Thinking Right about Being Wrong

Thinking Right about Being Wrong

By:  Stacey Tuttle

 In the February 5, 2010 edition of THE WEEK, it said it was a “Bad week for: Equal-opportunity employment, after a British government-run job center rejected an ad from a company specifying that applicants “must be very reliable and hardworking.”  A government official told the company that it could get sued ‘for discriminating against unreliable people’.”  Really?  Is it a bad thing for a company to discriminate against unreliable people?  I’m not saying, obviously, that hate crimes against unreliable people are acceptable, or that just not caring about them in general is ok, but should you have to knowingly hire unreliable people?  Is it really discriminating to simply suggest you are looking for someone hardworking?  Following this logic, wouldn’t it be discriminating to specify the ability to speak  Spanish as a requirement for a job as a Spanish/English translator?  In fact, wouldn’t every job description be some form of discrimination?

I think the silliness of this is evident.  Of course, the job center’s primary concern was that people might read this description and feel badly about themselves.  Their concern was that this ad might be detrimental to their self-esteem and that makes me wonder:  how important is our self-esteem, really? To what lengths should be go to feel good about ourselves and make sure others are just as content in their self-perceptions. 

I had a teacher in High School who opened class the first day with this statement:  “I hope you never feel good about yourselves in this class.”  In the era of feel-good, raise-your-self-esteem education, this was shocking, to say the least.  It was a Bible class nonetheless, so the statement was even more shocking.  You think Bible class is going to teach you about how much God loves you—kind of a feel-good booster, don’t you think?  But no, he opened with the shocking statement that he didn’t want us to feel good about ourselves in his class.  Of course, everyone jumped to the opposite but false conclusion that he must, therefore want us to feel bad about ourselves while in his class.   Boy, that’s an encouraging motivation to attend class every day!  But then, this brilliant teacher explained what he meant:  his goal wasn’t to make us feel good or bad about ourselves.  His goal was to make us feel RIGHT about ourselves in his class. 

Feeling right about ourselves means that we are seeing ourselves accurately in light of the truth.  We feel good about things in us which are good and bad about things in us which are bad.  The goal isn’t pleasurable or unpleasurable emotions, but an accurate self-perception based on God’s standards.  From this perspective, feeling bad when you have done a bad thing is actually a good thing.  When people do bad things without feeling badly about them, there is no way to characterize that as good.  In fact, God says that this kind of thing makes us calloused, hardening our hearts until we are no longer able to render accurate judgments on our sin (Eph. 4:17-19, Rom. 1:21-22).

On the flip side, especially in high school, there is an epidemic of people feeling badly about themselves for no good reason.  It is largely an issue of comparison.  Julia feels bad about herself because she’s not as pretty as Jolene.  Tom feels bad about himself because he isn’t as good at football as Frank.  And everyone feels bad because they don’t have the money and the clothes and the cars that the Kardashians do.  These are not good reasons to feel bad.

So, back to the issue of discrimination against lazy people.  First off, let me ask again:  Is it really that horrible for an employer to want to hire people who don’t just feel good about themselves falsely (i.e. feel good about a lazy work ethic) but actually are honest with themselves about their character and the kind of employee they are?  Is it bad to “discriminate” against someone who has a false sense of self-esteem, a wrong estimation of their value and feels entitled to a pay check they didn’t earn?  Isn’t that simply being a good judge of character, using wisdom and discernment and being a good steward of your company’s resources?

But what if that same employer had someone apply who was able to be honest and admit, “Hey, I haven’t been very hard working in the past, but that is something I am trying to change and I am willing to work with you on some accountability if you’ll be willing to give me a chance”?   Now it’s not so much an issue of discrimination but of helping someone be honest about their faults and overcome them.  That might be a person the employer is willing to take a risk on. 

This is how God treats us.  He doesn’t require that we all start out perfect, but he does ask us to be honest about our imperfections.  He doesn’t discriminate against us for our failings, except for the one that causes us to think that we don’t have any.  He is willing to take on any person who wants the job of ambassador for Christ to the world.  However, he asks that you be honest with yourself and with Him about your skill set:  namely your character and degree to which the fruit of the spirit[1] is evident in your life.  In fact, when we are honest with Him about our areas of weakness, we don’t need to feel condemned, but rather, be encouraged that He is excited to make Himself strong for us in these areas (2. Cor. 12:9).  He is like an employer with an incredible advancement program.  He is eager to help us succeed as His ambassadors and will give us all the skills we need to do it, so long as we are honest with him about what we need.   It’s the issue of feeling rightly about ourselves—recognizing our limitations and our need for Him, feeling good about the things we ought to feel good about, and bad about the things we ought to feel bad about.  When we come to Him, asking Him to help us see ourselves the way He sees us, He gives us a correct view of ourselves.  It may not make us feel good about ourselves, but it will help us to think rightly about ourselves.  And in the areas where we have it wrong, He comes alongside and offers to help make things right in us so that there is no need for future condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

If we will be honest with ourselves, we can find great comfort in the thought that God doesn’t discriminate against unreliable people.  He doesn’t discriminate against unqualified people.  He doesn’t discriminate against awkward or uncool or disabled people or people who lack some qualification.  The only people He could be said to discriminate against are people who don’t think they need Him.  And really, it’s not that He’s discriminating against them so much as that they aren’t applying.  He is willing to take anyone, no matter how unqualified, unreliable or uncharactered.  He has a huge heart for His employees and His on-the-job training is out of this world! 

[1] You know:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control – Gal. 5:22.