What keeps abuse of authority in the workplace and home alive?
Going along to get along.
It is man’s penchant for crowd-mongering. It is my penchant for pleasing others. While reading the beginning of the book of Proverbs in the Bible, I was struck by the applicability of the very first chapter to the experience most of us have had in a toxic environment.
The writer, likely King Solomon, warns against throwing in with the wrong crowd. Where I had always understood the passage as applied to throwing in with a bunch of criminals planning and executing a bank heist, it is most certainly broader and more sinister than that.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse”—my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.
Proverbs 1:10-16 (ESV)
These are really bad guys.
I remember traveling in Germany many years ago. We wanted to get a close-up look at a castle. We saw one at a distance as we tooled along on the Autobahn. We took an exit to a small village that appeared to be near the castle. As we tried to make heads or tales of the street system that originated in the oxcart days, we finally gave up finding the way and stopped to ask directions at a bank.
In mostly English, with horrible German thrown in, I asked how to get to the castle. The cashiers were baffled by what I was asking, but finally with much pointing and describing, one of them came to a revelation and said, “Oh, bad boys, bad boys!”
After some moments of confusion it became clear the castle was now used as a prison. We were not welcome there.
Solomon could easily be referring to falling in with anyone who is leading you into sin. And he is certainly suggesting we should not be complicite with sin. But he also describes really bad boys. Let us ambush the innocent without reason. Like death let us swallow them alive and whole!
These boys are really bad in his description.
They are people that abuse specialist, Dan Allendar, classifies as “evil” from the proverbs. He says,
“All of us are capable of doing evil things, but evil people are driven by a self-interest that is so heartless, conscious, and cruel that it delights in stealing from others the lifeblood of their soul.”
Dan Allender, page 233
We should not allow ourselves to be sucked into being part of the oppressive behavior of others. Consider how that applies to a Christian organization led by toxic managers, boards, or CEOs.
We firstly cannot join in with the toxic leader. Stand apart from him.
We cannot stand in agreement with him in his oppressive actions. We cannot laugh at his demeaning comments towards another employee.
We cannot try to play middleman as we did in our mission context in Africa.
As others were beat up by the leadership of our mission, we sought to soften the blows. Until we realized we were complicite in the abuse in doing so.
We cannot support the toxic leader.
By giving any credence to their behaviour, we are throwing our lot in among them. We are telling those who are deeply offended by the toxic leader’s lack of Christian witness that the toxic leader’s actions are acceptable.
In addition, we should take the next step: stand against him.
For the good of others and even the toxic leader, confront the sin. Find a way to challenge his meanness.
- To whom does he report?
- How can you bring him to accountability?
- Who has also suffered from his abuse that can go with me to authorities?
This can be tricky as many abusive authorities, though under someone else’s authority, know how to control those in authority over them through manipulation and charm. It can be difficult to convince the authority of the bosses’ nastiness.
Often we suggest grace must be extended. If that is how you understand grace, read this.
Remember that it is grace to confront sin.
And finally, stand among those who are targets.
Though we do not stand with the toxic leader, we need to stand with their victims.
Though Solomon does not speak to this in his proverb, it is biblical to stand with the oppressed. God calls on his people to bring justice to those who are crushed by the powerful. [Psalm 103:6]
We can stand by the oppressed by:
- Hearing their stories
- Affirming their struggles
- Praying for and with them
- Confronting the boss if it is safe
- Seeking accountability for the toxic boss through upper management
- Helping them get free from the boss
Stand Apart, Stand Against, Stand Among.
Toxic work environments are not the way it is supposed to be in a Christian organization. It is a broken world, but God has called his people to seek the reversal of the curse that sin brings.
Be part of the process for de-toxifying your ministry.
Do you have a story to tell. Contact Pearls and Swine Site and tell it. We want to know how the Lord is using and teaching you.