I am sitting behind my desk; it’s already four in the afternoon and I’m almost done for the day – just one hour to go. Today has gone perfectly and I am quite sure this is going to be the end of a stress-free day. Being an event manager can sometimes be very stressful – dealing with clients all day, every little detail needing to be planned, and the success or failure of each event lying on your shoulders. But today seemed to have gone by very easily.
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. I pick up the phone and answer with a friendly voice, but all I hear is a man shouting and complaining. He is not happy and is blaming us for something that happened 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 even more. I am getting more worked up and want to start shouting as well. Finally, the customer hangs up.
Angry thoughts immediately start coming up, “That was really too much, how can someone behave so badly? 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 think of anything else. I keep thinking about what that customer did, how he actually ruined my day. “This is just not right,” I tell myself. I wanted to have a great ending to a good day, but here I am feeling the anger and irritation boiling inside me.
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 to take revenge. Please help me to have rest and peace in my heart.”
“And I died!”
The next morning 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 an expression from a book about the life of a faithful woman. “And I died!” That is how she put it. She explained that it became a personal revelation for her that in the middle of her situations as a wife and mother, the solution could be summed up in this one simple expression: “And I died!” Instead of carrying around complaints, discontentment, self-pity, etc., one could say No to these thoughts and die to all of it.
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 must say No to these thoughts of anger and pride when they come up and not give them room to grow, so that they can actually die. Then, instead of just trying to keep back my feelings, I can have rest, and the life of Christ can be seen in me. (2 Corinthians 4:10.)
I think of Jesus, “He committed no sin, nor did he ever speak in ways meant to deceive. When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:22-23 (CEB).
I make my decision. I decide not to give in to that feeling of wanting to answer the customer angrily. Instead, I choose to be friendly and kind to him, then tell him that I will do my best to resolve the issue. He turns around and leaves.
No one else can affect my happiness
From my point of view, it seems unfair that this customer is screaming at me. But whatever his reasons are, this situation was just an opportunity for me to die to all that I felt coming up inside myself – my anger, my pride, my desire to shout back.
I can feel the irritation coming up in me whenever the customers are angry, but there is no need for me to react in the same way as them. I don’t have to let my whole day be bad 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, that “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 a sentence from William Ernest Henley’s poem, Invictus, 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 if my day is ruined or if it is a good day, because the problem is not in the others; the problem lies in my own sinful human nature.
So, I choose to focus on what comes up from my sinful nature; my happiness depends only on me. I choose to use the opportunities to become unshakeably happy, no matter how people around me are. I choose to serve my customers in a friendly way, no matter how they behave. 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 no matter what they say and do. The problem is inside me, in my human nature, and I will overcome 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 get more of the fruits of the Spirit, like patience, kindness and love. That is my longing and my goal. And I will go for it with all my heart.