Toxic churches, hostile work environments, abusive relationships, draining friendships, dead marriages and destructive habits and we just won’t stop. We convince ourselves that there is some good, even godly reason to stay, continue or return. We excuse the abuse, the rudeness, self-centered-ness and continued derogation as a necessary evil. We look at the good that we accomplish or that is intended toward us and use that to cancel out the pain we endure.
Why do we get stuck?
I once worked for an extended period in an extremely hostile work environment. I was promoted at the same time as an older gentleman with much more life and work experience than me. On the third night of our employment the legendary hostility presented itself in the form of a woman known as the mother of Satan. She cussed him out in the middle of the work floor in front of all of his employees. He immediately took off his badge and his time card and advised the boss lady what she could do with them. He left and never returned nor did he ever return the company’s many calls and letters begging him to return. He knew that he could do better. I wished that I had done the same thing soon enough but I started thinking about how I would pay the bills and provide for my family. I convinced myself that I could stay and change the culture. In the lunch room that night among the supervisors the discussion was all about his decision to leave. I questioned the older supervisor that night, all agreed that he did the best thing possible. They began to list for me all the ways that the work environment was hostile. I being young and naive asked them why they all choose to remain. I heard many different reasons; money, age, education, to list a few but as I thought about it all the reasons feel into one category. That was the inability to see beyond present experience. I understood and could identify with some of their reasoning and certainly not all of us were in a position to be unemployed. My next suggestion was for us to collectively pursue a meeting with the district manager to discuss our complaints and concerns. You would have thought that I suggested murder. In not so many words they communicated we are afraid of retaliation, rejection, dismissal or being left without. As it turns out many of the old heads were promoted by their abusive boss. She had at some point done them good. Since she was once good to them, the consensus was that you just had to take the bad with the good. The idea of addressing the bad as bad and acknowledging the good as good was a foreign and frightening concept. It became clear to me that my co-workers, employees and managment were all stuck. I over time and many efforts to change the culture worked myself into depression. In my mind I was making a sacrifice for my family. I became a mean, bitter and evil person that my family didn’t like nor enjoy being around. I put my family before defending myself and protecting my worth and as a result failed to defend my family and their worth. When I decided I had to leave, I was plagued with questions like who’s going to do what you do and how will it affect those that you have relationship with. I recognize that many times we get stuck because we become codependent. We don’t deny that we are dying, we don’t pretend not to know that the abuse is bad and evident, instead we admit with pride and aloofness, “it’s killing me and I love it.”