Would You Let Your Boss Punch You In the Face?

August 22, 2012

Today, I’m continuing a series I started on Monday about work (since I’m back at work, looking forward to what will be my most challenging school year yet.)

Tell me about your boss.How-to-tell-if-you-have-a-job

I probably just opened a can of worms, didn’t I.

Yeah, at best, we have a tenuous relationship with the boss.  They can be great.  But the way most people talk, the world is run by Bill Lumberghs and Michael Scotts.

If I asked you about your boss, chances are I could listen all night about how your boss treats you.  How the boss isn’t as competent as you, makes worse decisions than you would, and is overcompensated for the privilege of hassling you.

Your boss asks you to do too much, pays you too little and recognizes your talent next to never.  Is that about right?

What I probably would not hear is how you treat your boss.

And how you treat your boss may make all the difference.

Let Him Punch You Twice

You and I know that Jesus told his followers something like this:

When someone asks you to walk one mile, go two miles with them.

“Yep,” you say, “Got it.”

And Jesus told people that when someone steals something from them, like a shirt, to go ahead and give that person your coat.

“Yeah, I know that too.  Check.”

And Jesus even said that when someone hits you in the face, to just go ahead and let them hit you in the face a second time.

“Okey dokey, Jesus,” you say.

But how many of us are treating our bosses the way Jesus described?  Your thieving, incompetent, pig-headed, micromanaging, over-demanding bosses?  The person who makes each day worse than the one prior?  The person who is slowly draining your life force and turning you into a mind-numbed robot?

“No way,” you say, “My boss is a jackass.”

Jesus Doesn’t Need Your Shirt

When we read Jesus’ words, we can easily imagine that if Jesus asked us to go a mile, or he needed a shirt to wear, or even if he wanted to punch us, we’d let him, (and go the extra mile, give him our coat, and let him punch us twice.)  After all, he’s Jesus.

The problem is, Jesus isn’t asking for those things from us.  Jesus doesn’t need your shirt.

Your boss doesn’t need your shirt either.  But that’s the point.  The hypothetical person Jesus is talking about doesn’t need your shirt either.

Jesus is talking about being confronted by people who make unreasonable demands of us, people who don’t have our best interests in mind.  People who we don’t even want to go one mile for.

Jesus might even be talking about the person you work for, or next to.  That’s a lot more difficult.

Workplace Rights

It’s easy to complain about the boss.  They are just easy targets.  I’ve been in a lot of workplaces, both Christian and secular.  When it comes to bosses, unfortunately, they are largely the same.  Bosses come with targets on their backs.

It’s easy to be merely compliant with the boss.

It’s easy to be passive aggressive, or to spread water cooler complaining.

It’s easy to do your work half-heartedly, as some kind of defiant revenge on your boss.

But when you and I signed our contracts, we did so willingly.  No one is forcing us to work where we are.  We choose it.  Maybe circumstances have prevailed to bring you to a workplace we don’t really want to be.  Maybe you’re working at McDonald’s because you got fired from your six-figure paying job.  I don’t care.  McDonald’s is not forcing you to work, (and they aren’t forcing the rest of us to eat.)

And as long as we are working willingly, we don’t have the right to be passive-aggressive, or to do our work half-heartedly, or undermine the company and it’s mission.

When the boss makes unreasonable demands, Jesus says that the only right we have is to do twice what is asked of us.

Dream jobs never have in the description “complaining about the boss’ incompetence.”  Dream jobs are made by being more competent, by giving twice as much as is required.

Tell me about your boss.  Love them?  Hate them?  The catch is, you have also tell us how you’re treating your boss!

24 responses to Would You Let Your Boss Punch You In the Face?

  1. BOOM! Way to call everybody out, Matt.

    My boss right now is pretty awesome, but I’ve had some duds in the past that I definitely would not have let “punch me in the face” and all I did was complain.

    Thank you for exhorting us.

  2. I’d disagree that we have a choice, or much of one, since my alternative to retail is starvation and/or homelessness, but the result should still be a sense of gratitude, not sniping at the person who keeps giving me things to do (job security). I can’t just leave my job, but I should be glad I have one. The problem with retail is that everyone is your boss. It builds character and perspective. No job skills, but that’s what night school is for.

  3. I remember what rick Warren said that impacted me; get a new boss! In other words do everything like we were doing it for Jesus himself no matter who you are doing it for. It has changed my work habits.

  4. I’ve been pretty blessed when it came to immediate supervisors. They’ve all worked really hard looking out for my best interests, even moreso than myself sometimes. I also really enjoy what I do, do it well, and am one of only a handful of people who know how to do it, so that probably helps.

    Well…that’s all about my _paying_ job. The other one(s) – stay-at-home mom, homemaker, and homeschooler to our upcoming kindergartener and preschooler (with a third underfoot)…..I’m not sure who “the boss” is except that I’m supposed to do everything “as unto the Lord,” so it could be Him. He’s a pretty good boss most of the time. Usually asks me to work harder and longer than I really want to, and adds unreasonable demands like “spend time with Me” on top of the laundry and dishes and school lessons. No pay raises either (unless you count the kids, but it’s been 17 months since my last one and I don’t see any more “raises” in my future, barring unexpected circumstances). Ultimately though, I _suppose_ He’s just pushing me to be better at what I do, so I don’t usually mind too much. I complain sometimes, but I’m also grateful for the opportunity He’s given me, so I try not to too much.

