3 Ways to Overcome Labeling at Work

Labels.

They can be tough to handle. As one who has endured his fair share, my heart is sensitive to those wrestling with identity, to those struggling in the shadow of slander and prejudice. While some people know the truth of who you are, the fact is many are in the dark to what makes them unique. And if we’re to mature in wisdom and influence within our communal arenas, how we stand firm when assailed by this demographic is worth discussion.

Regardless of what we do or where we’re at, whenever vulnerability strikes, having a game-plan is vital in our quest to be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Accordingly, here are three ways we can bust the boxes people put us in and prevent their labels from becoming our tags.

1. Anchor Your Belief

Before we take any action, the best way to deal with backbiting is to resist fear through the Scriptures. While how we respond as follow-through is important, how we react in the moment is just as, if not more, crucial. Here’s a check-down of some verses I quote when I sense typecasting, favoritism, or neglect:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” ~ 1 Timothy 2:7 (AMP)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:18-19 (ESV)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

Note how this is merely a shortlist; obviously, you can customize your ‘fear resistant’ prayer guide however you please. Just be advised when you’re on the clock in real-time, our tendency to misread and misjudge what we observe is constantly tested; hence, why it’s important not only to know what you believe but also how to take captive what doesn’t align.

Bottom line: When you suspect attitudinal shifts, be slow to believe what you perceive. Don’t be afraid to resist unnecessary judgments, labels, and deceptions. Even if all you can do initially is defer, defer in faith with the hope of casting all anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)

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2. Pray into the Offense

When we suspect people are labeling us, it’s hard not to take offense. Even if we can’t prove a typecast, the temptation to rationalize what we’re sensing is real, sometimes tantalizing. I know for me, when I perceive a relational distancing from colleagues or co-workers, I start to crave reconciliation before it’s necessary. On one level, I feel a surge of self-perseveration desperate to find a reason why; on another, I’m frustrated to have to own anything in the first place. It’s like a winless tug-of-war: I want to be heard, understood, and not given up on, but in case those fears verify, I want to, at least, be the next best thing…to be right. Not exactly a sustainable formula if community is to be a pure pursuit.

For those wondering why the transparency: I have no problem being vulnerable because I know I’m not alone. The fact is in most cases, insecurity fuels our offenses and if we don’t acknowledge and repent of them, they can pollute our view of relationships, identity, place and purpose, etc.

So what then? If people are nice one day and suddenly stop acknowledging our existence the next, we’re supposed to keep our mouth shut and be okay with it? Well, no, I’m not saying we neglect the opportunities to bridge divides. Conversely, I’m saying if grudges or walls emerge, we must first lean on God’s understanding to accurately see the situation. From there, we can take rest knowing we’re proactively sowing peace as opposed to reactively striving for peace. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Through Him, we can persevere in prayer and thanksgiving that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-5).

Bottom line: Seek correction before direction. Let God be the space between your hurts and emotions. Release the want to control, manipulate, and be a victim. All the while, pray into the offense and don’t be overcome by the absence of good. Rather be the good in the voids you sense, real or imagined.

3. Turn the Cheek…and the Tide

For most of us, we’re familiar with Matthew 5:38-40:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is . But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

While the general meaning of this passage is to approach evil in the opposite spirit, the concept of turning the other cheek can still be confusing. Is Jesus suggesting we tolerate the presence of malice, gossip, passive-aggressiveness, even silos in our workplaces? Is he hinting we embrace suffering and survivalism as socially acceptable? Not at all. Au contraire, he’s implying we encourage all people through a double portion of his nature.

For instance, if we encounter a void of good, when people are intentionally forsaking us, don’t respond by doing the same. Why lower your standards and behaviors to a level outside your faith? Instead, know your power source and abide in the current of his grace. In this way, you defuse offense, inspire virtue as a contagious overflow, and preserve what needs to be said in a spirit of love.

Bottom line: In the presence of evil, in the absence good, you can’t turn the tide if you don’t turn the cheek. Don’t live in defeat in a moment’s heat but be true to what is right as you stir others to do the same.

