Preserving an unshakable joy
Anne Marie Dime
Working in the customer service field, I encounter all sorts of temperaments in a day.
I am sitting behind my desk; it is already four in the afternoon and I’m almost done for the day – just one hour left. Today went by perfectly and I am sure this is going to be the end of a victorious, stress-free day. Being an event manager can sometimes be very stressful – dealing with clients all day, with every little detail needing to be planned, and the success of each event lying on your shoulders. But today seemed to have gone by like a breeze.
An unexpected ending
The phone rings, most likely the last customer to be calling for the day. “Let’s make this the perfect end to the day by convincing him to buy our services,” I think enthusiastically. I pick the phone up and answer with a friendly and welcoming voice, but all I hear on the other line is a man shouting and complaining. He is not happy and is blaming us for an issue at a past event. I try to be as calm as possible, but I can feel my emotions stirring up inside me. He doesn’t even give me a chance to speak, which irritates me more. I am getting more worked up and want to start shouting as well. Finally, the customer is so angry that he hangs up.
Indignant thoughts immediately start arising, “That was really too much, how can someone act so aggressively? He had no manners at all. Who did he think he was? How could he talk to me like that? What have I done to him?”
I am feeling so much unrest, it’s like I’m boiling on the inside. Going home, I can’t even focus on anything else. I keep thinking about what that customer did, how he actually ruined my day. “This is just unacceptable,” I tell myself. I had wanted to have a great ending to a victorious day, but here I am facing anger and irritation that are threatening to manifest themselves from my flesh.
I am feeling really down. At home, I lie down on my bed and pray, “Dear God, you saw what happened today. Please help me so that I can overcome that anger, and all these thoughts that come up for avenging myself. Please help me to have rest and peace in my heart.”
“And I died!”
The next morning comes around, and I am back at work behind my desk. The customer that phoned yesterday comes walking in this time, shouting and complaining, and I immediately feel anger starting to boil inside me. I can’t let this be like it was yesterday! So I start praying in my heart, “Dear Jesus, help me now! This is the time, now you really have to help me be calm and serve this customer with joy.”
I am reminded of this expression from a book about the life of a faithful woman named Esther Smith: “And I died!” This is how she put it. She went on to explain: “It became a personal revelation for me that in the midst of my situations as a wife and mother, the solution for me was contained in this one simple expression: ‘And I died!’ Instead of carrying around complaints, discontentment, self-pity, etc., I could deny myself and die to all of it. This became such a clear light for me and made me so happy. The best thing I could imagine during that time was to rest my head on my pillow. So the death of Christ became a pillow where I could rest from everything that came up from the flesh – from all restlessness, anxiety, etc. If something came up, I could think like this: ‘Oh, how wonderful that I can come to rest and die to all of this!’”
And then I think, “Yes! That’s the answer, that’s the help I need to ask for, that’s what I need to do!” I need to die to myself; I need to put these thoughts that stem from anger, from pride, to death. I must deny these thoughts when they come up and not give them room to grow, so that they can actually die. Then, instead of trying to suppress my feelings, I can have rest, and the life of Christ can be revealed in me. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
I think of Jesus, “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” 1 Peter 2:22-23.
I deny that feeling of wanting to respond negatively to the customer. Instead of answering him with anger, I choose to be friendly and kind to him. I then reassure him that I will do my best to solve the issue. He then turns around and leaves.
No one else can affect my happiness
From my point of view, it could seem unfair that this customer would be yelling at me. However, regardless of what his reasons are, this situation is just an opportunity for me to die to all that I feel coming up – my anger, my pride, my desire to shout back and exalt myself. I can feel the irritation stirring in me whenever the customers are angry, but there is no need for me to react in the same way. I don’t have to let my whole day be ruined just because of what someone did or didn’t do to me. The reactions and opinions of others should never make me sad and down. I must really believe what is written in Romans 8:28: “all things work together for good to those who love God.”
“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” This is an excerpt from Henley’s poem that Nelson Mandela often read when he was in prison. No one else can affect my happiness. I myself decide what I let into my heart. I myself decide whether to ruin my day or to make it a successful one, because the problem is not in the others; the problem lies in my flesh. So, I choose to focus on dealing with what lies in my flesh; my happiness depends only on me. I choose to grab the opportunities to be always happy despite how people around me are. I choose to serve my customers regardless of their behavior. I choose to be a light to those around me. I choose joy, and I choose happiness along my way.
The customer might come back or call again. I can’t change his temper or the attitudes of any other customers, but I am in control of my own reactions. I can be nice to them regardless of what they say and do. The problem resides in me, in my flesh, and I will have victory over all that comes up from it. The most important thing is not the trials or circumstances that come my way, but that I use them to lay hold of eternal life. That is my longing and my goal. And I go for it.
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