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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Sexual Harassment

Apr 7, 2018

PROGRAM W-1722 – Part II

When he left her office, she collapsed in fear and shock and tried to assimilate in her mind what had happened, but it seemed too incredible to be true. She must be imagining it; she must be blowing it up out of context. No executive in his right mind would say the things John said to her. She dials her friend, Louise.

“Louise,” she says with an anguished voice, “I need to talk to someone I can trust. Can you meet me at the coffee shop around the corner?” Fran asks.

“It’s 4:30 now; I can be out of here in 15 minutes, I guess,” Louise replies.

“Okay, I’ll meet you in the lobby,” Fran says as she hangs up. She puts her head in her hands and can feel the tears start to come. As she reaches for a tissue, there’s a knock at her door. Apprehensively she says, “Yes?” and Marilyn, her boss, comes in.

“Just checking. How’d it go today? Any problems?” Marilyn asks.

“Well,” Fran stumbles. “Isn’t there any way you could get him off my back tomorrow?” She hopes Marilyn doesn’t see the fear and anger in her face. More than anything, she hopes she’ll never have to encounter John again.

“I tried. He came by my office saying what a good day he’d had with you,” Marilyn replies, “and when I offered to let him observe some of my other good workers, he said another day or two with you would be best. I tried.”

“Thanks,” Fran replies wearily.

“Fran, are you okay?” Marilyn asks, as she shuts the door behind her.

Fran sends another crisis prayer up: “Lord, what should I say? Will Marilyn believe me or think I’ve just over-reacted? Will I harm my career by reporting that a Vice President has sexually harassed me?” For the first time those words form in her mind.

“Well,” Fran begins, “it was not a comfortable day, let’s put it that way, Marilyn.”

“I know John can be a dirty old man sometimes,” Marilyn says, “but don’t let that get to you, Fran. It goes with the territory. These guys that have been around for a while—well, they’re in a cultural lag, if you know what I mean. To them, a woman is still a sexual object. Just take it with a grain of salt.”

“Well…” Fran doesn’t know what to say.

“Hopefully one more day will do it,” Marilyn says. “That’s enough punishment for any woman. I put my time in with John when I was a rookie. Guess it happens to many of us. Go home and forget about it.”

“Okay,” Fran replies meekly, as she watches Marilyn leave. In a daze she packs up her attaché and heads for the lobby to meet Louise.

Louise takes one look at her and says, “Fran, what in the world has happened?”

“Let’s get out of here, Louise,” and they head down the street to the coffee shop.

Fran brings Louise up to date on how John insisted on spending a few days with her.

“Louise,” she says, “I don’t know if I’m losing my mind, imagining things, or what. . .but I believe that I endured overt sexual harassment today.”

“Oh, good grief!” Louise replies. “What happened?”

They go in the coffee shop and find an empty booth. Fran pours her heart out to Louise, telling her all the details of John’s behavior—his touches, his remarks, and his attempt to pin her behind the desk and kiss her. Louise shakes her head as she listens.

“You’re not imagining things, Fran,” Louise says. “That was classic sexual harassment. I attended a workshop on sexual harassment and I learned a lot; you need to learn, too.”

“What they told us in that workshop,” Louise continues, “is that the goal of sexual harassment is not sexual pleasure but gaining power. It’s a power play. Lots of men, especially men who’ve been around awhile, want to put us ‘up and coming’ women in our place, and that’s the way they do it. It’s their way of telling us to keep our place.”

“But maybe. . .” Fran replies, “maybe I did something or gave him some wrong impression. I mean, is there something wrong with my suit?”

“Fran,” Louise tells her, “you’re falling into a typical response behavior. It’s not dissimilar to that of an abused woman who thinks she’s done something to deserve the abuse. Certainly, you’re dressed very conservatively and professionally, as you always are, but no matter how a woman dresses, no man has the right to harass you.”

“I guess I’ve always thought that if I behaved and dressed correctly, it would never happen to me. I always thought that a really spiritual woman would never have to endure such treatment. But. . .”

