When bad things happen to good workers

May 25, 2019

SOME cynic said, “No good deed goes unpunished.” We have this strong moral sense that good things should happen to good people. We also agree that bad things should happen to bad people. What we don’t understand is why bad things happen to good people. We do a terrific job but instead of being recognized or rewarded, we are being persecuted or punished. If our employers have a grievance system, I would suggest that we avail of it by all means. But what about situations when we keep getting flak we don’t deserve and there is nothing we can do about it?

First, acknowledge that life is not fair, but realize that God is always fair. Life and God are not the same. There is the paradox that God is in control while this universe seems to be running by cause-and-effect.         The latter includes people being free to make decisions that affect our careers. Since we are all imperfect people making imperfect decisions, events that seem unfair in our jobs are bound to happen.

However, if we believe that God is perfect, then He makes perfect decisions that are, by nature, fair to everyone. This includes the belief that God will correct every injustice in His time and in His terms. So if God sees people treating us unfairly (in the workplace and everywhere else), we are rest secured that He will vindicate us in the end.

Second, stay on the high ground. Let us fight the evil whenever we can. But let us also cultivate goodness lest the evil consumes us. Too many tormented people stoop to the level of their tormentors. Someone hits them, they hit back. They scheme how to exact revenge or fantasize about the just deserts of their foes. Still others give in to the pressure and compromise their values.

When treated unfairly at work, the best response is to keep doing an excellent job. Sometimes that is all the defense we will ever need or what will prove our detractors wrong. If we are convinced that God will someday vindicate us, this frees us from the need to retaliate. So resist the temptation to lash back or lose heart. Repay evil with good. Extend grace. Do kindness to your opponents. As another saying goes, “the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.”

Lastly, look at the unfairness from God’s perspective. I can think of no better example than the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. In a nutshell, Joseph was sold by his own brothers to become a slave in Egypt. Then his master’s wife tried to seduce him and when he refused, she framed him for attempted rape. Joseph was thrown into prison for doing the right thing. We won’t blame Joseph if he asked, “Why is life so unfair to me? Where is God in all this?”

But later, Pharaoh spotted Joseph’s talent and catapulted him to be second-in-command of all Egypt, the most powerful nation at the time. Joseph reconciled with his brothers, to whom he summarized his experience, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” In hindsight, God allowed Joseph to go through all these hardships to steer and prepare him for the apex of his career.

Remember the paradox of God being in control and yet life seems ridden with unfairness? It is resolved when God allows the difficulty to happen to us, but He reaches out and turns it around to be a blessing. He is still the Big Boss; He still gets the final say. Tomorrow we may be going back to an unfair situation in the workplace. Remember that God is still fair. While we wait for Him to make things right, let us do the right thing ourselves, including giving our employers the best of our services.