For the first time, I am experiencing what most of you have experienced before: a vengeful boss, bizarre job expectations, and the oppressive feeling of powerlessness.
Currently, I teach at a private school in South Korea, where the system is infamous for its flaws. Still, my situation is probably well-known to most people back home in the West.
Aside from the stressful environment and sense of paranoia at work, my work struggle strikes me right where it hurts the most: my pride. No employer has ever called me a bad worker before, and I have felt wounded, as if my skills were betrayed and unappreciated. Still, in the midst of all this frustration, I’ve had amazing coworkers to share their own horror stories (hidden nanny cams, thieving bosses), and offer me seasoned, measured advice.
So, at the end of the day, I can feel two things: one, a huge sense of relief as I check off my calendar of rapidly shrinking time left in Korea (twenty or so days), and two, the personal satisfaction of knowing that I can exchange simple, unmediated pain for a transformative suffering. Every day is another struggle to forgive, and another blow to my pride, and that’s a good thing. To loosely paraphrase C. S. Lewis, the layers of happy childhood, amiable personality, and good digestion are being stripped away, revealing the bones of the matter: Capital-F Forgiveness is . . . not easy.
As a person prone to mysticism, I’ve found this education interesting despite its practicality. As an ode to this comforting practicality, I’ve made a list called “Reasons I Should Be A Tiny Bit Grateful For My Horrible Bosses.” Some points are counsel shared by friends, others are my own; knowing that I’ve been forced to ferret out wisdom and advice is, in its own way, a reason for paradoxical joy.
Reasons I Should Be A Tiny Bit Grateful For My Horrible Bosses
- I am not as forgiving as I thought I was. Good to know, because now I have the opportunity to really “seize the day,” and forgive some unlikeable people who will probably live their entire lives thinking I am in the wrong . . . and I have to, without resentment, accept that they will never understand.
- I can be gracious without groveling. Groveling is still self-serving because it’s about trying to relieve myself of pain. Right now, trying to smile in the hallway is good enough, even when they don’t smile back.
- I am not powerless. To quote a friend, I have the power to be a bigger person, and even beyond that, I have God’s power of peace, love, and a sound mind. As of a few days ago, I’ve stopped having nightmares, and while work can still be tense and miserable, I’m trying to remember–stamp-on-my-heart-Awana-style-remember–that no one can can tear power from God, the ultimate director of my life.
- In this situation, where I’ve become a school scapegoat for every minor infraction against a cloud of unwritten rules, my fellow teachers (who are also my dear friends) could have distanced themselves to salvage peace of mind and reputation. But they didn’t. When I go home in 24 days, I’m carrying more than an unfortunate end to my year of work; I’m going home with friendships that have already been tempered and strengthened by fire.
But, more than anything, and more than ever, in the tension of every day, Praise Him. So blessings to whoever forces me to remember.