Gotta Be More Careful

by Frankie

     As much as I dreaded leaving Arizona, I returned to the Michigan office with high expectations that it would be vastly different than before, especially since Kenneth and Norma were gone. But when I arrived and learned that my team chief (TC) had a background in Human Resources (HR) but would be responsible for writing my performance reviews told me everything remained the same.

    Not only was it a mistake to place Sophia in a role for which she didn't have the necessary skills, but the company also failed Mateo and me as technical writers because our performance required the TC to have a good understanding of finance and accounting, Sophia didn't; thus it was almost impossible for her to evaluate us effectively. But on the other hand, Mateo had worked with the company for more than 15 years and suggested that we draw up our own evaluations, which Sophia could then amend as she saw fit. It wasn't my first choice, but it was preferable over her writing them up. At the very least, our appraisals would reflect a satisfactory enough rating that there was room for improvement but not so little that somebody wouldn't recognize our achievements. It's one thing to receive high ratings based on exceptional performance. It's another to get them simply because Sophia lacked the skill set to evaluate us properly; everyone has room for improvement.

     While Sophia should've been the end of my issue, it was hardly even the beginning. Mia joined the company at the same time as my return, and besides becoming my first-line supervisor, she was also a saved and sanctified woman of God. I couldn't tell with her deep-seated hatred toward me, and despite my best efforts, Mia couldn't shack off her dislike. So, it left me to wonder what reverential religious cult she belonged to since love was nowhere in her spirit; Mia harbored everything but the fruit. In fact, her animosity appeared ingrained, and no matter how kind I was, Mia would continue to assume I was the source of her problems. What was most perplexing was how a saved and sanctified woman could have an encounter with the Holy Spirit but still hate herself so deeply that she blamed someone else. To claim our salvation is one thing, but to deem ourselves sanctified means the Holy Spirit renews our fallen nature through our trust in Jesus Christ. And although many people feel that change can not happen overnight, it can if we believe in Christ as much as we profess (Isiah 29:13).

    To properly claim our sanctification, one must demonstrate knowledge and moral strength: moral strength, meaning, decency; willpower; honor, or any other principle attribute that God would find appealing. While we are not perfect, we've chosen to fulfill God's purpose, and only a few things stand in our way, one of which is hatred. Finally, true salvation requires three actions: conviction, confession, and conversion, which are all obtained through the Holy Spirit. So, whether Mia believed she was saved or sanctified, her bitter aggression spoke otherwise.

    As Mia's negative energy continued to persist, things between us deteriorated to the point that it affected my productivity. Consider the following scenario: you are trying to accomplish a task and seek assistance from your supervisor, who refuses to talk to you or respond to your concerns. Mia's daily routine consisted of withholding information and a never-ending guessing game. As she laughed and instructed everyone else, she gave me the silent treatment. Nonetheless, it prepared me for the struggle ahead, and it was no surprise that she and a few other women decided to alienate me. And though the gossip they spread damaged my reputation, I knew why they were doing it. A jealous woman is the worst kind of workplace bully.

    So, when Mia and her army of disciples, whom I termed the lynch mob, started circulating vicious rumors about me, I made it my mission to get to know each one. As a starting point, the majority of them claimed their salvation on mere church attendance, thus, explaining why they locked onto social hierarchy, physical beauty, and professional status rather than God. Moreover, anyone who dared to question their sense of sublimity got the throat-cut template to preserve the impression of their supremacy. In essence, the lynch mob resorted to hardwiring (ego), demonstrating that their character was founded on fear and had not evolved into their higher mind (Intuition), further illustrating that they lacked control over emotional intelligence, which I believe plays a significant role in the growth of our spiritual maturity.

    As we achieve a certain level of consciousness, our capacity to connect with our higher selves develops, ultimately eradicating the need for fundamental earthy thinking. While we may experience fear occasionally, it is never sufficient to transform us into cowards or to feel intimidated. The Holy Spirit regularly reminds us of our abilities while simultaneously helping us to see that we are not perfect and that nothing we accomplish is independent of ourselves. Any other thinking would undoubtedly reveal our egos at work.

    When Danielle, another lynch mob member, approached me and admitted that she, Mia, and a few others gathered in the halls daily to gossip about me for no reason other than jealousy, it not only confirmed the Holy Spirit's power at work, but Danielle also asked for forgiveness and confirmed that the lynch mob came for me for no other reason than jealousy.

    Meanwhile, further resentment set in with the lynch mob members when word got out that I was dating the most eligible bachelor in the company. Their reaction to my love life gave an extremely haughty disposition, yet it continued to express how much arrogance they contained. However, I couldn't comprehend why they thought their consent was required. Then again, these were the same individuals who felt their neighborhood, the labels on their clothes, the sort of vehicle they drove, and the men they'd married made them superior.