“Fran, good, decent women get raped and good, decent women are harassed,” Louise says.

The tears start down Fran’s face. “It’s humiliating and I feel so powerless against him. He’s very intimidating, Louise.”

“Fran, I can come over and talk tonight if you’d like, because you need to take some decisive action quickly,” Louise offers.

“Oh, Louise, thanks so much. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” Fran says, and gives her a big hug as they leave the coffee shop.

“Oh, Lord,” she says to Jesus on the way home, “how I long for those wonderful days of just being a mommy. Sometimes when you work in the world’s environment, you just feel contaminated.”

“Yes, Fran, you’re right,” Jesus answers her, “working and moving in this sin-infected world is not a Sunday School picnic, as they say. But, if you remember, I told my disciples that I purposely left them in this world. You are not of this world, but you are left in it to shine as a light for me.”

“Well, Lord, I need some help in this mess. Please carefully direct my thoughts and decisions. Help Louise and me to stay on track in our thinking and our discussion tonight,” Fran asks. “Please give us wisdom—there I go again, asking for wisdom. I know I’ve worn that verse out in James 1:5, but. . .”

“No, you haven’t worn it out, nor have you wearied me with your asking, Fran,” Jesus interrupts her. “I long to see my followers come to me for wisdom and strength. That delights my heart; you can never over-do it!”

“Thanks, Lord,” Fran says as they pull in the driveway.

Louise comes over and they finally sit down to talk.

“Fran,” Louise starts, “you should do something. This needs to be confronted and reported.”

“Right, and if I do, guess who will be in trouble,” Fran replies. “Not John; me. After all, there were no witnesses, Louise. He made sure of that. Besides, I want to be careful about playing with someone’s reputation and career.”

“That’s very true, Fran,” Louise agrees, “but do you think he was being very considerate of you in the propositions and suggestions he made to you?”

“No,” Fran says, “but I’m a Christian and I don’t treat people the way they treat me. I treat them as Christ would treat them.”

“And I agree with you again, Fran,” Louise says. “But Christ stood against wrong and for right, and he didn’t worry about people’s reputation or hurting their feelings when he knew they deserved his condemnation. He threw out the money-changers from the temple openly and abruptly.”

“Yes, but that was because they were doing something harmful to lots of people,” Fran answers. “In this case I’m just talking about the harm John’s done to me.”

“But Fran,” Louise says, “don’t you believe that if he’s done it to you, he’s done it to others, and he’ll keep on doing it as long as he can get by with it?”

“I believe we should take a stand against evil,” Fran says quietly, “but it’s not easy when it’s your neck in the noose. I did ask Pat to check him out for me, but she didn’t get back to me yet,” Fran says.

And just as she says that, the phone rings and it’s Pat, calling to report that John does indeed have a track record of this kind of behavior.

“You’re kidding! Who told you that?” Fran listens further. She put the phone on speaker so Louise can listen.

Pat relates that in the last three years, two other women have filed formal complaints about the way John talked or acted, but nothing could be proven. He was not officially punished and it was more or less overlooked. But Pat knows for a fact that there are documented records of these complaints.

She and Louise look at each other as they hang up the phone. “See what I told you, Fran?” Louise says. “The man has a pattern of sexual harassment.”

“You know, Marilyn gave me some indication that she’s had the same kind of experience with him,” Fran reports, “but her view was it just goes with the territory.”

“Lots of women have put up with sexual harassment for years to protect their careers,” Louise says.

“Well, now the question is, what should I do?” Fran asks.

For a couple of hours Fran and Louise discuss her plan of action, and agree that step one is to confront John directly and hope that’s the end of it. Louise encourages Fran to put it in writing, keep a copy at home, and mail a copy to herself and leave it unopened so the date can be verified. They work on the letter and finally come up with the finished product.

The letter begins with a detailed, objective account of the offensive behavior, then a description of how that behavior made her feel, and then what Fran plans to do if it continues. She was very clear, and at the end she wrote:

Furthermore, if I sense that my career is negatively impacted by any input from you because of this, I will not hesitate to bring it out in the open. For the good of the company and many other women who have to deal with you as well as my own self-respect, I will not go quietly, John.

