By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Workplaces are, more often than not, contentious. This is unfortunate, especially considering how many of us spend well over half our time there. We find ourselves living daily life side by side with individuals who make our lives more difficult. Let's be honest, very few of us have a workplace filled with besties and wonderful people who make life a joy. If we're blessed, there are a few people we enjoy, a few people we're impartial about, and a few people we may not even know that well. There's probably at least one person who makes that daily work life difficult.
There are many ways we choose to address (or not address) these difficult work relationships. Sometimes the situation calls for interceding from management. Sometimes it's less dramatic and more of a daily running interference to keep the peace. Then there are the types where it's just commonly known and out in the open that you really can't stand each other, but you do what you need to do to get the job done.
After ten years in HR, I once told an employee who consistently complained about a coworker, "you don't have to like them; you just have to get along." The fact is that unless the difficult person is breaking company policy or protocol, harassing you, or other such more significant issues, you really do end up having to deal with the differences.
So how does prayer come into play? Yes, we walk by faith and are instructed in Scripture to take all things before the Lord. But how do we pray about challenging work relationships? It feels different somehow. As though in the scheme of things, work is merely survival, and all poor relationships within such confines don't have enough importance to invest effort into, let alone spiritual effort. But if we step back and consider that this difficult relationship at work involves another person with a soul, with their own walk of faith (whatever that is or isn't) and their own past of hurts and future of fears, they suddenly become very much alive, very real, and very human. No longer is our dysfunctional relationship with an obnoxious person whose face becomes a virtual poster with a bulls-eye in our minds. No. Instead, they become someone with intrinsic value that Christ died for, and BAM! That brings the seriousness back into the dysfunction quickly.
What are some prayers we can apply to help us navigate these types of relationships?
Pray for Our Enemies
You knew this would be the first one, right? I mean, it's standard practice Jesus-style. Pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. This means we don't necessarily pray for them to change to suit us and make our lives better, but rather, we pray for them to come to a place of need for the Lord. A place where they meet the Holy Spirit and enter into union with Him.
It's difficult to pray blessings on our enemies. But the ultimate blessing of their surrending to the Lord means also coming into a unity of mind and spirit with them ourselves. If the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts, He can also speak into theirs, bringing healing and understanding.
Pray for Their Unknown Struggles
Think about it. Think about that day you came to work particularly edgy. That day, you should probably go back and apologize to coworkers for snapping, swearing, or simply being unbearable. There was a reason you acted that way. Maybe not a good one, or maybe not one that made those actions right, but there was a reason.
Sometimes the ones we have the most dysfunction with at work are maneuvering battles we have no idea about. They may be insecurities. They may be trials. They may be physiological influences that make living hard. They're not going to broadcast these struggles, but the signs are there if you look for them. So often, what makes a person unlikeable has to do with their past, present, or future influences that have little to do with you. You are simply the recipient of their angst, and because you're an acquaintance, in a way, you're safe to take out their angst on. If you leave, get mad, or react, it has little long-term impact on their lives.
Pray for them. Pray for their internal struggles that may be impacting them each day. Pray for the Lord to minister to their hearts, meet their needs, and bolster them with His strength.
Pray for Understanding
This prayer is more for you than for them. Sure, you can certainly pray that they will understand you and where you're coming from. That they will see what you're trying to accomplish or communicate and that friction can be overcome. But praying for understanding goes deeper than having your way seen, heard, and accepted. It's praying that God would help you understand them. That He would build in you the amount of humility needed to view the situation with wisdom and understanding. That your agenda and your mission at work—however right or just—will be secondary to understanding your conflict with the person as just that—a person.
We all love those feel-good movies where a child slowly wins over the cranky old neighbor. Or maybe it's the irritable and unfair boss who finds that being Scrooge isn't worth the ostracizing of themselves, and instead, they turn toward a spirit of giving. The fact is, often, that's not the case. Even prayers aren't magical resolutions to a significant problem. But they do help. They help because they invite in the One who is capable of managing friction. They submit to the One who can show us where we need to change and offer us direction when we need to stand strong but do it in love.
No, prayers aren't magical potions that fix problems. They're communication with the Healer and the Creator, and the Savior. They're far more powerful in that they are living, breathing, soul-searching opportunities to go before the King of Kings for assistance in something burdensome and difficult.
Some workplace relationships will never be resolved. Some may end up in one or both of you losing your jobs. Some may simply continue to make your daily life miserable. Some may become bearable but not enjoyable. More often than not, they won't have a paradigm shift into a wonderful working relationship.
But! What will happen with prayer is you will draw closer to the Lord. You will find yourself infused with strength, more grace than you thought you could ever have, wisdom in how to make decisions and how to communicate in a way that honors God, and intimacy as you go into a figurative battle each day with the One who cares equally for both sides. This type of arsenal is a fabulous weapon against any dysfunction, disagreement, or dislike. Prayer is, after all, part of the armor of God. So put it on, use it. There's a reason the Lord invites us to visit Him at His throne.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.