and smiled really sweetly, which i excel at doing. I did later think about how this complete stranger had such animosity toward me, as one would have toward an enemy.

    Anyhow I think i will go pray for her right now. Not in a mean, vindictive way. i promise.

    But it would be funny if she accidentally ate some chicken. Somehow. Ok ill stop.

    Anyhow just found your blog and im really enjoying your writing. Glad you do what you do.

    Oh and we have been blessed with steady work. Thanks for letting me share.

  21. oh and CONGRATS!!!! :-) on the teaching job. Nice.

  22. I was laid off back in October and have been sending out resumes, interviewing, being rejected, etc etc.

    I do not pray for the other interviewees and I do not feel bad about it (but I haven’t beaten any out yet either). I pray that God will give me the right words to say and enable the company to see that my qualifications are what they are looking for. I enjoy the question, “Why should we hire you above other applicants?” because I know that I’d rock at the jobs I interview for. Finances have been very tight and it has been very difficult to make it on measly unemployment checks- but I am very thankful for them.

    To prevent ourselves (hubby is looking for work too) from being desperate and turning into animals we thank God everyday for taking care of us and thank Him for the jobs He will provide very soon. We also keep our perspective wide. Even though we are struggling, there are those who are worse off. We’ve opened up our extra bedroom to a young woman who got kicked out of her parents home and needed a place to stay and advice on college applications, we help out homeless people that we encounter, my dad’s income is limited because he takes care of my sick mother and he supplements his income by selling produce at the farmers market and since we have the time we help with the gardening and raising chickens. It is hard to be desperate and lament our situation when we are busy aiding others whose situation is worse. God is speaking in these times and we remain hopeful. Our trust is entirely on Him and not this economy, He knows what He is doing and I feel a job coming on!
    Carla recently posted..I am a Rock I am a Christian Island

  23. While I’ve had a very good job for the past 7 years, I still found this very interesting. I’d never considered that those I “compete” with (even to get out of the grocery store as quickly as possible) are my “enemies,” even for a short while, and deserve my prayer. Thank you for writing!

  24. The Lord said, “don’t take it.” I turned it down wondering why. That’s always a bad question. It’s hell. I was laid off 2 years ago.