If you’ve ever been in a situation where doing the right thing meant that others would feel you did the wrong thing, this post is for you…
I hate firing people. I’m a people person, and I desire to have good relationships with everyone who works with me. I want to trust people. I want to provide for them. I want to give them everything they need to succeed. I want to be the cheerleader, and help them reach goals they never thought were possible. Yet, sometimes, unfortunately, painfully, I have to let people go. There are some people that can’t do their jobs; others who are a bad influence on coworkers; and some who treat coworkers or customers rudely. These people have to go.
But I still hate it—I still hate firing people even when it’s the right thing to do.
It gets worse. Every time I’ve had to fire someone, word gets around. The former employee attacks my reputation—or the reputation of the company—with a vengeance. Although I did the right thing, it starts to look like I did the wrong thing.
As a Christian, firing someone is even more difficult. As Christians, we are taught to turn the other cheek. We are taught that there’s always hope for people to change. We believe that even our enemies should be treated with love and dignity, and that forgiveness should be shown not just 7 times, but 70×7 times. These truths make it really hard to fire someone, yet sometimes that’s what I have to do.
More than that, Christians are supposed to be examples of Christ’s love—his relentless and quick-to-forgive kind of love. We are supposed to reflect the love of a God who looked down upon our rebellion, and still sent his Son to pay the penalty for our sin. In a way, it would be like the son of a business owner firing himself instead of firing the manager who acted wrongly. Jesus took our place, and took upon himself the punishment meant for us. This brings me to a question I’ve struggled with: How does Christ’s mercy affect the way I approach rogue employees?
The other day, I was especially bothered by one of these stories, and the Lord reminded me of one of King David’s prayers:
“O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.” (Psalm 4:2-3)
David’s reputation was under attack. Although he had been righteous—he did the right thing—it looked to others as though he had done the wrong thing. Yet the Lord still set him apart for himself and heard David when he called. I think God hears you and me too.
I pray hard in these situations. I spend a lot of time begging God to give me wisdom when I have to do something difficult. I want to be an intentional Christian, even when I have to do something that doesn’t feel very Christian. It comforts me to know that God hears those prayers.
And then the Lord reminded me of another song by King David:
“Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:5-6)
Not only will God hear my prayer when I ask him for wisdom in these situations, but God is also responsible for my reputation when I have to do something ugly. As a leader, I feel it is important for me to keep the details of personnel decisions secret. More than that, I could get sued if someone didn’t get a job because of something I said. As a result, firing someone is lonely business—you have to do the hard work, and then you have to keep the details to yourself. This means that oftentimes a disgruntled former employee can say whatever he or she wants, and you can’t defend yourself.
It comforts me to know that God is responsible for defending me. I’ve prayed for God’s guidance in the situation. I’ve followed his wisdom. With his help, I can trust him to defend the righteousness and justice of that action.
I don’t know what situation you’re in where you have to do a right thing that looks to others—and maybe feels to you—like a wrong thing. You may not have to fire someone, but all of us—as Christians—will find ourselves in difficult situations.
May we be encouraged to know that God hears us when we cry out. May we find courage in the knowledge that as an intentional Christian, we can commit our ways to the Lord and he will act on our behalf. And if we have to do a right thing, that looks and feels like a wrong thing, that God will defend us and fight for us, even when we can’t defend ourselves.