     Despite the lynch mob's hierarchical nature, I was fully aware that this image generated from a lack of self-awareness and a compulsive urge to rule the environment in order to preserve their egos. Even still, not every member wore the noble insignia or claimed to live a saved and sanctified life. This tells me that church attendance does not ensure growth, especially regarding the sanctification phase.

    Tamela was the third member of the lynch mob, but her position was a bit different. She was a contractor awaiting an extension and also one who didn't possess the symbol of prestige. However, her brash arrogance was palpable whenever she spoke about her daughter's attending medical school. It's definitely something to be proud of. Still, nothing is worth being hubristic, especially considering that's all Tamela had to brag about. Even the other mob members became weary of listening to the same old repetitive sounds. Tamela was aware, however, that losing her membership would inevitably lead to her social oblivion. So she ensured to keep the mob happy by coming for me professionally, assuming that excluding me from collaborative projects would keep her fellowship alive; it did for the moment.

    To do my job better than I could required Tamela to know how to write better than me and have a background in finance accounting; she had only been with the company for a year, never written anything other than a high school paper over twenty-five years ago, and did not even possess a college degree. Additionally, she had a human resources background and only obtained her position because of who she knew. But when she presented her work, the rejection opened her eyes; as a result, she sought guidance from an experienced colleague but was still unable to convince management she could work autonomously. Tamela recognized that this would imperil her position, so her eagerness to preserve her job convinced her it was OK to go behind a few of her lynch mob members in hopes of gaining one of their positions.

    It turns out that Ms. Chisolm, one of the company's directorate directors, was responsible for helping Tamela get her position all because her fiance was Ms. Chisolm's first cousin. Don't be mistaken, networking is the easiest way to get a job, but only humility sustains longevity. So, when Tamela tried to play both sides, not only did she play herself, but she went up against Mia and the rest of the mob, forcing them to retaliate. And though Mia and her posse were a ruthless group of women who deserved some form of punishment for creating a toxic environment, Tamela's decision to hold secret meetings with Ms. Chisolm backbiting the lynch mob demanded immediate and unrelenting consequences.

     Watching Tamela in her final days was bittersweet; on the one hand, I was happy to see her go, but with her daughter's medical school expenditures and a new mortgage payment, Tamela's circumstances appeared sullen. However, we tend to reap what we sow, and Tamela got hers from the same set of individuals she aspired to be like, only she didn't anticipate they were responsible for her walking papers.

    Behind closed doors with Ms. Chisolm, Tamela's discussions were largely about the lynch mobs' workplace etiquette, Sophia's shortcomings, and continuous tardiness while stressing Mia's lack thereof as a supervisor; Tamela apparently didn't see herself one and the same. Honestly, she had every right to tell Ms. Chisolm what she pleased but was foolish to think there would be no backlash if it got out or sealed the deal for an extended contract. Granted, Mia and Sophia were better off staying at home, but Tamela shouldn't have ever thought Ms. Chisolm would replace them with her. And if Tamela had paid attention, she would have noticed that Sophia didn't care what other people thought of her performance; she too had connections, and Sophia's friendly approach to the right people went much further than Tamela's could. Sophia's cheery disposition, on the other hand, did not come off as sincere as she had hoped, however.

    Sophia's kind attitude wasn't necessarily a mockery. While she possessed the ability to be compassionate, her acts seemed to be more about manipulation than true generosity. Her incessant talking did not exude confidence but rather that she was missing something. More specifically, self-awareness. Between Sophia's humble brags and the need to be heard and seen was enough for me to know she wasn't who she portrayed herself to be. Nevertheless, she and I had one thing in common; our reproach to Jade.

    Until Jade joined the lynch mob, she was just another face in the company. And, since she thought she was without her fair share of bones, I wanted to demonstrate that her perception was motivated by arrogance rather than self-assurance because we all know that hubris derives from insecurity. So, when Jade's husband, Dexter, recently joined the organization from the Florida office, I decided to reach out to a colleague there to gather some information. Abner thrilled my soul when he told me that Jade was having an affair with Dexter while she was married to him. More importantly, when Abner and Jade divorced, she remarried Dexter, and they wanted Abner to relinquish custody of their daughter so Dexter could officially adopt her. When he refused, Dexter started accusing Abner of physically attacking Jade in retaliation for divorcing him. However, it was Dexter making threatening statements to Abner for refusing to give up custody of his daughter. Jade soon transferred to the Michigan office with their daughter to take herself away from it all and waited for Dexter to arrive a year later. But before his return, he managed to get Abner placed on administrative leave. Nevertheless, Abner fought the allegations and returned to work.

