Matt’s New Job
Matt’s New Job
“Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord…” Ephesians 6:8
Matt phoned me. I had counseled him for more than a year. “Guess what happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “What…?”
“My job just got outsourced,” he answered.
“You must be in pain,” I said.
“You bet,” Matt responded. “I can’t figure out how I’m going to support Joan and the kids.”
“How’d it happen?” I asked.
“Paul, the CEO, called me into his office yesterday. He told me the company is going to outsource its accounting work starting immediately. They no longer need my services as the Controller. I know the company is struggling financially. I guess this is a way they hope to save money.”
“How did Joan take the news?” I inquired.
“She’s scared too. She stopped working six years ago to stay home and raise our kids. I’m the sole breadwinner…at least I was.”
“What’re your plans?” I asked.
“I’ve already called a colleague I knew in business school to ask if he knows anyone who needs a controller. I also called a head hunter I’ve used in the past. He’s going to make some calls. As you know jobs aren’t easy to find right now.”
“I know,” I said. “This is a terrible time to find a job.”
“I want you to help me with my pain,” Matt said, “and my anger. I’m concerned they could get in my way.”
“Do your families know you lost your job?” I asked.
“We told Joan’s parents. They’re very concerned. They’ll help watch the kids but their resources are limited given her father’s retirement… I told my mother, too. I didn’t tell my father. He’s still drinking every day. They’re in no position to help. Our brothers and sisters can’t help either. Everyone’s hurting for money and scared of losing their jobs.”
“What’s behind your pain and your anger?” I asked.
“I thought Paul was my friend,” Matt said. “I even thought he was my best friend. We’ve worked well together for six years. When I got upset he was the person I could talk with. He supported me with his approval. I haven’t had as much time with him since he became the CEO a year ago. However, I’m surprised he gave me no warning about being fired. I think he’s still angry over paying my bonus.”
“What happened about your bonus?” I inquired.
“Last year I was promised a bonus but I never got paid. Sales were off and money was very tight. But the other people got paid.”
“Why didn’t you?” I asked.
“Paul thought I would understand better than anyone else since I keep the books. It’s like my being the controller and knowing money was tight meant I’d go on without getting paid for the sake of the company,” Matt said.
“But you’re saying that went on for over a year?”
“That’s right. I might have tolerated it even longer except Joan complained the kids couldn’t buy books or clothes for school. That’s when I reached my limit.”
“What happened then?”
“I told Paul I couldn’t wait any longer… that my kids needed the money for school necessities.”
“Did he pay you?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it took him a couple weeks. He made a remark about feeling “guilted” by me when he gave me the check.”
“That must have hurt,” I commented.
“It did,” Matt said, “especially since I felt taken advantage of by being the only one who waited that long. Then, a few weeks later he tells me my job’s gone.”
“Does it feel like a punishment?” I asked.
“Kind’a,” he replied. “I tell myself not to take it personally. That it’s just about the money.”
“That could be the truth,” I said. “But it may remind you of your problem with your father and not feeling cared about by him.”
“You’re right on target,” Matt said. “I feel rejected by Paul the way I did by my Dad. I’ve worked long hours and even week-ends without getting paid for overtime just to make sure I did a good job. In return I’m sent packing. With my Dad I fixed the leaky toilet or the broken chairs which he neglected. Instead of appreciating what I’d done he yelled at me. It’s like the old saying: no good deed goes unpunished.”
“How could your father give you what he himself didn’t have? I asked.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Matt replied. “It’s true that my father didn’t get appreciated by his father, who didn’t spend much time with him.”
“And he didn’t learn how to appreciate himself,” I added. “How can you give someone else what you haven’t got? If you don’t have love, you can’t give love, for example.”
“I see what you mean,” Matt responded. I did get from Paul the approval I never got from my father…that’s what makes it hard to lose. He’s the one who stood behind me at work.”
“Do you realize,” I asked Matt, “that you’re giving your self-evaluation over to Paul? You’re putting him in charge of how you feel about yourself.”
“I hadn’t seen that,” Matt answered, “but you’re right. I’m making what Paul thinks of me, or what I’m imagining he feels about me, too important.”
