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What not to ask an unemployed person



[Note: the following explanation is not rooted in bitterness, and not an attempt to make anyone feel bad. It's simply an explanation of what happens when I get asked about my job search.] 

In November of 2015, the president of my company walked into my office. After 6 1/2 years, during which I was hired as a database administrator/programmer, promoted to manager, and then to Director, I was being let go. I didn't do anything wrong; the owner simply felt we had too many people in IT, and my position was eliminated. As I write this in March 2016, I'm in my 5th month of searching for work. 

The worst thing about being unemployed

The list of reasons that unemployment is undesirable is a long one. Surprisingly, "lack of revenue" isn't on top of the list.  No, the hardest part of my life as an unemployed person right now is having to deal with the all things said by concerned, well-intentioned people who see me regularly, particularly at church. 

Sundays are the hardest. I'm starting to dread going to church, because by Sunday afternoon, I will have shaken 50 or so hands, and at least 45 of those handshakes have been accompanied by "So, how's the job search going?", followed by "so, do you have any leads?"

Constant reminders, followed by lies
Every one of those handshakes is a reminder that I am jobless, during the one time a week when I come to a place (a sanctuary, if you will) where I am supposed to focus on God and think about eternal things, and to forget about the cares of this world.

Every time I am asked those two questions, there's an enemy who takes the opportunity to whisper in my ear that I'm a loser, to remind me that I was rejected by my employer of 6 years. 

I know it's a lie, but you try hearing a lie 50 times every Sunday. Your response may surprise you. 

When I am asked about leads or "have you had any interviews?" I am reminded that I have, on multiple occasions, dressed up for an interview, talked for an hour with an employer about why I would be a good fit for them, only to endure additional rejection a few days later as they let me know they chose someone else. 

My identity
Every time I am asked how the job search is going, it perpetuates the idea that my identity is "jobless guy." I am a lot of other things: husband, dad, homegroup leader, Little League coach. But nobody asks me how my team is doing, or how my homegroup is going. I just get asked about that one aspect of my life which makes me feel lowest right now. 

I'd much rather talk about the successes:
-I have 3 great kids. I have a lovely wife.
-Once or twice a week, I get a chance to pray for 11 kids at the end of baseball practice or game.
-I had an amazing experience last week where God spoke to me about how to pray for someone.
-Another time recently, I saw something when reading Scripture, only to be asked a question by a good friend the next day, and I was able to share with him what God said in His word, which turned out to be exactly what that guy needed to hear.
-  My family was recently given a family vacation in Washington DC, a place I have longed to take my kids, and it's going to be essentially free.

There are so many victories in my life worth asking about, which should drown out the deep sorrow I have about my employment status, but the Sunday morning questions just keep on reminding me, over and over, that my employer doesn't want me there anymore. 

I'm not bitter, and not trying to make anyone feel bad. I am communicating this to people because, frankly, I'd want to know if my well-intentioned words were problematic to anyone in any way. This post is simply an FYI; an attempt to enlighten. 

Feel free to pray for my job situation. I'm just asking you not to make it the only thing you talk to me about when you see me. 

So now you know now what not to ask next time you shake my hand. Thanks for listening. 

Comments

Jane Stage said…
Thank you for this James. I've been there, having been let go after 12 yrs on a job and understand how this feels. It can be so defeating and draining. I'm glad you are focusing on the victories! Have fun in Washington DC! We are all rooting for Jacob-especially Libby :)

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