I was talking with a customer service agent from an online company I have enjoyed doing business with for years. I called thinking she could help me with a return. But when I explained I needed to return this certain item, things started to head south with our conversation.

She informed me that my item wasn’t on the returnable list. It was on the final sale list. I had no clue there was a returnable list and a final sale list. It wasn’t posted online or stated in their catalog.

I logically stated my case and felt sure she would see things my way. But she didn’t. No matter what I said or explained, she wouldn’t budge.

I knew the lady on the other end of the phone was just following procedure, but it made no sense. It wasn’t right and I was frustrated!

And my tone of voice made it clear just how frustrated I was.

Later that same day, I was in line at the grocery store behind a man who wanted to use an expired coupon. The check out gal calmly stated she couldn’t honor his coupon. Well, he didn’t like that one bit. And he made sure everyone around them knew how much he didn’t like this situation.

I stood back appalled at his actions.

Until … I started thinking about the fact that I’d acted almost the same way with the customer service agent who refused what I wanted. The conviction wove its way through my heart and made me feel so badly for the way I’d reacted toward that woman.

After my call, she probably moved on to the next frustrated customer. And then the next. And then the next. Suddenly, I felt so sorry for her.

I decided it wasn’t her desire to not be able to help me. She was truly just following the orders of the higher-ups at her company. I imagined her packing up her things at the end of another long day and heading home. A home where she had to face her own daily aggravations and frustrations.

That’s when it hit me. While on the phone, I never pictured her as a person really. To me, she was just a voice on the other end of the phone that was causing me extreme frustration.

How might my reaction have been different if I’d stopped to think about her as a woman just like me? What might it be like to be her, to live her life, and to have to go to her job every day?

I decided God was trying to get my attention to be more aware of my reactions. More aware of handling daily frustrations in a way that reflects a heart that loves the Lord. In today’s key verse, Luke 8:15, Jesus reminds us, “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (NIV 1984)

I want Jesus’ message to fall on a heart that is humble and fertile enough to:

Receive God’s Word …

Retain God’s instruction, and …

Reflect God’s character in both my action and reactions.

When I stop to think about this I am challenged. Whether I am talking with a customer service representative I don’t know or interacting with those I do everyday life with, I want to work towards being a woman who displays godly character. Just like Luke 8:15 encourages, whether I’m having a frustrating conversation or a friendly one, may God’s messages of truth have such an impact on me that my heart and my mouth remain noble and good.

By Lysa TerKeurst

Sometimes it can be really hard to keep our emotions in control on a daily basis. In Lysa’s new book, Unglued, she shares personal experience and scriptural wisdom to help us make right, godly and healthy decisions with our reactions. Click here to order your copy today!

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  1. 1

    This is so true, especially with the busy holiday shopping season approaching. I worked in call centers for years, and one kind person calling in could totally make a difference in how that hour of work went for me!
    I was in Wal-Mart earlier this week. As I looked at the long lines, I noticed very few employees had smiles. They were simply going through the motions, and taking the brunt of people’s complaints about the lines, and the wait, and everything else. Maybe this holiday season, we can make it a challenge to really spread His light! In check out lines, on the phone, where-ever we can!
    Loved this! Gives me a new conviction on my own heart!

  2. 3
    Beth Williams says:

    “My tone of voice made it clear just how frustrated I was.” I tend to do the same thing quite frequently. In the last few months I have vented and shown frustration a lot–even “blowing up” at work with a co-worker. Now I know this is not how Christians are supposed to act, but she got on my last nerve. Later that day we made up and I sent an apology card.

    That situation had little to do with her or work–just that life had been hard for me for a while with my aging dad having skin cancer, stomach issues, depression & general malaise–and work was becoming stressful. It was all too much for me to handle and the the cork came blew off.

    Now that dad is doing much much better–cancer gone, & depression eased with meds, and malaise almost gone–it is a much needed relief.

    I will strive this season and always to treat people with dignity and respect the same way i want to be treated and the way Jesus would handle things!