You should also know that I’m keeping a copy of this letter and having one time dated so there can be no question of its validity or its timing, should that need ever arise.

She and Louise spend time in prayer for the situation, praying specifically for John, recognizing that he is a man with a problem. Quiet peace settles in, and Fran thanks Louise again and again as she leaves.

The next morning, she talks further with Jesus about her plan of action, and he assures her of his help and his care.

Fran gets to the office early and, shortly after 9:00, John appears in her office.

“Well, Fran,” he says in a cheerful way, “let’s get a cup of coffee to start the day right,” and he starts out of her office.

“John” Fran says in a voice that stops him at the door, “we do indeed need to get this day started right, and that’s why you need to read this.”

She hands him the letter and watches as he cautiously opens it and begins to read. His face gets redder and redder and he looks like he’s about to explode. Then he turns from red to pale white. When he finishes, he looks at Fran and says in a low voice, “This is garbage, Fran. You can’t prove anything.”

“You know it’s not garbage and you know I can make it stick,” Fran says without blinking an eye. Inside she’s a bowl of jelly, scared to death. Jesus says quietly to her, “Ignore those emotions; keep doing what you know you should.”

A long silence follows that feels like an eternity. Finally, John says, “I certainly don’t agree to any of these accusations. You women ask for equal rights and then don’t like it when you get it.”

“John, this is not a question of equal rights,” Fran replies. “I’m simply insisting that I be allowed to do my work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment.”

“Well, Fran, don’t expect your career to take off with this kind of attitude,” John says, as his voice rises in volume.

“Is that another threat, John?” Fran asks. “Are you telling me that I can’t succeed in this company unless I go along with sexual advances?”

At this, John stares at Fran for a long time, then says, “I can see that working with you today would be impossible. I’ll tell Marilyn to reassign me,” and with that he stomps out.

Fran falls into her seat like a limp dishrag as he leaves, her knees buckling beneath her. She’s so glad he’s gone, but realizes he does have clout and he could make good on his threats. She also knows she has done the right thing.

Later Marilyn walks in and says, “Wow, what’d you do to John? He couldn’t wait to be reassigned to someone else.”

“Marilyn, you need to know that I confronted John over what I believe to be sexual harassment which I had to endure yesterday,” Fran replies. “He may try to damage my career as a result, but I had to do it—for myself and all the other women in this company.”

Marilyn looks at her and shakes her head. “You confronted him? Well, I’ll be.” She pauses for a long time, then says, “Good for you, Fran. I should have done it years ago. And just let him try to do you any harm. Not over my dead body.” With that, she walks out, and Fran smiles.

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Things Not to Say to a Single

Apr 6, 2018

PROGRAM D-8070

I think it’s so important for us to break down the walls between singles and marrieds, and start supporting and encouraging each other more. An article in “Today’s Christian Woman” magazine brought this issue to my mind, which is why I’ve shared suggestions of things you should never say to a Christian single. Now I’d like to finish on a positive note by sharing some things singles love to hear.

It’s very encouraging to a single Christian to hear statements and questions like the following:

“Tell me about your job.”

In too many gatherings, especially with women, conversation centers on husbands and children. Single women feel left out. Singles love to get the chance to talk about the important things in their lives. Ask them about their job and what their dreams are—about their hobbies, too! Singles enjoy hearing about your family, but they’d like equal time once in a while. It’s another way of saying, “Your life is just as important as mine,” which, of course, it is!

“Sometimes I envy you.”

Often singles express their envy of the married lifestyle, but you can help a single see and celebrate the good things singles have by reminding them once in a while that you envy singles, too!

“God is big enough.”

Many times, when singles look around, it seems certain that they’ll always be alone. Remind the singles you know that our powerful and loving God is much bigger than our circumstances. Tell them about the miracles in your life, where God has intervened in your impossible situations. Help the singles you know to focus on God.

