Five Strategies for Dealing with Those Who Abuse Your Trust

This is a guest post by Mary DeMuth. She is an author, speaker and book mentor with nine published books, including her most recent, Thin Places. Mary is an active blogger and social media practitioner. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I wish I had the kind of discernment that comes easily in hindsight. I would’ve seen the signs of his instability and turncoat tendencies. I would’ve realized her penchant for using people for the sake of the bottom line.

An Exit Sign - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/savoia, Image #4337554

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/savoia

I walked into these business relationships eyes wide open and expectant—trusting, even. I spent many hours sharing my vision and passion, hoping for a mutually beneficial working relationship. But three quarters of the way through, I realized something wasn’t right. Painful as it was, I had to walk away from both professional relationships. And it wasn’t pretty.

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Here are five things I learned.

  1. Let it go. I never understood the passages where disciples shook the dust off their feet, or the fact that Jesus instructed them to do so, until I experienced a particularly difficult workaday experience. Sometimes you just need to shake the pain away in order to move on to a new place. Jesus instructed in Matthew 10:14 that “whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” It’s a symbolic letting go.
  2. Move on. I love the juxtaposition of Acts 13:51 with verse 52, from dust to joy. “But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Could it be that we should live this contrast? To shake painful working experiences, yet choose to joyfully venture forth in the aftermath? This reminds me of my favorite Oswald Chambers quote: “Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with him.”
  3. Don’t stop taking risks. Be discerning the next time, but don’t let caution immobilize your ability to take a risk in a new business relationship. I’ve been gun-shy after my experience, and I’m less likely to trust initially. While that’s good in terms of taking my time or finding out about a colleague through careful research, it’s not good to expect someone to be underhanded. The hallmark of a great marriage is whether a spouse assumes positive intent, meaning he/she assigns a good motive to a spouse instead of always thinking the worst. It’s the same in business relationships. If we’re constantly assuming negative intent, we’ll never engage with new colleagues.
  4. Choose to forgive. Pray that God will use this pain in your life for good, but also pray for God’s favor to rest upon your perceived “enemy.” Trust in God’s sovereignty enough to know that God sees the entire situation fairly and will do what is best. In that realization, forgive your colleague. (If your colleague is doing illegal or unethical things, seek wise counsel as to how you should or shouldn’t proceed.)
  5. Keep your words few. There were so many words I wanted to say, so many I wanted to declare to the world. Thankfully, I vented to very close advisors, so I didn’t need to mar the reputation of my colleague in public. I’m not saying never share your negative experience, but pray about how, when, and where it would be appropriate to caution others.

I wish I could guarantee you’ll never run into troublesome colleagues (or that you’ll never become one!), but I can say I’ve learned a lot in the process. Everything in this life is part of a grand learning curve. Every interaction, even negative ones, can hone and refine us as leaders.

Question: Describe a situation where you have had to deal with a troublesome colleague? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Judith Robl

    I love the way you stated #4. “Choose to forgive.” Forgiveness is a decision we make not to seek retribution, not to carry anger and resentment.

    It isn’t always “kiss and make up.” Sometimes it doesn’t include reconciliation. But it is a decision we make to be godly. Forgiveness is essential to successful living.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So much of maturity revolves around this idea of choosing forgiveness, love, worship, etc. It seems that this generation thinks it needs to feel something first. In my experience, the feelings usually follow obedience. Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      That’s an important point. I can forgive, but that doesn’t ensure reconciliation. That takes two people.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YWFOPRUNCR3C72QA6PWAUR74GI Blair

    Whenever two people are working together, there is a chance of someone not getting along and I think the violation of trust of one of the bigger issues that can come up.

    I once had a relatively new guy take on a project of mine that I held dear, but just did not have the time to work on. He did real well at first, but when it came time for results, they just never seemed to pan out. Turns out that he felt, partway through, that the project was more time than it was worth and never bothered to tell me. Luckily, it was a project I had self-assigned myself and not one with high management expectations. I spoke with the employee and explained to him the importance of making this project work and we were eventually able to see eye-to-eye. In the end, time got the best of him and he moved on to another job before finishing the project. I do not hold it against him, but I continually wonder if it would have been completed had he not taken a break. However, I understand I will never know that answer and so I do not let it keep me awake at night…much. =)

    • Anonymous

      That would be hard, Blair. I remember working with someone who was tasked with something vitally important to the health of the team. For a YEAR the person puttered around with it, but never completed it. Finally, I took the project from the person and got it up and running in one week. Frustrating.

