Hope for the Best

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Some days Eileen would storm into work, red-faced with anger, ready to bark commands at anyone who crossed her. I steered clear of her, encouraged others to give her some space, and brewed a pot of coffee as a peace offering. An hour or so later she’d cool down and apologize for arriving in such a huff.

We had good days and bad days.

However, given a little space and understanding, Eileen proved a kind and loyal colleague while we worked together. She even fed our rabbits one weekend while we were away. You didn’t have to spend too much time with Eileen to realize she was a very kind and tender person who was also quite unhappy.

I learned a few years later that Eileen was an alcoholic. It all clicked.

It’s easy to misunderstand people, to miss the influences behind their actions. Eileen had bigger problems than a bad temper.

Responding with peace and love when a colleague or friend hurts us with words or deeds may not be easy. But the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that situations are not always what we think, that we should hope for the best, and that we should patiently seek the best for others.

My years working alongside Eileen and others have taught me those same lessons. All kinds of unknown factors may influence a coworker’s behavior. Here are a few common ones.

Factors at Home

Anything from a new baby that interrupts sleep to a conflict with a teenage child may influence how a coworker behaves. One colleague of mine rarely made a deadline, but I later learned that he had trouble with his children that often took his focus away from the deadlines I wanted him to meet. He wasn’t lazy or incompetent. He needed prayer and a good night’s sleep.

Personal Preferences

Every person handles work and interpersonal relationships differently. There are personal preferences and tendencies that come into play when we deal with stress.

At a former job I began to notice that a certain colleague became unusually irritable on the days she had several meetings. I eventually learned that she recharged best while alone and that a short temper could usually be linked to an exhausting day of meeting after meeting.

Personality Clashes

Perhaps a colleague is reacting to something you’ve done because of a personality difference. It’s easy to read into the words and actions of others without examining what we bring to our conversations.

I have learned that sometimes a well-meaning joke can come across the wrong way. If a conflict arises with a colleague, it can be instructive to consider how your personality meshes with his/her ways of relating with others.

Always Hope

Whether or not you can gather illuminating insight into a conflict with a colleague, we have been given the Spirit of God to empower us to love others and to hope for the best just as we are embraced by the love and hope of God. God’s love compels us to meet conflict and difficult situations carefully, committing to be slow to speak and careful in our judgments.

Image by Jon Jablonsky. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Ed Cyzewski author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life.