Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites. Ephesians 6:9 (NLT)

I recently had cause to interact with a young Christian woman who was very depressed and suicidal.  As we untangled the issues she brought to the counseling table a clear picture began to emerge: she had become a “human-doing” and along the way had “lost” her humanity.  She told me she had effectively ceased to live as a human being with the full range of emotions. She prefers to live without emotions or feelings because she says it is less painful that way.   

As I listened to her describe what brought her to this place of not caring if she lived or died she told me about working on various farms in her area.  She has done this kind of work since she was 14 years old and is now a very gifted ranch manager.  Because she has excelled in what she does she has never lacked employment, and has worked very hard all her young adult life.  

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Ephesians 6:5-8 (NLT)

At every farm or ranch she strived to please her employers and really struggled when she was not perfect at her job. The harsh words of the ranch foreman were enough to ruin her day.  She would determine to work harder, faster, and better than anyone else the next day.  Any positive words from the foreman were received like water to a parched and dying person.  Her life became focused on being the best so she could please the boss.  A good day at work meant she was worthy. A bad day at work meant she was trash.  

A bad day was defined by being yelled at, being told what she did was stupid, being criticized, and demoralized.  A bad day also would include getting the message that she disappointed the foreman and didn’t quite measured up to his expectations. She worked extra hours, learned new skills, did above and beyond her job duties yet despite how hard she tried she was never “good enough” to please. There was always something she did that was not quite right.  

She dealt with the emotions that resulted from such working conditions by turning them inward on herself and “shutting them off.”  She isolated when not at work, turned away friends and invitations for social activities.  She was frequently “bummed out” and lifeless.  She said that nothing brought her any enjoyment in life anymore.  She began to hate her job and hate her life.  She went through each day shutting off her emotions so she could make it through the day. Each morning she woke up dreading the day ahead.

This is what brought her to me. A young woman not yet 20 should not be in this position.  

As I listened to her I thought about the influence that adults have on the young people who work for them in so many capacities during these early working years.  My boys worked in a variety of jobs while in their teens: cashiers in grocery stores, lube techs in oil change places, all sorts of jobs in fast food joints, and waiter-ing in casual dining restaurants just to name a few.  One of them even worked on a farm for a summer! Sometimes the adults who had oversight were kind and other times they were downright cruel.  I can recall a few occasions where one of them came home sad or emotionally bruised because of how they were treated by the adults on the job. 

a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:3 (NASB)

When I asked my children if this is typical they told me young people are very often verbally abused and used by their employers because they know there is someone right behind them waiting to fill the position. 

Adults must understand these teens and young adults are human beings, not just human doings.  They are not machines or androids who mechanically go through their work shift.  They are dealing with many things outside of work and the problems of teenagers are magnified because of their emotional immaturity and lack of life experience.  

Very often, the “product” or the job is not life or death, it is just a hamburger or an oil change or a bag of ice to be scanned. Yes, we must teach responsibility and enforce rules, but it is how that is done that has lasting effects on our children.  Adults who work with teens really need to think about what kind of influence and impact they are making on their young employees.  Adults who work with teens must understand the desire of many of those who show up for work really want their jobs. They want to please, they just aren’t able to process like a grown man or woman yet! 

Are you someone who works with kids or young adults? Be aware of what you say and how you say it. Be determined to treat your charges with the care and compassion of Christ. 

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, Colossians 3:12 (ESV)