  • Susan M. Baganz

    Great post Mary, unfortunately sometimes these things even happen in a Christian working environment, like say, a church! I worked in mental health too where I found the people I worked for were sicker than the clients I served. I tend to still trust way too easily – but once that trust is broken i am far more cautious and while I forgive, that doesn’t mean I will be so easilyduped again and in my mind there are people in my church that as I leader, I have dubbed “unsafe.” It doesn’t sound very ‘Christian” – but maybe “fool” would be the more biblical term and Proverbs is full of wisdom about how to deal with them. I still need to move better from forgiveness to being more loving in my actions to those who have abused my trust. Tough stuff – but the reality of life in a sinful world.

    • Anonymous

      Oh yes. Definitely. The hardest working environment I’ve experienced was church planting.

      Good advice about running to Proverbs.

  • TNeal

    #4 also caught my attention and reminded me of Joseph’s response to his brothers. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, NIV). Along with the immediate response in any given situation, there is the long view which ultimately involves trusting God for our futures.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love the story of Joseph, too. I think he is the model for this type of thing. His story is also a great reminder that there is a larger story in play that is not usually visible to us when we are going through our trials.

      • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

        Great point, Mike. I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it, but Joseph ends up in a weepy reunion with the bros that threw him in the pit. Obviously he knew how to “let it go.”

    • Anonymous

      So important to keep the long view.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Yes, even if you can’t see the ending. This is where faith comes in.

  • Carlabrogden

    I have never noticed the “juxtaposition of dust to joy” and have often found myself wanting to “fix” the relationship. Thanks for pointing out this very important step. God’s word does address every issue! thanks.

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t it interesting that you can read a Scripture several times, and then, POW, a new realization comes? That’s the power of the Bible!

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  • http://www.blissassociates.com Bill Bliss

    This is a wonderful post with excellent advice. Thank you very much!

    • Anonymous

      You are very welcome, Bill.

  • Gary

    I have lost a business, watched my parents go through divorce and then suffered through divorce myself. Those hurt worse than things that have happened from colleagues that have used me to promote themselves or just took advantage. I questioned God a lot in each one of those situations. But the thing that I learned most was don’t stop loving, don’t stop taking risks, and don’t ever quit trusting God. Letting go was the hard part and if anyone has advice on how to do that I am all “ears.”

    • http://passionsforthesoul.typepad.com/vicki Vicki Small

      How to let go? Like loving, trusting and forgiving, Bill, letting go is a conscious decision, often made over and over and over, again, on the same issue. This is also something I’ve learned way too late, but learning it anytime is far better than going into very old age, still hanging onto hurts from the past.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I think letting go is a decision and often a daily one at that. I find that as I do this, over time, it loses its grip on me.

    • Anonymous

      It’s so hard to let go, Gary. I posted this earlier but it didn’t take, so I’ll post it again. One of my fave verses:

      “Forget the former things;
      do not dwell on the past.
      See, I am doing a new thing!
      Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
      I am making a way in the wilderness
      and streams in the wasteland.

      Isaiah 43:18-19

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

    Great post and one I wish I could have read a few years ago. I was involved in a major conflict while working with a church group. A jealous church ‘colleague’ let a misunderstanding brew and turned to a series of personal attacks. I mishandled the situation hurting a lot of my friends and leaving me years of struggling with bitterness in my own heart.

    The Bible instructs us on how to handle relationships but we find a culture that tells us to handle things in other ways. For example, I think culture tells us Christians should not do what you describe in #2. We must remember the wisdom given us in God’s word and continue to teach each other as you have done in this post. Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      I have regrets too as I look back on how I handled things both professionally and in the midst of church conflicts. I have to let those rest on Christ.

      It’s healthy to create boundaries and move on. I have some relationships in my life that I have to restrict for the sake of my own health.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PLAQGXMHANUQFOWYHSQUB6Z3MM TATYANNAV

    Worthwhile information.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you. Have a great Friday!