“Do you want to go shopping with me on Saturday?”

Or, “Would you like to come over for dinner next week?” Or “Would you pray for me about this issue?” In short, anything you can say that would allow that single person entrance into your life. Ask them to be a friend; they’d love it!

As I mentioned earlier, I was single for over 40 years before I was married a couple of years ago. During those years, my very best friend was a married woman who led a very traditional life as wife and mother. Though our lifestyles were pretty much opposite then, she and I were best friends for over 40 years. Our friendship broke down that unnecessary and harmful wall that is often erected between married and single people. We have so much in common and so much to give to each other. Let’s reach out to each other in new and loving ways. The Body of Christ will be strengthened if we do.

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Things Not to Say to a Single

Apr 5, 2018

PROGRAM D-8069

An article in “Today’s Christian Woman” magazine made some very important points about singleness. It was by Susan Maycinik, and her article was entitled “The Top Ten Things Not to Say to a Single.” Don’t tune me out, married people—this is for you, too.

One of those top ten things was this: “Getting married doesn’t solve all your problems.”

I’d like to quote directly from the article. Susan says the following:

Around the time I turned 30, I went through a grieving process over my dream of having a husband and family. Sometimes I would try to tell other women about my loneliness and disappointment. More than once a married woman responded somewhat impatiently, “Well, getting married doesn’t solve all your problems!” Some added the tired corollary, “It just gives you new ones!”

 That condescending response communicates two things: one, “I don’t care how you’re feeling,” and two, “You don’t have a clue what marriage involves.” I don’t think any woman really thinks that when she finds a husband, her problems disappear. . . Most of us don’t dismiss lightly what we’d be giving up to become a wife and mother. Yet many of us would gladly choose a more difficult life and someone to share it with over a simpler life alone.

Susan points out that we have a natural, inborn desire and instinct to be married and have a family. Those are God-given, and many singles have to grieve through the loss of that desire. Therefore, treating it with triviality really doesn’t help.

As singles, you simply must learn to grieve through it and come out on the other side. Sadly, some singles never stop grieving, and they cripple themselves because of it. It would be wonderful for singles to have some healing words from married friends, some words of understanding and compassion.

Another thing not to say to singles is this: “Well, you can do it; you’re single—you have time!”

Why is it everyone assumes a single person has time on their hands? Often our churches expect extra-duty out of singles since they don’t have family obligations. I’ve noticed that sometimes family members can expect the singles in the family unit to carry more family responsibility because they are single. For example, caring for a sick parent often falls into the lot of the single sibling, and they are expected to put their lives on hold, move, change jobs, or whatever is necessary because they’re single.

These two examples are among the many things you should never say to singles.

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Things Not to Say to a Single

Apr 4, 2018

PROGRAM D-8068

If you are a single adult, no doubt someone has said to you—probably recently—something like this: “I can’t believe you’re not married!” or “You’re not married yet?”

I’m sharing about things you should never say to a single Christian. Tell the truth: Have you ever been guilty of saying that to a single? Perhaps you were a little more subtle, and used instead, “Are you seeing anyone special?” or “How’s your social life these days?”

A family member said to my daughter before she was married, “You’re so pretty; what’s the matter with those men in your church?” When I was single—not that long ago—people would say things like, “Mary, you are one of God’s unclaimed blessings!” We appreciate the concern and interest of others but, believe me, we don’t need to hear those messages.

One single person related to me that married friends will frequently say to her, “I just want you to know I’m praying that God will send you a mate.” She said, “I wonder, would they pray for me if I were not single? Is that the only need they see in my life?”

Married people often assume you’re lonely if you’re single. This is not necessarily so. Aloneness does not automatically mean lonely. Many singles’ lives are full and running over with meaningful activities and relationships. Quite honestly, many really enjoy being single!

Singles don’t want anyone to feel sorry for them. It would be very nice if, once in a while, you would let a single person know that you “envy” their lifestyles in some way (which I’m sure you do). There’s nothing wrong in each of us appreciating the good things about the other lifestyle, without being discontent. Certainly, singles appreciate the good things that marriage offers—companionship, parenthood, and sexual relationship. But married people also secretly, if not openly, appreciate some of the freedoms and flexibilities that singles enjoy.

