Absalom of the Office

So I’m walking around the office today, doing my “management by walking around” thing and I come across this scene:  One of our support staff standing with a stack of files on top of our copier/scanner doing what she does most often these days, scanning documents into an electronic file.

Scanning, and scanning, and scanning abbreviated by the occasional paper clip and staple extraction.  This is her work life. Fairly menial, but indoors and out of the humid, summer heat of Florida. Nothing like her native Colombia, where she is trained as an architect. Her certification in this profession can’t be transferred to this country without further training at a U. S. university and she is a single mom with a child to raise, so she hasn’t taken steps toward this goal.

Back to the scene. This nice lady is sort of complaining about her lot in the office and the sameness of her daily routine. Furthermore, she’s drawing an audience in our common area. As I am walking by I hear the tail end of her complaint as one of the professional staff is listening intently.  I smile at her and the staffer and half-jokingly say “what are you whining about, this time?” She laughed, as did the other person and then I said to the one listening, “AND YOU’RE EGGING HER ON!”

She was understandably nonplussed saying with about half a laugh, “I am not!”

“Sure you are”, I said, “you’re listening to her and you’re a captive audience”She was waiting to use the copier that was scanning at the time. Both of them seemed a little sheepish after I called them on it, but then I was there, too!

From there we more or less went on about things and then I remembered the story of Absalom and his father, David. Nasty tale of treachery, unforgiveness, pain, suffering, and death. All the best things one wants in a modern novel, movie, TV show, or news report only 3,000 years ago. This type of behavior can, and often does, have serious consequences whether at work, among families at home, or church.

As a leader in my workplace, home, and church I often feel like complaints are inescapable and I must deal with them no matter what.

Is this really true?

It’s one thing to make others problems and complaints your own and quite another to lead them to a place of wisdom, leading to peace, joy, hope, and security such that they can solve their own problems. Don’t you agree?

Absalom was enraged when one of his many half-brothers Amnon had raped his sister Tamar and perceived that their father, the king, David had done nothing to address this horrible defilement of a virtuous young girl. Absalom took matter into his own hands and conspired with his servants and other brothers to murder Amnon as revenge for the rape.

“See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.”  The servants of Absalom did to Amnon just as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose and each mounted his mule and fled. 2 Samuel 13:28-29

By doing this a great many negative wheels were set in motion. First, Absalom assumed the authority of the king himself; Second, he conspired with the king’s own family to murder another of the king’s family and concealed the crime by fleeing for several years.

After these years passed David called for Absalom to return and he did but it was another two years before David would see him face to face in Jerusalem. Who knows why but my thinking is that David harbored so much guilt for his own misdeeds (ala Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah) that perhaps he felt this was God’s justice against him. He said nothing, did nothing and did not express outward forgiveness to Absalom.

So what does Absalom do?

Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men as runners before him.  Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.”  Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.”  And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him.  In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:1-6

You might be asking, “what does this have to do with a complaining monologue at the copier?”

The answer is that all rebellions start simply. A complaint here, a falsely motivated compliment there, “suggestions” for improvement with a group of people around. Done long enough, it becomes easy to steal the hearts of the ones who agree with you. That’s why Absalom  got himself a cool chariot, nice horses and 50 men. It made him look good! People bought in and turned on David so that he had to flee himself!

Absaloms are in every church, place of business, and government. I can’t say every home but I’ll bet those homes with many secrets either have an Absalom, or did, in that family’s past. Secrets, conspiracies, assassinations, whether physical or psychological, are out there and that is why the story of Absalom and David is so important to us 3,000 years later.

It’s the worst kind of heartache. People like Absalom must be dealt with and he was in a pitch battle against his father’s forces some years later. Speared in the heart and hacked to bits. David’s heart broken, again, he was never the same. Much grief brought upon himself by his own choices to do nothing, or the wrong thing.

You must ask yourself: “What would I do, when someone defiles me with a complaint, or a problem that usually is avoidable or easily dealt with by themselves,  without involving others in a toxic situation?”

I think Abraham Lincoln said it best: “People make up their minds about how happy they’re going to be”. Absalom inflicted misery on his family, his nation, and himself. The photo above is the last thing we know of his legacy. Childless and alone except for those who killed him, he died.

What will do, the next time someone puts us through a test like this?

Will you challenge them?, their motivations?, run from them like a plague?


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