  • http://charlesjaymeyer.blogspot.com/ Charles Meyer

    I have experienced a lot of losing trust in my personal life but very little in my professional life. But I have used what I have learned in my personal life to apply to all parts of my life.

    To bad it took me years to go through this whole process of regaining trust in my personal life. I think it had to do with me being young when my trust was broken numerous times in a short period of time by multiple people. Also I think why it took so long is because I didn’t know Christ when my trust was broken. Knowing Christ has really helped speed up the process of gaining trust in others again.

    I am also seeing this process in a friend that use to work at a church. It seems like in a Christian environment this process is a little bit harder to work through.

    • Anonymous

      It’s particularly hard when your trust muscle has been repeatedly strained. And I agree, it seems to be harder to bounce back when the people who violate your trust are Christians.

  • http://heathersunseri.blogspot.com Heather Sunseri

    Oh, Mary, you make some wonderful points. I’ve had my share of colleague issues while working in public accounting. “Keeping your words few” is such a wonderful reminder. As good as it can feel to vent at the time, our words can be so damaging. And sometimes our words can make us just as wrong as the person “we think” created the issue in the first place. I’m a big fan of sleeping on an issue, praying about what, if anything, needs to be done next.

    • Anonymous

      Sleeping on it is a terrific strategy!

      • Anonymous

        And that same strategy (reticence, waiting) is great for email. It’s okay to vent in an email so long as you refrain from sending it…

      • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

        I can think of many times I wish I’d “slept on it.” Unfortunately, many of my instances involve email and similar “instant” communicado medium. Those zingers just come to mind way to easily in the heat of anger, and I typically don’t realize my mistake until I’ve pressed “send.”

        • Anonymous

          I hate that realization after I’ve pressed send. Ew.

  • http://twitter.com/BLichtenwalner Ben Lichtenwalner

    “If you lead, you will eventually serve with Judas or Peter.”— Dan B. Allender, Leading with a Limp

    Great post Mary – I enjoy followig your blog and this post is another great example of the clarity you provide and strong guidance based on incredible experiences.

    I’ve learned an importat aspect of #3 Don’t Stop Taking Risks from my own experience: As you state, ” in a new business relationship”. This is a key aspect here. For many of us, these incidents, sadly, occur with superiors at our employers. In such situations, you can not completely exit the relationship. However, you can stop trusting them in the future. Forgive them (#4), yes, but trust, not necessarily. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” That may sound negative and certainly, they may eventually earn your trust back. However, from my experience, these tendencies often recur from the same individuals, as dirty politics and tricks are hard habits to break in others.

    • Anonymous

      It’s unfortunate that there are people we work with who can’t be trusted, but it’s a reality. So it’s best to minimize damage by creating some emotional distance. Point well stated, Ben.

  • Anonymous

    #5 is the hardest for me. So much damage we can do to ourselves and others with the tongue. Wish I could remember that verse right now :).

    • Anonymous

      I definitely understand that. My tongue has flapped way too much.

    • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

      When someone hurts me, I usually can’t remember any relevant Bible verses. Usually my inner sactity-coach is just saying something like “shut up! shut up! don’t talk!”

  • Amrita

    Dear Michael and Mary, thank you for sharing wisdom in this post. I greet you from India.

    My mother and I were deeply shocked and hurt by people who abused our love and trust. We overlooked many of their misdemeanors and forgave them, but that emboldened them further. As a last resort I had to report them to their authorities which put an immediate check on them.

    We have forgiven them and have moved on but we can’ t have a working or spiritual relationaship with them.

    I liked points 3 and 5 the most.

    • Anonymous

      Say hello to India!

      I’m sorry you had to go through that. When you’re dealing with bullies, sometimes the only thing you can do is stand up to them (by reporting them.) I pray you walk through much healing.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    People abusing our trust – are like backstabbers. The only thing that bothers me is that I have to deal with such people day in and day out. Again, forgiving and let it go off are welcome when it happens as an one-off affair. But, when the abuser falters and betrays our trust repeatedly by taking advantage of our forgiveness, I think we need to confront him (preferably in private) and deal with his deviancy; because, relationships cannot be developed where betrayal keeps continuing from one of our colleagues in the organization. I believe being assertive and upfront in our behavior will give us good self esteem in the long run. Practically, I have been able to deal with abusers through such strategy successfully.

    • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

      I heartily agree. Just “letting things slide” is not the same as forgiveness, though I think the two are often confused. Confrontation is a lost art (I feel a blog post coming on), but confrontation doesn’t have to be unkind. I appreciate your commitment to talk to people in private.

      • Anonymous

        I agree that confrontation is a lost art. I’ve been involved in some Matthew 18 types of confrontations before and they were not pretty! We should view this as normative instead of punitive.

        • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

          I’m going to steal that: “normative, not punitive.”

          • Anonymous

            Feel free.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Bret!

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Bret!

    • Anonymous

      I definitely agree. It’s important to confront, and it’s really important you do so for the sake of other employees/employers. Allowing a tyrant to continue is not healthy.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Thanks Mary for your consideration and reply.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    Enjoyed your post. Thanks, also, for being a good example of how a Christian should act, even if someone doesn’t treat you right.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Rick.

  • http://bretmavrich.posterous.com/ Bret Mavrich

    I don’t think that I’ve ever been in a relationship—working or otherwise— that didn’t hit a rub point, where we both come to the end of our good points and begin to exhibit some of our weaknesses. But I think your advice to forgive and stay optimistic is on point: the alternative is suspicion, jadedness, and bitterness.

    After all, aren’t we talking about love, specifically the “hope all things/believe all things” variety?

    • Anonymous

      True. Good point. I’m not a fun person to be around when I let cynicism get the best of me.

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  • http://passionsforthesoul.typepad.com/vicki Vicki Small

    These tips apply to anytime our trust has been violated, by anyone, anywhere, including the church. They should be writ large, framed, and hung in the lobby of every church, to help us all remember them in every situation!

    I especially appreciate the comments on assuming good intent in people, while being discerning. Someone very close to me has lived into her 90′s, never having moved out of the negativity bias and expecting the worst of other people, or assuming the worst intent, when something doesn’t go her way. Not a happy or productive way to live.

    • Anonymous

      That’s true Vicki. I don’t want to grow old as a bitter person, expecting the worst in folks.

  • http://www.idoinspire.com Jody Urquhart

    My first experience in business was with a girl i went to school with, she approached me to start a consulting business with her. I had just graduated and so far I couldn’t find a job, so it wasn’t like i had any other options at the time.

    We did quite well right away, within a few months we had 5 good clients. Except i was doing all the work. She would call me all the time and report she was sick. Eventually I found out she had a pretty serious illness and was in the hospital for a week and a half every month. Information she should have disclosed when we went into business.

    I sat down with her to discuss the future of “our business” and she was very defensive. She hired a lawyer the next morning. She would call me and tape the conversations ( on her lawyers advice) and try to get me to say things she could use against me.

    My only legal advice was from a lawyer friend who said its not worth my while, it took 6 months to get to where we were, just walk away. Get a clean start.
    I was angry for awhile because i felt i deserved the business, I did all the work. I had also invested a few thousand dollars and i wouldn’t get that money back.
    I did completely walk away and start another consulting business that was a mediocre success at best. Eventually I found a job to support my entrepreneurial habit.

    I beleive the reason i wasn’t sucessful the second time was because I was getting in my own way. My anger was getting the best of me and I had fear of being the only one in charge.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a good insight. Once I wrote a novel right after I’d experienced a very painful friendship loss. Of course the book was mostly catharsis, veiling the fiction (but not very well). I’m so glad that book never got published!

  • Nora

    I am a believer in carefully choosing a battle. Most things are best with “keeping your words few”. I have found that moving on is most often the best.

    • Anonymous

      Very good point, Nora.

  • http://www.qualifacts.com ARRA

    Fantastic words. Thanks for this post! It was encouraging and helpful.

    • Anonymous

      Glad to hear it, Arra.

  • Anonymous

    Your words are so right. Your point about “Don’t Stop Taking Risks” is spot on and something I had to learn to do. Managing expectations is something I struggle with constantly. There are varying levels of trust we need to extend to people. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us, but we may move them down the trust scale to maintain a working relationship if we must. Walking away is another option.

    • Anonymous

      I think much of life (and our happiness in it) depends on just what you said: managing our expectations.