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive back into my ‘Trinity as Structure‘ series to discuss the Trinity’s influence on teamwork. For now, I bid you adieu with an inspiring video from New Hope Church:

Cover photo creds: https://medium.com

Faith at Work: The Trinity as Structure (Part 1)

So lately, I’ve been thinking about church and marketplace leadership.

Contrasts and comparisons, how the Kingdom applies to governance, management, and authority, things like that. Yeah, yeah, I know this isn’t a new trail of thought. If you’re a regular on here, you know these ideas define a deep-rooted passion within. Still, I can’t help but return to this well especially in a time when there’s so much disruption and disorientation.

In days like these, knowing the grassroots of our identity and calling is critical. As mentioned in past posts, we are all designed as Kingdom agents with appointed influence and spiritual gifts. From the beginning of time, we had a name and a purpose – a destiny to abide through, a God to abide in. The question is: How do we model the everlasting within the expirations of this life? How do we reflect and capture the Trinity in our way of conducting everything from behavior to business? 

While the answers are many, I figure for today we can assess some new angles and later on address how these issues might be changing in the years ahead.

As always, let’s dive in…

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To understand the Kingdom is to see the Trinity wherever there is appointed structure. This not only includes what God has established for our good but also ‘original intent’ when structures stray from this good.

A classic example of this is the principle we’re all created diverse in function, co-equal in value. While many accept this truth in theory, few default to and apply it due to cultural programming and our quest for meaning. To be fair, this shouldn’t surprise us. After all, in today’s world, we’re told if we want to make a difference, we have to make something of our lives; if we want to change the world, we need to attract attention to what we have to offer. Unfortunately, this not only inflates a sense of survivalism but hinders how we trust in communal contexts. With a societal rise in cynicism as self-preservation, no wonder so many struggle to define servant-based leadership given serving, leading, and relationships are regarded as mutually exclusive.

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Wherever we find ourselves concerning this, we must be unified in our aim to lean on Jesus. By leaning I mean trusting God in what He has modeled and shared from the very beginning – from His love, delight, and compassion to His heart for community and habitation. Remember before there was a creation, there was a culture of safety enjoyed by a Godhead who foreknew the Cross and the ministry of reconciliation to come. By proxy, we can know the Trinity was identifying with our uniqueness long before it existed. As the Psalmist and prophets declared, we were searched and consecrated before our birth (Psalm 139:16, Jeremiah 1:5, Romans 8:29); hence, why we can rest knowing God was engaging relationship with us before we could reciprocate.

Applied to leadership in marketplace and ministry, we can champion these Kingdom grids knowing serving is the leading and the way we approach worship and prayer as a lifestyle. In essence, leading by serving is not only the ‘radical middle’ (i.e. the Spirit/Truth life) at work but also an affirmation of prayer and worship as the core to vocational ministry. Locked into this belief, we can better discern the difference between our aims and what we experience as overflows.

For instance, one of the signs of a healthy church and/or work environment is a culture of humility. To facilitate a culture of humility, one must first trust God to inspire a culture before sowing prophetic encouragement into it. This makes sense given to facilitate at all, there must be people to facilitate to. As the Trinity implies, before anything can be created and developed, there must be time and space granted in the context of rest and relationship. This is why in any setting, people must come before process and procedures.

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In business, we see this practically in formation phases: People create the program, not the other way around. If you want to accomplish ground-breaking initiatives, don’t just seize the opportunity to serve, but pour into connectedness and maximize your availability. Don’t simply seek to learn, but seek to burn for what motivates your team. Whatever you do, do until the glory of God knowing you can cultivate community through prayer and worship…even if you can’t always pray and worship together. Remember as servant-leaders, the greatest impacts start by perceiving each function, each engagement as an expression of praise to God. From there, the Spirit/Truth life at work becomes clear, which in summary, is as follows:

  1. Value comes before function.
  2. People come before program. 
  3. Safety comes before creation.

A few words to the wise: Don’t ever use programs to manufacture safety and or emotional margin as leverage for productivity. While dependency keeps us accountable to community, this dependency must always be anchored in Christ alone; otherwise, whatever expression of fearless love we convey will be contained or misleading. Also, comparisons based in insecurity can be just as lethal as untimely agenda. If you ever need a litmus test to gauge the purity of your relational intentions, ask yourself, “Am I resting in my faith? Am I giving God room to invade? Am I helping others taste and see that God is good?’ In doing this, you calibrate to God’s faithfulness operating within you and are rest assured any effort rooted in striving will ultimately not succeed.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: https://www.forbes.com