If you’re single, let me remind you not to let yourself focus only on the negatives of singleness. All you need to do is to look around at the broken, struggling marriages to realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Appreciate what you have as single people rather than magnifying the negatives. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). If you’re single, you can learn that great lesson, too.

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Things Not to Say to a Single

Apr 3, 2018

PROGRAM D-8067

Whether you’re single or married, I hope you will take to heart my suggestions of things you should never say to a single Christian. In my book, Common Mistakes Singles Make, I devote the last chapter to mistakes married people make in communicating with singles. In addition, Susan Maycinik had some great thoughts on this in an article in “Today’s Christian Woman” magazine. I thank her for permission to use some of her ideas.

I first pointed out that you should never say to a single, “God will send someone to you in his time if you’ll learn to be content.” Here’s another no-no: “Before you find someone wonderful, you’ve got to be someone wonderful!”

Often messages to singles center around this theme: When you’re everything God wants you to be, when you are attractive enough and spiritual enough, then you’ll be worthy of a man or woman, and the right person will come along.

God doesn’t reward us with a mate for our spiritual maturity! Furthermore, our motivation to be a godly woman or man should never be to get anything back from God, including a mate. Some very godly women and men never marry—I could name many that I know—while many who are a long way from spiritual maturity find what often looks like a wonderful partner at an early age.

I was single for over forty years before I married a couple of years ago and, I must confess I went through the stage of looking around at the husbands of other women thinking, “What has she got that I don’t have? How did she get him?” There’s that idea that the great mates go to the great people and, if we don’t have a mate, somehow it’s our fault.

Women are often focused on how they look: If they were just thinner or prettier they would find a husband. Men seem to focus more on accomplishment and status: If they had a great job, lots of money, or some special talent, they’d find the right woman.

Please, be careful never to give that message to any single person you know. It reinforces this insidious notion that marriage is first-class living and singleness is second-class. Nothing in scripture validates that message. Marriage is certainly of God and should be honored, but think of the people in scripture used mightily by God who were single—beginning with Jesus, and including Lydia, Mary Magdalene, the Apostle Paul, Dorcas, and many others.

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Things Not to Say to a Single

Apr 2, 2018

PROGRAM D-8066

I’ve written a book called Common Mistakes Singles Make which addresses the many mistakes I made as a single woman, and the ones I see many others making, as well. Here, however, I’m not going to share the mistakes singles make, but rather the things that singles really don’t need and don’t want to hear. I give credit to Susan Maycinik for some of these thoughts.

Here is one thing not to say to a single Christian: “God will send someone to you in his time if you’ll learn to be content.”

For some, there’s a pain in singleness which cannot be discounted or spiritualized away. After God created the Garden of Eden and put Adam there in the midst of all that beauty, with all those animals and lots to do, and with perfect unbroken fellowship with God, the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). God created man and woman to be together; he knew that fellowship with God was not all we needed.

Telling a single person to “just be content” shows you know little of the struggle that goes on inside singles. Furthermore, it seems to imply that there’s a formula that will guarantee you’ll soon be walking down the aisle. Conversely, it also implies that if you’re not married, you must be doing something wrong. Can you see how harmful this can be to that single who is struggling with singleness? You would never tell a sick person that when they “have enough faith” or “learn to be content,” God will heal them. But often people have that approach with singles.

As Susan puts it, “God’s not a vending machine, dispensing a husband (or wife) when enough contentment coins are inserted. He doesn’t withhold his blessings until we deserve them.”

If you’re a single person who struggles with wanting to be married, realize it is a natural desire and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. However, if that desire consumes you so that you have made an idol out of it, then you must learn to relinquish even that deepest desire to God and trust him for your future. He is not planning something dreadful and dreary for you.

If you’re not single, please remember this: One thing not to say to a single person is “God will send someone to you in his time if you’ll learn to be content.”

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