      • Anonymous

        Recently I heard an illustration that really helped me. If we go to a neighbor’s and ask for a cup of sugar, and they don’t have it, we shouldn’t get angry. They simply don’t have the sugar. I have some relationships in my life that I need to treat the same way. I keep going to them hoping for a cup of sugar, forgetting that they probably will never have it. I have to change my expectations toward people who simply can’t give what they don’t have.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Excellent metaphor, Mary. Thanks.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Mike. It certainly helped me!

  • mwaddell

    Great reminder. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    My sister, Kathy Wills, forwarded this post to me because I often have guest bloggers post on my blog. I’m a mother of 5, 3 of which hit in the tween/teen category. Thus the impetus for my own effort (although I’m a bit older than most mom bloggers :) to use the web to help parents in the teen trenches.

    Anyway… as I read this post, I couldn’t help but be compelled by the great advice that certainly reaches beyond business boundaries. I’ve caught myself telling my kids to use some of these strategies in dealing with friends … because we can all remember those awkward teen years and the selfish motives that compel that crowd to dis even the closest relationship.

    One strategy Kathy’s and my very wise dad always told us to do was to write a letter to the offender. Put every frustration, disappointment, etc. Write it all … then don’t send it. There’s something about thinking it through, putting it into words, that brings clarity. Then if there’s something you still can’t shake, consider sharing it with the parties involved … with minimal expectations for reconciliation (hey – you have to call a spade a spade) and a heart focused on the other person – not on my own hurt feelings.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post.
    -Kay Wyma

    http://themoatblog.blogspot.com

    • Anonymous

      Kay, how nice to meet you. Any sister of Kathy’s is a friend of mine. Love her! That’s true, it’s good lessons for our kids. You should write a parenting book about this very thing!

      • Kay Wyma

        Not sure I have the credentials for a ‘parenting’ book, but could possibly put forth an honest/possibly entertaining memoir! Hey… would you be up for a re-post of your article on the MOAT?? Yours’ is great stuff worth a thought for those in often-trying trenches. … Let me know if that might bless you, I know you’d bless the readers. :) K

        • Anonymous

          Yes, I think that’s possible, but I need to check with Mike to see what he thinks about it.

    • Dwills

      Funny you mention this Aunt Kay…I was with a dear friend a couple of weeks ago that has just gone through a severe betrayal in a ministry (why do they seem worse when they happen there?). I told him to write a letter to his offender…follow it with a letter to God about his pain…not send the first one, but send the second in a prayer. He did it and it was healing. Now I know where I got that idea…dad!

      Mary, thanks for your wise counsel.

      David (little known brother of Kay and Kathy!)

  • http://twitter.com/gritandglory Alece

    it’s the “continue taking risks” part that is hardest for me. my heart feels fragile, tender, and tentative, and it’s hard to keep putting her out there when trust has been abused so many times… i continue to, but it’s a constant struggle. so much fear underneath it all…

    • Anonymous

      Sometimes, though, you need to walk through a season of healing where you pull away from people and cling to God. God will add trustworthy souls to your life in His timing, allowing you to tentatively trust again. Right now, it’s just plain raw, and you need some recuperating time.

  • Richelle

    I had a colleague turn on me and become very abusive. She stole business from me and continues to slander and libel me. Her supervisor has continued the abuse towards me. I had to stop working for a while and hope they would stop focusing on me. I constantly struggle over rising above the situation. It has affected my income and ability to do my job. Choosing to forgive is giving me some control over the situation.

    • Anonymous

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, Richelle.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great post, Mary. One of the greatest communication problems of our time is email. It is impersonal and almost impossible to discern a tone of voice. I don’t know how many problems could be avoided if we just could sit down and talk. I have issues that have exploded over multiple emails with colleagues only to be resolved in minutes with a face to face discussion. Spam checkers that don’t forward e-mails can also cause trouble.

    When difficult issues arise, picking up a phone or better yet, meeting together can solve a myriad of issues.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I SO agree with this. I never try to use email for anything remotely negative. (Sometimes, I forget, but I always regret it.) You just can’t communicate the tone.

      • Anonymous

        Very true, John. On e-paper, I can come across more harsh than I intend. I have to be so careful. And you’re right, picking up the phone is best.