     Nothing would have satisfied me more than to spread every account of Jade's soap opera life, but knowing there was a breach between who she was and whom she'd portrayed herself was enough contentment for me. No wonder she walked around like the Virgin Mary, trying to snatch someone else's skeletons out of the closet. With all due respect, church attendance is not enough for anyone to believe they are saved or sanctified, in Jade's case, perfect. Because, if anything, Jade should have examined the question presented in Matthew 7:3-5, "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" It's my belief she was incapable because her ego was greater than God's message. Although it's hard to always think in the spirit, that's a large part of knowing how to detect the fruits. And when we consider gossip, it is intentionally done to hurt or harm another. But the root of it always comes from the gossipers' anxious feelings. And it's nearly always motivated by jealousy if it comes from one woman to another; precisely how I saw it with Jade, who understood her marriage resulted from an adulterous relationship.

    Dexter first drew my attention when he approached my work area to talk with Mateo. He appeared more regularly over time, having less interaction with Mateo and more attempts to converse with me. Even though I kept our conversations brief and professional, it went unnoticed that I was merely being polite. Ultimately, Dexter stopped coming around when I started dating Jamie. Consequently, I concluded that Jade's hatred surrounded Dexter's attraction to me. Yet, it was him she didn't trust, not me. Even still, she did everything in her power to make it seem like I was her problem, to the point she had a little sidekick.

        Vanessa was the lynch mob's fourth member but had very little to offer, so becoming Jade's minion was the safest way to fit in. The scarcity of her individualism and self-dignity made it easy for Jade to manipulate. Vanessa worshiped the ground Jade walked on and catered to every word she spoke; she would agree that the sky was pink even if it were blue. So, of course, there was no individual thought with Vanessa, and that's why she spent more time appeasing Jade than maintaining her hygiene.

      It was nice to understand the majority of the lynch mob. And with just one left, I wanted to spend more time figuring out what was wrong with Naomi. Aside from being one of the founding members of the lynch mob, there was something more problematic about her. In contrast to Sophia, who believed she was Dr. Phil, Theresa seemed to be triggered by a negative self-image, despite appearing self-assured. Because if she were, her garbage-spewing statements would've been the opposite. However, when I noted that she became worse with Mia, I realized I needed to shift my concentration for the moment.

    Returning to Mia took a front seat because, for some reason, her hatred deepened; therefore, protecting myself became an intuitive reaction. Tracking Mia's every move was necessary, precisely where she'd conjured up in the halls and who she'd dealt with outside of the mob. Mia feared working alone, which led me to believe she would look for another frenemy like Tamela. Despite the occasional backstabbing, the two worked well against me. And although the lynch mob had plenty of members to choose from, Mia needed someone who could give her a professional advantage because spreading rumors about me had no visible effect. So, once I observed how chummy Mia and Sophia were becoming, I prepared myself; hence, when Mia started downplaying my monthly performance reviews, intentionally failing to share relevant information dealing with projects, and questioning my integrity when I'd called in sick, among other things, I knew she was trying to get me fired.

    By paying attention, I gained power Mia and Sophia didn't expect, culminating in a choice they would later regret. However, as perplexing as Mia's hate for me was, I felt sure Sophia thought she had a valid reason to undermine my career and not because it had anything to do with me professionally. Yet, Sophia should've stayed under the radar if she was wise, given that she was constantly late, overstayed her lunch hour, claimed credit for work she didn't perform, and gained her position via blackmail. But before enacting any plans, Danielle divulged some crucial information about Mia's family life.

    As sad as it was to hear that Mia was married to a tyrant who verbally and emotionally abused her and her daughter, this did not justify Mia's actions. Apart from that, it was far from the conduct of the saved and sanctified. What it did was shine a light on Mia as a person, demonstrating her inability to empathize, her readiness to reject the truth, and her proclivity to aim her hatred at someone who had nothing to do with her suffering or her choice to remain in an abusive marriage.

    No one could convince me that God would want me to stay in an unhealthy relationship that causes me to lose sight of Him and affects my child's quality of life. More importantly, God will not send us an abusive mate; thus, I believe Mia entered her marriage without God's consent; this happens more often than any of us would like to admit, and when it does, we try to spiritually define our marriage and use scripture to adhere to what God never intended for us to have in the first place. Even when the red flags have gone up before we make our vows, we ignore them and continue to believe it is God's Will when in reality, we desire to do what we want. And whether we consciously or subconsciously choose to ignore this, it still results in rage. This hostility then focuses on everyone except the person(s) responsible, and hence, we get further away from the truth, causing even greater rage. So, as I've mentioned before, if Mia were the God-fearing woman she was supposed to be, she would know that "hope has two daughters, anger and courage: angry that things are the way they are and courage to change them the way they should be" (an observation observed by Saint Augustine). Or, at least, embrace Romans 8:28, which declares, "All things work together for the good of those who love God."