Eyes on the Shore: The Secret to Surviving Life’s Riptides

Written 5/12/2017; revised 8/7/2020

Bible verse: Psalm 118-5-16 (MSG)

Pushed to the wall, I called to God; from the wide open spaces, he answered. God’s now at my side and I’m not afraid; who would dare lay a hand on me? God’s my strong champion; I flick off my enemies like flies. Far better to take refuge in God than trust in people; Far better to take refuge in God than trust in celebrities. Hemmed in by barbarians, in God’s name I rubbed their faces in the dirt; Hemmed in and with no way out, in God’s name I rubbed their faces in the dirt; Like swarming bees, like wild prairie fire, they hemmed me in; in God’s name I rubbed their faces in the dirt. I was right on the cliff-edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me. God’s my strength, he’s also my song, and now he’s my salvation. Hear the shouts, hear the triumph songs in the camp of the saved? “The hand of God has turned the tide! The hand of God is raised in victory! The hand of God has turned the tide!”

Favorite sayings. We all have them.

Epic battlecries, movie references, whispered words of wisdom…there are many phrases we hold dear when chaos is near.

For instance, whenever I’m struggling and need a spark, one of my go-to sayings is “turn the tide”. I don’t know where it comes from, who said it first or its historical origin; all I know is I’m an avid fan of what it represents, the idea you can alter course and be the change you crave even when you feel you can’t stand.

Knowing this, perhaps it’s not too surprising this idiom would resurface during last night’s workout during which I felt the Lord tell me there are many people currently caught in riptides. Riptides of pride. Riptides of anxiety. Riptides of ungodly belief. Riptides of soul/spirit hurt. Riptides of shame. Riptides of discouragement.

You get the picture.

He then said, ‘Cameron, how do you get out of a riptide?

I answered, ‘You just wait it out, right?

That’s one way. What’s the other?

I paused.

Then it hit me: The best way to survive a riptide is to swim parallel to the shore.

So I pressed in some more: ‘Lord, what’s your point?

He then said my point is…

…I’ve given you a way out when the waves of strife seek to wipe out my waves of life. For my shore is the truth…my shore is the Word…my shore is my unchanging, constant will.

All you got to do let my shore be your anchor and your horizon. My shore is always your perspective. Why not swim alongside it? No need to overreact. No need to panic. No need to about-face.  Just adjust to the shoreline, keep track of it, and eventually, you will swim out of the tide. For tides constantly come and go, but my shore will always be there.

Now, for some of you, this may sound like a glorified remix of another spiritual colloquialism – “If you’re walking through hell, don’t stop“. But to be fair, there’s more under the hood here. For in this word is a secondary reality – the fact there is not only a time for everything but also a tide for anything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).  While many understand the value of trusting God to supply needs and/or making a moment count, not nearly as many have a gameplan when undertows strike.

My advice? If life’s a beach, have a guide to survive before you arrive. For what we can’t control is eventual, but what we can is effectual as long as we commit our ways to God James 5:8/2 Corinthians 13:5-style.

You too, be patient; strengthen your hearts [keep them energized and firmly committed to God], because the coming of the Lord is near. Test and evaluate yourselves to see whether you are in the faith and living your lives as [committed] believers. Examine yourselves…and recognize this about yourselves [by an ongoing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you.

Selah.

As for today, if you feel weary, broken, unable to stand, remember while storms come and go, God’s heart is to strengthen your character so His love can be known. Even when you feel discouraged by undertows of stress and fear pulling you down, remember the way out is where He is, the way to the shore! As our ultimate direction, as one who is mighty to save and strong to deliver, He will never abandon or forsake us since His nature is constant. Accordingly, we can navigate the choppy waters of life knowing we have what we need to sail and swim to Jesus.

Whoever you are…you got this!

Surfs up,

~ Cameron

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Photo creds: https://adminologybay.com