  • Kelly Mortimer

    Hey! Kelly Mortimer of Mortimer Literary Agency here. This is long, and I understand why you might not post it, and that’s okay. I like and respect both Mary, whose guest blogs are still at my blogsite [welcometomyworlds.com], and that I’d sprint a 100-yard dash in 4″ stilettos to have two minutes with Mike Hyatt is common knowledge. But, I’m a gal who often goes against the grain, and I can’t help it. I express my opinion [yes, often dissenting] where I see it may be relevant.

    I understand all 5 points. On the most part, I agree. When I’m in a business relationship I have to end, or the other party does, I try to do so in a good way. If I blew it, I own-up and apologize. Sometimes I apologize even if I didn’t do anything. [And sometimes I go ballistic first, and then apologize. I AM human.] But, I also believe there’s a time to take a different position.

    As a Jesus-lovin’ gal, I’m often preached to about how I’m supposed to forgive and forget. But what about justice?[ I said justice, NOT vengeance. I'll let God handle that. --But I often get impatient with Him.] What about standing up for yourself against a bully? Did David just forgive Goliath’s army and forget what they were doing? No. He killed the bully! [And for spoils.] Yes, I know, that was pre-Jesus. But Jesus didn’t just stroll by the moneychangers in the Temple. He didn’t just experience a bad business situation and move on. He got ticked and overturned the tables!

    Once upon a time, a giant writing organization done me wrong. It mentally crushed me, as I loved the organization. Then I was livid. Someone apparently started an untrue rumor about me at a ‘Christian’ conference I wasn’t attending. The organization checked on the rumor and found it to be false, but admonished me anyway. I begged them to tell me who started the rumor. They wouldn’t. After many heated e-mails–they kicked me out. By doing so and not setting the record straight on the preposterous rumor, they destroyed [rather, tried to] my credibility. What to do?

    I found a solid legal avenue I could travel [through a loophole I discovered in their bylaws], and had an attorney in the proper state lined up to pursue it. It was worth the $10k I was gonna plunk down to get started. But, people whose counsel I respected advised me to let it go, and I did–reluctantly. And in the few times I still think about what this organization did, it burns my gut. Not that they did it [well, mayhap a little--], but more that I let ‘em get away with it.

    My hubby [he's such a sweet man], the consumer advocate attorney, once told me [get ready to laugh] the National Enquirer prints the truth 99% of the time. He said in the cases they were printing lies, 9 out of 10 times, the celebrity they slammed sued. His comment, “You don’t sue someone who’s telling the truth. You sue someone who’s lying, and in doing so, hurts your reputation. If the celebrity isn’t suing, they often did what the Rag said they did.”

    Now, I’m faced with another nasty [the bad nasty] situation. I have a problem with a huge writing organization, a former business relation, and an attorney. Again, the attack is based on a lie. What to do?

    I admire entrepreneur William T. Phillips. Bill sees winning as keeping your word and standing your ground. I wish to emphatically do both. [I know that's a split infinitive, but I'm allowing it.] Bill says, “It’s all about the chocolate milk. That’s what I tell people who want to know how I came from nothing, and went on to build several multi-million dollar corporations.”*

    Seems when Bill was eight, the Depression was just ending. Bill was new in Detroit, where the school gave you a pint of milk with your report card. And if your grades were great, it was chocolate milk. That’s what Bill earned. Then a bully saw him walking home, drinking his chocolate milk. The bully told Bill to give it over. “I had a choice. I was going to have to prove myself, or lose my chocolate milk. My instincts told me to fight for it.”* The bully wasn’t new to the neighborhood like Bill, and the bully was taller and bigger than Bill was. “The minute our fists started flying, it was as if my body was on autopilot. All I could think of was protecting what I’d earned.”* Bill kept punching, and the other kid backed down. Bill’s milk was never in jeopardy again. [*An American Entrepreneur by William T. Phillips]

    Should I fight a writing organization with over 9,000 members? [I fought them once. I pointed out they were in violation of their bylaws. I won. --Officers, check those bylaws, will ya?] Should I publically get into a brawl with a former client I terminated? [Beastly!] Should I go after her attorney? [I do have a degree in contract law, and MY attorney works cheap. An extra dessert at dinner will do….] And if I fight, what chance do I have of winning? DOESN’T MATTER IF I WIN. Only matters that I stand up and make an argument for myself. I’m gonna prove I’m not the one celeb who did what the Rag said they did. This round, I’m fighting for what I earned: my reputation for honesty, and for sticking up for the little guy. [That would be me, on this occasion.]