    Fortunately, my intuition was strong enough to override my ego because when it comes to gossiping, those that do it don't care who the gossip is about. And it indeed would've been a treat for everyone to find out Mia was a bully because her husband bullied her. Instead, I reported all instances of discrimination to my manager, Mr. Arnold; fortunately for Sophia, it was employed as a scare tactic; she hadn't done enough to jeopardize my career, but I would make sure she thought twice before doing it again. As for Mia, I wanted her gone!    

    So, as I entered the conference room, I sensed a smugness in Mia and Sophia, as if they'd already had the victory. But all that faded when I called out Mia for her extracurricular activity in the halls and the rumor she'd spread alleging I was sleeping with Donald, Sophia's husband. As I continued to express the harassment, Mia and Sophia sat there in shock; their smiles turned upside down. Sophia was so shocked that she nearly broke her neck, rushing to escape the room. Still, I wasn't sure if her disbelief came from the rumor Mia spread or that I mentioned it in front of Mr. Arnold. In contrast, Mia couldn't even generate enough energy to rise out of her seat where she'd idled in distress, trying to figure out why she didn't see it coming.

    There was no better feeling than to return to Mia and Sophia what they deserved; at the same time glad Mr. Arnold didn't take offense to anything I said. In fact, his expressions made me feel well within my rights to do as I did. If Mia thought spreading a rumor about me sleeping with Donald was something to talk about, she'd have a field day if I'd told her Sophia spent over half of his first marriage in an affair with him, the reason his (then) wife packed up their home and moved out while he was at work. Moreover, Sophia threatened to tell everyone about their decade affair if Donald didn't help her get her job. But at any rate, Mia had plenty to gossip about once Mr. Arnold handed down his punishment.

    As a result of numerous violations of tardiness, file sharing, early departures, and influencing a hostile work environment, Sophia was relieved as the TC. As for Mia, there were grounds to release her for numerous infractions, but Mr. Arnold terminated her for workplace harassment. However, before leaving, Mia attempted to clear her name by saying, "I wasn't the only one spreading the rumor." So, that's when I added, "But you're the one who started it!"

    After it was all said and done, I took a moment to thank God for giving me the strength to face another bully. And the confidence not to doubt myself or Him because of the hatred that permeated the company. It was also the first time I considered that the lynch mob's hatred for me could have stemmed from my strength, confidence, and grace. But what could they possibly know about favor? They lived selfishly and without peace, measured their blessings in possessions, spoke over their own lives (Luke 1:26-28), and exhibited no fruit of the spirit (Luke 1:26-28). (Galatians 5:22-23). Then again, they were aware of the distinction between them and me.

    Mia was clearly in denial as she packed up her office, behaving like a two-year-old. There were no signs of accountability, only sighs and utterances as if she were the only victim of oppression, which meant wherever her future lay, she would go there with the same hateful heart.

         Meanwhile, Sophia struggled with losing her position just the same. Nevertheless, because she had Donald dangling on strings, Donald persuaded Ms. Chisolm to intercede by making a deal with Jamie to get Sophia a position in his directorate. Unfortunately, she went with the same attitude, never appearing to care that she wasn't fit for that position, either. But at least Jamie and Ms. Chisolm were compassionate enough to offer Sophia another opportunity.

    Celebrating the end of the lynch mob was more than just a phenomenal feeling; I'd defeated a group of women who hated more than they loved and disguised their true selves. However, being brave enough to stand up for myself didn't make me whole; something was still missing. That was a genuine friendship, a friend who did not hide behind church attendance and recognized that a relationship with Christ doesn't come from dogmas and heresies. Fortunately, this opportunity presented itself several months later when I reconnected with a young woman from the past.

    Quinn and I were acquainted several years earlier through Donald but never kindled a friendship. Nevertheless, she displayed a pleasant and friendly demeanor that everyone seemed to love. Quinn's ability to blend in was her most remarkable quality outside her work ethic. In general, I hardly made characterizations based on kind gestures and declarations; Quinn, however, seemed different. While she was as involved in the Church as some of the mob members, Quinn came off as quite different, and despite my dislike for Bible thumpers, Church wasn't my problem; it was the contradiction. Quinn, thankfully, did not demonstrate this as an aspect of her character.

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