Learn to Love Annoying Coworkers (Part 2)

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<< Read Part One of this article.


As I schooled myself to see Pam as "compassion," my next task was to learn to see beyond her faults and affirm her potential. Again, I thought of Peter.

I can almost see the scene as they reclined around the table, still scattered with bits of the Passover meal. Twelve disciples, grasping for their fair share, arguing about who was the greatest. And there was Peter, fiercely asserting that he was greater than all the others.

But Jesus knew better. Everything that was wrong with Peter would soon come to the forefront when he would deny Jesus three times. And yet, Jesus still saw the future "rock" in Peter. In Luke 22:32, He says, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Jesus didn't say, "Simon, you are such a wishy-washy, impulsive, emotional disciple that you won't even have the backbone to stand by me when I need you the most," (even though that may have been true!) Instead, Jesus prayed that Peter's faith, despite his failure, would become strong. Then, Jesus looked beyond Peter's faults and affirmed his potential—"Peter, despite your failure, you'll turn back. Then, be a rock to your brothers."

Could I look beyond Pam's faults and affirm her potential too? For me, it was so natural to dwell on what was wrong with Pam, to constantly ask, "What's the matter with her?" or "Why does she have to act like that?" until I could see nothing else. Even one such thought would poison my interaction with her, dispelling God's love just as surely as if I decided to hate her after all.

I needed to control my thoughts about Pam. As Paul says, "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). To control my thoughts, especially when she was the most irritating, I began to pray for her to become "compassion," just as Jesus prayed for Peter.

For example, when she started to whine about another employee, I tried to squelch my exasperation and instead pray that God would give her understanding. Then, when she was kind to another employee, I tried to make sure that I commented on it. When she was helpful, I took the time to express my appreciation.

Choosing affirmation rather than criticism began to inspire small changes in Pam. Soon, she was complaining less and spending more time trying to be helpful. One day, she stopped me in the hall and asked, "What do you see in me, anyway?"

It was the opportunity I had been waiting for. "I see a person God loves," I said, "And I see the neat qualities he's placed in you. I wonder, will you let him make you into the person that both he and I see you could be?"


In Luke 22:31-38 after Jesus' resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. When Peter says yes, Jesus says "Feed my sheep." In this scene, Jesus forgives Peter's past failure and commissions him to become the man that He has seen all along.

Like Jesus, I needed to focus on Pam's future and help her to become God's vision of her. I stopped saying, "Why don't you do this or that?" I began saying things like, "Mary's having a hard day, let's sit with her at lunch and try to make her feel better." When she complained about the temperature, I would say, "Let's see if other people are uncomfortable too." I was asking her, in a subtle way, to be compassionate to others.

These days, Pam sometimes still screams at honeybees, and she still likes the thermostat turned too high. But she's learning to see herself through God's eyes. Perhaps someday she'll be like Peter, with a solid, rock-like faith, and the compassion of Christ himself. And in the meantime, I am learning, little by little, to love her like Jesus loves her.


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