    This time, the bully isn’t taking my chocolate milk.

  • http://www.discovertexasonline.com Lynn

    Enjoyed your post and the conversation that has followed.

    I entered a joint venture to help a Christian friend and learned too late that most of what she’d told me about her situation and her skills was untrue. I ended up saddled with the entire project and all the start-up debt. I discretely bought the company so that she was free to leave, but she spread many hurtful rumors to explain what happened. It was a devastating, humiliating, and difficult experience . . . BUT GOD! (The story’s never done until He tells us how it ends, you know?)

    I learned firsthand that He is a wise counselor even in mundane matters.
    I experienced His provision, mercy, and strength.
    I saw Him restore “the years the locusts have eaten” and “work all things together for good.”

    Forgiving is hard work, and it takes time. Bullies often demand it while their victims are still dealing with the fallout. God sees this. I was able to forgive by trusting His justice, knowing that He would judge rightly and set things straight. That’s His job, not mine. I learned and grew so much from this experience and am incredibly proud and blessed by the finished product. I truly wish my friend would have stuck around long enough to share the blessing.

    Epilogue: 10 years later she re-emerged with an offer of friendship, but without any acknowledgment, apology, or sign of change. I politely declined, not because I am angry, but because I had done just what you said in #1 and #2. Any further assistance would only have enabled further sin. I have moved on to new, healthy relationships.

    • Anonymous

      Lynn, this is such an important point. You wrote about forgiveness: “Bullies often demand it while their victims are still dealing with the fallout.” The kind of forgiveness I’m referring to is that quiet forgiveness that’s between you and God. It’s a declaration that I trust God’s justice. But it’s not necessarily an invitation to be in relationship with a bully. Sounds like you dealt with the situation with grace and wisdom. I admire you for it.

  • Anonymous

    I think #5 is the best piece of advice, especially in today’s world where Twitter/Facebook/blogs and other types of social media allow so many people to say what you have to say. I see a lot of people fire off some thoughts on Twitter or Facebook that they really should have stopped longer to think about before posting.

    • Anonymous

      Very true, JDE. We are not a culture of restraint.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So true. I have done it in the past and always regretted it. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea. Thanks.

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com/ Gina Burgess

    Mary, great stuff. Today things seem so complicated we overlook the simple things that work so well! Thank you for pointing out we have a choice to forgive. Too many people today choose revenge and live a life of bitterness. Life is too short to allow others to dictate our reactions. Love is a choice as well. It’s in our new born genes.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      I love the way you put the. When we’re new creations, we live life in a new way.

      • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

        Oops, “the” should be “that.”

  • James

    My offender was my business mentor. I worked my way up through his company from the very bottom. He owned the company. I became his best friend, best man in his wedding, his kids looked to me as an uncle. His pastor father said he was closer to me than his own son. Then . . . . he started to withdraw his support in many things I did on my own. He competed with me in every possible way. I went out on my own and did well for several years. My business (Homebuilding) stalled in 2006 on a 56 lot subdivision. My friend used it to tell all who would listen what poor choices I made in business. He would not let me point to the economy as a contributor to my failure. He worked hard to back others in their disappointments in my failure and rallied troops to take pop shoots at my integrity. I was at a loss for nearly 18 months in how to counter his attacks. Then 2 years ago he started to show up at my church on Sunday mornings. After 4 months he decided to take me before the elders. I easily agreed and the elder met with us and threw out every point and complaint this guy brought up against me. After the meeting he took me to dinner for 4 hours and he tried to tell me how much he missed me and what a hole in his life there is in way of friendship.

    A month later he left on a 7 month Italian vacation. So I sat down a wrote him an email that took 8 straight hours to write explaining my disappoint in his character, broken promises to me and his family, and a few other things. —The point is he descended to the worst attacks in retaliation and I just wished I had not wrote that email and sent it. I should have wrote it then filed it away. This is the start of the 4th year. Like Michael says, “You have to forgive them sometimes daily.” He is still at my church. It is hard on both wives and his kids. My child is 6 and not briefed in in way. I am still at risk in loosing more in this economy. He tracks me just enough to watch to see if I survive. Its seems to be a game for him.

