By Mike Phillips
(Reprinted from 2010 by request)
Jackie called me about 9:30 at night, late for anyone to want counseling.
“I’m not going to work tomorrow. I may not ever go back to that place”. I hadn’t heard that Jackie had a developed a bottomless source of money, so I thought this idea of not going to work should probably be thought through more carefully. I asked her to defend her decision.
“My boss makes me crazy,” she started out. “He never lets me tell him my ideas. We get a new assignment in, something I can immediately see how to tackle. Every time I start to tell him what I want to try, he completely steps all over me.” Jackie worked on a team of architects specializing in bridges and levies. She had been with four different firms in the past ten years, and each time she quit because of trouble with her boss. In fact, she had the same trouble with every boss – none of them treated her with any respect, and none of them took her ideas seriously.
“Jackie, does it feel like you have a sign on you that says “Please ignore me!”?
“You know it Mike. I do have that sign. Every boss does that. Actually, my husband does it; and my dad did it. Come to think of it, you have even done it to me at times. But the hardest part about another boss doing it is this: Here is my profession. I have spent $200,000 to be educated to this point, and I am treated like an uneducated flunky”. I could hear the slumping tone to her voice. This was defeating her. She wasn’t just being dramatic: she really was weighing whether to quit this job. Seeking to preempt this mistake, I voiced my opinion.
“Jackie, do you want to get rid of that sign around your neck? The one that says, “Please ignore me”. Would you like to be rid of it for good? If you do, then you really must stay with this job. There is no other way.
In our conversation in the next hour, I explained a situation that was both a spiritual law and a psychological principle. You will keep running into the same kind of people who trigger your emotions in exactly the same way until you solve the root problem. Then you will not run into those people any more often than anyone else.
For instance, it is well known in marriage and family therapy that many people keep marrying the same people over and over again. The names and faces change, but the same character deficiencies tend to show up in all their spousal choices. You may end up marrying cold people, angry people, liars, spendaholics, alcoholics, manipulators, lazy, fearful, or unbalanced. At first, they seem to be completely different, but by the end of the relationship, there is much more in common with that last spouse than you ever thought possible.
The same is seen with friends, colleagues, bosses, teachers, doctors, neighbors, church friends, clubs, on and on and on. And, I suspect God has something to do with all of this.
In the Old Testament, when Israel escaped through the Red Sea and left behind the captivity of the Egyptians, they began to march to a new destination. Walking time from the Red Sea to the location we know as Israel could take anywhere from two to six months, depending on how many people came along and how far from water sources they strayed. Yet they took 40 years to complete the journey. Why did they take so long? One teacher said it was because they kept making the same mistakes with attitude and action. Every time they refused to trust God, He sent them on another lap around the wilderness.
Perhaps that person who just gets your goat, twists your sensibilities, treats you like crap, keeps you awake at night is actually on assignment. I am not saying God makes them do their dastardly deeds. But God uses them to bring us to the point where we can get rid of the sign around our necks. If we run away from people that trigger us and never deal with what it is being triggered, we will keep running into those people – until it all gets settled.
The signs we have can be very unique, but there are common ones:
“Leave or abandon me”
“Manipulate, control or take power from me”
“Cheat me, lie to me or gossip about me.”
“Show me no love or respect”
“Take advantage of me or steal from me.”
I could list hundreds of more, but most people reading this automatically can think of the line of people who have done the same things to you. So what can you do about it? The first thing is the most important. Decide that you’re going to stick this one through until you get your inner sign taken care of. The next two things you can do will be dealt with in the next article