Saturday, October 16, 2010

Workplace Safety and Response to Correction

This morning I was walking through a jobsite with the site superintendent when we saw one of the dumbest things I can ever remember seeing. At this site, they've cut several shafts for new stairways and elevators, and of course they have guardrails up all around them. One of the ironworkers on the 4th floor was trying to get some equipment to a guy on a lower floor, so he had tied it to a rope and was trying to swing it down to him. When it didn't work well, he stepped out through the guardrails, and was leaning out over the unprotected elevator shaft, swinging this heavy equipment at the end of the rope, with no fall protection at all. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?

The superintendent saw this guy narrowly escaping a 50-foot plunge to his death and persisting in his stupidity, and of course went over to talk some sense into him (i.e. if I see anything that stupid again, you're getting kicked off all our sites forever). And of course the guy was thrilled that someone cared enough to warn him about how dangerous his situation was, and expressed tremendous gratitude to the superintendent for correcting him rather than letting him fall to his death. Not only that, the ironworkers' manager came over a few minutes later to express how grateful he was that one of his workers had been spared the consequences of his stupidity, and to declare how excited he was to be working on a jobsite where they care enough about worker safety to take corrective measures.

Nah, just kidding.

You know what happened. The worker responded to the rebuke with indignation, declaring that he was perfectly fine as he was, merely a gentle breeze away from a plunge to his death. He complained to his manager, who registered his disgust at all the [many, many expletives] rules on this site that keep anything from getting done, and threatened to take his company off the site if things didn't change (an offer that was very nearly accepted). No gratitude for likely saving the dude's life, but anger at the oppressive rules.

How much can you relate to that? If you care enough to warn someone about the dangers of their perversion, greed, hatred, unwillingness to forgive, indifference to the things of God, persistent disobedience, refusal to do the good they know they should do, or any of other sins, how often does he thank you for caring more about his life (both here and eternally) than he cares for himself? Or is it more likely that you'll be the bad guy, the judgmental one, derided as the holier-than-thou jerk who butts in where he doesn't belong?

It reminds me of the image of the spider lowering itself into a bonfire. A caring person sees it happening, and grabs the spider to save it and put it onto good ground. The spider, far from being grateful for this intervention, lashes out in anger and bites the hand that's trying to save it.

Of course, this is nothing new. We see this same type of reaction throughout scripture. God rebukes his people to get their attention and turn them back from their self-destructive ways, and rather than being thankful for the call back to the right path, they are angry and rebel even more. A frequent complaint God registers through the prophets is Israel's terrible response to judgment. As Isaiah says, "The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the LORD of hosts" (Isa 9:13). Or consider this lament of Amos:

"I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities,
   and lack of bread in all your places,
yet you did not return to me,"
         declares the LORD.
"I also(C) withheld the rain from you
   when there were yet three months to the harvest;
I would send rain on one city,
   and send no rain on another city;
one field would have rain,
   and the field on which it did not rain would wither;
so two or three cities would wander to another city
   to drink water, and would not be satisfied;
yet you did not return to me,"
         declares the LORD.

"I struck you with blight and mildew;
   your many gardens and your vineyards,
   your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured;
yet you did not return to me,"
         declares the LORD.

"I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt;
   I killed your young men with the sword,
and carried away your horses,
   and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils;
yet you did not return to me,"
         declares the LORD.

"I overthrew some of you,
   as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
   and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,"
         declares the LORD. (Amos 4:6-11)

Or as Hebrews begins a discussion of this issue, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him."

Two takeaways from this:
1) When rebuked, take it seriously and learn what you need from it. Be thankful for the brother who loves you enough to risk losing your friendship by putting himself between you and the sin you love.
2) If you're on the other end, care enough that you risk the spite. Remember the end of James: "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." People are stepping outside the guardrails and dangling over the precipice. Love them enough to tell them to come back.


Robert said...

My wife and I just spent a long evening with a couple from our church that provided correction to us in handling a situation wrongly. I am deeply grateful for God's work through them in order to keep us from dangling by our own power and forgetting whom it is that we (Christians) are fighting against.

Thank you for this post...I hope that other people can experience this type of love from their Christian brethren because it really is amazing to experience just have to let go of that horrible, filthy, vile pride and open your arms to receive loving correction.

DJP said...

What I tell myself, and try to keep in mind, is that I don't want to be the last one to know when I'm doing something stupid and/or sinful.