    —–I have been remembering the prayers of my youth and young adult life. I asked God for the road less traveled by his people. I think I am on it currently . .. so I just tell him to help me see Him and enjoy the wild ride on the road less traveled. I also marvel at the things I am learning. I am still good at the core in a wild mess :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am so sorry for you, James. I had a similar situation years ago. In fact, TWO such situations. To this day, they are inexplicable to me. All I can do is quote Joseph when he said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      Wow, that’s so hard, James. I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s truly inexplicable. It’s particularly hard when it’s a leader who becomes a friend and then shapeshifts into an enemy.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Procter

    Great guest post. Thanks for sharing.

    I liked the symbolism referenced in #1 and the call out on moving on while finding joy is a great reminder.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      Thanks K.C. I think the joy comes as we move out. Not before.

  • Mary Kay

    Great encouragement, Mary. I, too, was confused by “shake the dust off” when compared with being longsuffering and forgiving. But we cannot control someone else’s response to a situation or God’s leading so at times I guess we must let go. And if we con’t do steps 1 and 2, we’re less likely to continue to take risks – though thoughtful ones. Love the Oswald Chambers quote. Thanks to you and Michale for these nuggets.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      Thanks Mary Kay. It’s counterintuitive for me to shake the dust. I tend to hold on even to those caustic relationships. But as I mature, I’m learning to walk away.

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this. There is some really good advice to take here. I like the way that you talked about forgiveness being a choice.

    I think we all need to remember that with everything we face, we have the choice in how we react to it. By making the decision to stay positive and letting things go, we only help ourselves.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      Ron, that’s true. And I also believe it effects our relationship with God too.

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this. There is some really good advice to take here. I like the way that you talked about forgiveness being a choice.

    I think we all need to remember that with everything we face, we have the choice in how we react to it. By making the decision to stay positive and letting things go, we only help ourselves.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I used to have to deal with difficult colleagues in my last job. You couldn’t trust anyone. Since I had to pay the bills and it didn’t seem that God wanted me to leave yet, I had to walk carefully and watch my words. At first, I didn’t deal too well with the trouble. It was only in the last couple of years before I finally left that I made the best of a bad situation. Sadly, I could have been more effective had I trusted God more.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      Hindsight is easier, but think about all the amazing lessons you learned in the meantime. You wouldn’t have learned those lessons had you not experienced it.

  • http://twitter.com/andrew_acker Andrew Acker

    I like the last line about never running into troublesome colleagues and that every interaction is an opportunity to learn. I’ve experienced problems with employees when trying to give them a compliment! Sometimes it just seems like I can’t do anything right, even when thanking someone for their great work. This is a refreshing post to remember that I’m not alone, I’m not perfect and I can learn from everything.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      No you are not alone. And I love your teachable spirit.

  • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

    Wow. Good stuff – heavy, but good. I discovered Mary maybe a year or so ago and had the privilege of talking with her on the phone a few months ago. I love her heart, especially how she brings Scripture to light in the everyday occurrences of life – not in a cheesy or trite way, but in a natural way. It’s as if she’s actually living the stuff she’s writing about. I believe she is.

    • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

      That’s a sweet, sweet compliment. Thank you, Jeff. And it comes on a day I’m writing about the importance of scripture in a believer’s life. :)

      • http://jeffgoins.myadventures.org Jeff Goins

        Awesome. If that’s an online article or for your blog, send me that link, Mary! I’d love to read it.

        • http://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth Mary DeMuth

          Alas, it’s for my spiritual warfare book. :)

  • http://www.rowentree.com April Rowen

    Wonderful, Mary! Thank you! Read this aloud to my husband which prompted healing discussion for the both of us as we ourselves work through our own disappointment right now with our company. Felt like this was written just for us =)

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  • Anonymous

    All of these are good points. Discern – is this a good situation? If “no” walk away, forgive, begin anew. Not walking away, not forgiving, not beginning anew – these will foster the tendency to talk when silence is the better course. I like the passage in 2Peter 2:9 “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.”

    Your point about prayer is also great advice. Praying at every step should help ensure Holy guidance. Thanks for sharing, Mary!

  • sknnywtr

    Those are well stated words. Kudos and thanks.

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