“You’re diminishing what you think about yourself,” I responded. “Your own self-evaluation needs to come first with you.”
“What you’re saying makes sense,” Matt responded, “or else I’ll start believing the perceptions of others, even when they’re not accurate.”
“Like when Paul accused you of “guilting” him,” I said.
“I do know that I did a good job as the controller regardless of what Paul or anyone else thinks,” Matt responded. “I spoke up to the Board about the problems in the company when no one else did. I managed difficult personnel problems from which I gained some wisdom. I learned to admit when I made mistakes rather than try to justify them.”
“And you know,” I responded, “God is with you and stands behind you when you tell the truth about yourself.”
“I do know that,” Matt replied. “I haven’t always appreciated how important it is until now.”
“So how are you going to deal with Paul?” I asked.
“That’s where I’m kind‘a stuck,” Matt replied. “I don’t want to lose our relationship. I value him as a friend. As you know I don’t have many friends. I don’t have time to keep up with them given my work hours and spending my time off with Joan and the kids….At the same time, I really feel hurt by being let go. What’s more, Paul gave me just two weeks severance when the company policy has been one week for every year of employment. I should get six weeks.”
“Is that severance policy in your contract?” I asked.
“No,” Matt said. “It was just the policy when the company was stronger financially. It’s not enforceable… The problem is I feel so hurt by just being dismissed. It feels like I don’t matter, like Paul and I aren’t friends. That’s what makes me angry.”
“Remember,” I said, “how Paul deals with you is his Karma…and how you respond is your Karma. How Paul treats you reflects who he is, and how you react reflects who you are.”
“I just realized,” Matt responded, “that I’m measuring how much Paul cares about me by how much severance he gives me. Kind’a weird isn’t it?”
“Not really,” I said. “All of us make up stuff every day. We give what happens to us meanings it doesn’t necessarily have– like your feeling personally rejected by Paul’s outsourcing your job. I suggest you pray about your relationship with Paul and what you want to say to him.”
We scheduled our next appointment and hung up.
Matt called me two weeks later.
He thanked me: “I prayed as you suggested. It was very helpful.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I decided to speak from my heart,” he said.
“Good for you,” I said.
“I told Paul how hurt I felt by the way he dealt with me,” Matt said. “How I felt dismissed like we weren’t really friends.”
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He apologized,” Matt answered. “He said he’d gotten so caught up in trying to save the company that he’d ignored our relationship. He admitted he’s still preoccupied.”
“That sounds accurate,” I said.
“I told Paul how important our friendship was to me. I told him how much I’d gained from working with him. I thanked him for supporting me during difficult situations. I let go of my anger. I told him our friendship meant more to me that a few added weeks of severance pay. He told me that he considered me a true friend and he wanted to stay in touch. We both had tears as we shook hands.”
“That took courage on your part,” I said.
“I left his office with a smile on my face,” Matt said. “I felt gratitude instead of resentment. I felt lighter. Walking felt effortless.”
“You experienced divine justice,” I responded. “What you gave to Paul you gave to yourself. It happened instantaneously. It took place in your heart– you received the love you gave.”
“That’s what I experienced,” Matt said. “I saw that giving and receiving aren’t opposites; they’re one. When I gave unconditionally to Paul, I received. When Paul received graciously what I was saying, he gave to me.”
Matt had broken the legacy in his family, handing down criticism and denigration from one generation to the next, from father to son. He had broken the cycle of shame carried by a son from his father. He was becoming a loving father to himself.
Matt got a new job as the controller of a start-up company. Paul helped by giving him a strong recommendation. Matt no longer stayed late at the office. He was home for his children at the end of each day. When they came to him with questions about their homework he was more patient with them. In fact, he enjoyed their coming to him even though it interrupted him. He was being the father he wished for but never had. In his prayers each night Matt quietly thanked God for enabling him to be the father he had become.
Joan watched him change. She was astonished. She told him it was a miracle– how totally changed he was and how different from his father!
Matt knew he was different in his heart both as a parent and as a husband.
He told me it was easier for him to laugh with Joan than it had ever been.