When I was still wading through my corporate career, I was stabbed in the back by someone I considered a friend.
Carol and I had worked on project teams together. We collaborated well, seeming to be on the same page almost all the time. I was always glad to find out she was assigned to a team on I was on. We just worked together that well.
Then things became a bit strained when we both applied for the same job. It would be a big step for either of us. Both of us were well-qualified. Both of us received the invitation to interview.
The day before my interview my manager called me into his office to let me know that a rumor about me was circulating which had the hiring VP a bit nervous. The rumor was that I had been drunk at a recent meeting, acting unprofessional and loud. I laughed. He did not. Because he thought it was true.
My personal rule of conduct for 30 years in business was to never mix alcohol with business. Ever. I told him that, which was kind of ironic since I had worked for him for three years and he had never noticed my glass of iced tea at dinner, when others were enjoying some fine wine.
He told me he would call her and explain that to her.
A reputation is a hard thing to lose. Especially when it is undeserved.
I made a couple of phone calls to trusted colleagues, explaining – no sobbing – about the problem. One made a call of support to the VP on my behalf. The other engaged with her network and got to the bottom of it. It turned out that Carol was the rumor-spreader.
I honestly wanted to punch her in the throat. The ‘world’ told me she deserved it. The ‘world’ told me to confront her. The ‘world’ told me to snitch on her to the VP and to my manager.
I prayed a lot about it. I did. But the feeling of betrayal did not go away, even when I knew I had to grant her the mercy she did not deserve, and even extend the grace of kindness.
I gave her mercy by refraining from injuring her gossipy mouth. I gave her grace by texting her to wish her luck on her interview. I did what my sinful human nature despised. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard.
My interview went well, although it felt more strained than I had hoped it would be. Probably more my problem than the VP’s. I did not get the job. She assured me it wasn’t because of that nasty rumor, but that the person she hired was more qualified. I had to trust that, even though it was Carol who was hired.
I saw Carol in the hall a few days later. The look on her face when she saw me approaching told it all. I was the last person she wanted to see. I felt her whole body stiffen as I gave her my usual friendly hug of greeting. My heart ached as I did it. Betrayal is so hard to fathom and reconcile in your head. I hadn’t yet reached a place to confront, as I hadn’t processed all of it yet.
In retrospect, the whole thing turned out for good. The position changed from requiring 25% of your time on the road, to a whopping 75% which would have meant that I would have rarely been home. It was a blessing.
But more than that, I learned the difference between mercy and grace. I spared her physical harm, and then took that extra step and gave her what she didn’t expect.
Even more than the actual acts of refrain and release, I learned that giving grace gives you perspective. After I got past my daydream of a throat-punch, and I got past the gagging from sending the good-luck text, I sat back to meditate on the mess a bit.
It unlocked a level of kindness I did not know I had access to. I felt kinder towards her than I would have ever expected. There was a sadness I felt for her. Did she really think that was the only way she could get the job? Did she really think so little of herself that she thought she needed to sabotage someone else?
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others before yourself. ~Philippians 2.3
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every evil practice. ~James 3.16
Two years later her life was in complete disorder. Divorced. Unemployed. Whatever drove her selfish ambition was something bigger than just stabbing one person. Or perhaps it was the first step down that slippery slope.
For me, mercy won. Not doing to her what she deserved – not sabotaging her career, not waiting in envy to make her look bad at my first chance – was giving her mercy undeserved. And God’s grace that is showered over me every day made it the easy next step, the one that healed me.
Mercy and Grace. So intimately connected. When mercy is done well, done because it was what was done to us, grace flows right out of the other end of it.
When mercy is done well, done because it was what was done to us, grace flows right out of the other end of it. @Grace_and_Such