Getting ready to move makes you very aware of how much conversational give and take is really for other people. As I get closer to moving away, I feel as though some of my friends are more delicate than they would be otherwise. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells sometimes, trying to soften the things I’d normally be saying full strength, not wanting them to feel afraid or angry that I’m leaving, trying to hedge against burning bridges on both sides. When people sense that the end of a season is coming, in the frustration of changing, we can sometimes lash out in ways that wouldn’t be wise in a longer relationship. When people feel threatened, or they sense that a relationship is disposable, they don’t always act wisely.
I have some trouble with my boss sometimes, who is somewhat type A. She is not a fan of change, and she gets overwhelmed easily. Like some family members I know, she feels uncomfortable when I am not always sunny and happy. If I come in thinking about something complicated, or if I say something that shows too much frustration or mourning, she gets defensive and finds creative ways to take things personally. Sometimes when we have a lot going on, it can be difficult to work around my boss. She can get overwhelmed and make rash decisions that she wouldn’t make thinking clearly. There is tension because I’ve been there longer than her, but I just try to do what she asks of me. The nature of our work is to constantly answer questions that are both broad, complicated, and more often than not, somewhat critical. If you don’t keep a level head and pick your battles, you are liable to lose it.
I think my boss is afraid. Whenever there is a lot going on, she feels more helpless dealing with the situation. Sometimes, she will talk aloud or take a lap around the office just to calm her mind and break out of any discomfort. Though I think she would probably prefer a more predictable and less high-stress work environment, I’m just doing what I can to keep the peace. When she gets frustrated, she can be slightly verbally abusive and condescending. She makes choices without consulting anybody, and uses a tone of voice that is disrespectful towards the students we work with. Because there is often a language barrier, her stress makes her unable to helpfully work through counseling a student with limited English proficiency. When she gets overwhelmed, she relies on attitudes and actions that aren’t often professional. She took offense the other day when I told her that I don’t feel comfortable when she takes up so much of my personal space without asking (she was trying to explain something with her hands on the back of my chair and I really didn’t feel comfortable). She found a way to take that personally also.
When you allow difficult circumstances to make you afraid, that fear controls you. When you work in stressful work environments, you have to be skilled at de-escalating situations, not building them. Though my boss doesn’t yet understand this, I do my best to get out of her way and stay level headed. Since I leave soon, her taking my matter-of-fact statements personally is not ultimately my responsibility. My responsibility is to do the best work I can do, and try to set an example that may rub off. When she takes a second to cool down, she acts more respectfully. She does make an effort to understand where I’m coming from after she’s had a minute of peace. She does try to make me feel appreciated when she finally calms down. I just feel a little bad for her because I remember what it’s like to deal with all that anxiety and have to go through the emotional fireworks. Looking at it from the outside, I feel sorry for her because I know the ups and downs are unnecessary. And I know it’s something she tries to control, even if she can’t on her own strength. Those kind of patterns are exhausting.
The more I work with kids, the more I believe in being a facilitator instead of a judge. My job is to encourage the ones I love to come to productive conclusions by listening and giving supportive advice. My job is not to control people’s every waking action. A lot of parents try to control their children without really teaching. A well taught child learns how to teach others, and is useful to society. A micromanaged child doesn’t make sense of the constant ebbs and flows of life’s changes, and learns to be afraid instead of to take initiative.
I see God’s presence a lot more in this “Emmanuel” kind of role. “God with us” walks us through our problems and provides his own strength for us to work through them. Teaching is a reminder to rely on God’s strength, because it’s true that those who teach will be judged more fiercely. If you seek responsibility, you become liable for all that responsibility means.
I think that it’s a lot easier for people to come into a relationship with God through Christ by having teachers in this kind of “Emmanuel” position. If we aren’t willing to serve, we should not be teaching. If “Rabbi” was a good enough title for Christ, then teaching is an honorable position. Good teaching requires you to serve. You have to be patient.