  5. Much needed reminder to take into my next job. Very well put and straight to the point!

  6. When we were reading this bit, this guy that I was in bible study with told me that Roman soldiers could (and often would) grab some random guy and make him carry their stuff for them. However, there was some sort of stipulation that if you were a soldier that made a guy carry your stuff past a certain distance (a mile in our translation), you actually had to pay him. So “walking two miles” for somebody didn’t just mean smiling and sucking it up when you get dumped on–it was a nonviolent way of exposing the other guy’s douchebaggery as well.

    I don’t know how accurate any of that is–something to think about, though.

    • It might be a good point. Doesnt righteous behavior usually highlight unrighteousness in contrast?

      • You can’t clean effectively in the dark. The world is dark. We are the “light of the world.” Light exposes dirt. Think of walking down a dark alley with just a flashlight. Our lives, as “light,” should _constantly_ be exposing the dirt (i.e., sin) in the lives of the people around us – not because we’re jerks who point it out, but because we’re so awesomely loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, and self-controlled, that people can’t help but notice when they’re not.

  7. There is nothing like coming to a blog for a little escape from the issues with my job (coworkers, bosses, cubicle size, terrible coffee, etc.) and then get convicted about what I am escaping…or running from….or complaining to my brother-in-law about in email all day.

    Way to go , Matt.

    I guess I need to say “I needed that” but I sure didn’t WANT IT!!!!

  8. Well my last boss stopped paying me… So, what then? I did continue working for free for a while. But eventually I couldn’t handle no pay and being treated awfully by a boss who wasn’t paying me. Nothing like being a minister’s personal assistant.

    So… Complaining bad, but quitting okay, in your mind?

    • Quitting AND complaining (or maybe complaining while you quit) oughtta be okay in that situation. But that’s just me.

      We should all “turn the other cheek” (however one may interpret that), but churchy guys that are in positions of authority sometimes have this nasty tendency of using that passage to abuse and manipulate people.

  9. Your main point about going the extra mile is valid, but the punching thing is just not a very good understanding of the text. it was a slap, not a punch. a slap was not a physical attack, but rather a sign of disrespect. it was an insult, not an assault.

  10. Just last month I was complaining about my husband’s minimal pay raise. And I mean complaining! “Don’t they know (blah,blah,blah)? You should work for somebody else who appreciates you (blah,blah,blah). That night, we chit-chatted with our neighbor over the fence. He’s had a pay freeze for the past 4 years.
    Perspective. It’s all about perspective.
    Thanks for reminding us of that. :)

  11. OK, second conviction today. If the first didn’t stop the ranting, whining, and negative thoughts I’ve had about my boss today, this definitely did.

    Read this about an hour ago: http://lifehacker.com/5936851/how-to-avoid-the-inevitable-feeling-that-your-job-sucks?tag=office-gps

    God is good. Thank you for the conviction.

  12. I love my current bosses (immediate and higher ups). I haven’t loved every one of them, but looking back I can see how I messed up as well as how they messed up. So it isn’t ever all one person.
    I do what I can to help out even if it isn’t technically “my job.” I really do want what is best for everyone. That has been a lesson that has taken about 10 years to learn!

  13. This is a thought provoking post. Our attitude must be one of love. With that said we must actually take precautions to protect ourselves against assault or molesting behaviors. But in doing that we must also pray for the offending party and make sure strife and unforgiveness does not develop. I think there is a fine line and the Holy Spirit will guide us through that path

  14. Matt, you’ve put your finger on something important, the underlying tension between bosses and workers. People often feel frustrated about their bosses, complaining, being passive-aggressive, gossiping, cutting corners, and so on. But, it’s important to ask why so many people feel this way to begin with and whether there is something about the relationship between bosses and workers that cause them to feel this way. Just because people enter into a relationship *willingly* doesn’t mean that it is healthy, fair, or just.

    I think there are two related reasons why people experience this antagonism at work. First, the relationship between a boss and a worker is one of power and domination. When you go to work, the bosses decide the what, where, when, how, and why of the job. You are renting yourself and your energies to your employer. Second, this relationship involves a clash of interests. Workers want shorter hours, higher pay, better benefits, more control over the job, safer worksites, etc.; employers want the opposites.

    So, it’s a situation that has conflict built in from the start.

  15. I spent the largest part of my working life griping about and hating my bosses – they always “held me back” and undervalued how wonderful an employee I was. But I reached a point where my pride and vanity finally led to a fall, and found myself not only unemployed, but unemployable, due to a desperate drug addition. I turned to Christ, and He redeemed me, but along the way I saw how I hadn’t really been all that great a worker; I spent my efforts seeking my own reward, instead of earning the pay I received…in effect, stealing my salary. But in submission I found true freedom, and I began to understand what Paul was talking about in Colossians – that employers are instruments of God’s grace (whether they know it or not, whether they act like it or not), and I didn’t really work “for” them, but for Him. The shift in attitude made me a better worker, and to my surprise made (most) of them better bosses as well. It really brought home the truth to me – whenever I have a “problem” with someone else, first I must examine ME.

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  1. Letting Go and Letting God - Eden Life Magazine | Eden Life Magazine - August 24, 2012

    […] or physical). It means choosing to bless the person when the opportunity presents itself. What if your boss punches you in the face? Many times the loving thing to do is to excuse yourself from the situation and avoid the other […]