  3. 4

    I’m so guilty of being holier than thou too! I see my wicked ways and thank God for the reminders to clean it up!

    Loving UNGLUED, I’m reading it right now. Thanks Lysa!

  4. 5

    Ah yes…this has happened to me so many times. God shows me the very thing I judge in another, I do myself. What’s that expression? When you point one finger there are three pointing back at you. I remember when God started showing me this (or I first became aware of it). I had no children and I watched as a friend cut the crusts of her kids’ sandwiches. This seemed utterly ridiculous. What a way to spoil your child! I will never do that, I vowed. Then…I had my own kids and I realized, if I didn’t cut those darn crusts off, the kids left 1/2 their sandwich. Whereas if I did cut the crusts off, they ate the whole thing. I know it seems so silly…but God used that little object lesson to teach me not to judge!

  5. 6

    Thank you for this post. I was a receptionist for many years before I left the workforce to have my babies. People treated me like dirt to get what they wanted. I have been verbally abused and sexually harassed. I have been afraid that situations would escalate to physical violence. I have retreated to my boss’s office to hide from an out-of-control person, where I sat and cried and physically shook while my boss gallantly went out and kicked butt. It was awful what I put up with.

    The person behind the desk, the person on the other end of the phone, and yes, even the TSA agent on the security line – they are people just like you. They may not show it, but they have feelings. The reason their faces and voices are stone-cold is because they don’t want to break down and show how your words hurt them. They’re probably not working their dream job. They’re probably just trying to make ends meet, trying to provide for their family. They’re working late nights, weekends, and holidays, wishing they could be with their families instead.

    So please, be nice. People in positions like that have little to no power. They’re just following the rules and procedures that have been set for them.

    *Please be especially nice to school secretaries. It was when I worked at a school that I received the worst mistreatment from the parents of students. When my children reach school age I will always, always be nice to the lady behind the front desk. Because I’ve been there. And it can be a war zone.

  6. 7

    I READ THE ARTicle and have behaved in the same way. i don’t believe it to be a matter of judging another. i believe it to be a matter of wanting my own way and in the example a form of injustice. when i am duped so the other person gets their own way it is unjust. i tend to become frustrated and angry and want to defend myselfr when i have been dealt with in an unjust manner. although i believe it is ok to state my objections and point out the unjust action and god would not view that as judmental, it is not ok to do so in an angry, frustrated, hurtful way. it is ok to state the wrong and suggest how it can be corrected, but it is not ok to force that, all of which i have been guilty of. the other person on the other end is working for someone who is un scrupulous and so she is getting the bad end of the stick, it is just as unjust to her. the conviction for me is that we live in an unfair world with injustice, how would god want me to handle that? i think god wants me to trust his justice through faith. and i believe god would want me to speak the real truth over the situation plainly and give fair suggestions for both parties and then let it go into his hands. i also believe that god would want me to use my head and determine if i would want to do business with a company like that in the future. to me the bottom line is that lysa, it was unjust, that is the truth, but it was the way the unjustness was handled. it is ok to state when someone does something to us also. it is our response that matters. but you were treated unjust.

  7. 8

    I have always PRIDED MYSELF on my patience and lack of frustration! Lately, I have shown my true colors and am horrible! Your message spoke straight to my heart! Thank you!

  8. 9

    Thank you for this post, especially now with the holiday shopping approaching us. My daughter is a customer service rep and I am always shocked at the stories she tells me about how she is treated, mostly by women! She is only allowed to hang up the phone after she is cursed at 3 times, and she has to warn them. I don’t know how many times she has come home in tears, and then had to help the girls with homework, fix dinner, be a wife spend family time and get up and do it all again. She has been having panic attacks now about going in to work and we are trying to encourage her to just quit for her own health and safety. No one deserves to be treated like this just for following their company’s protocol. I always say it takes a lot more effort to be mean than it does to be nice, so just be nice!

    • 10

      One thing I’d like to add, just a little random act of kindness I like to do in this very busy time. If I’m in a really long line, say at Target or Walmart… I will pick up a candy bar and then give it to the checker, just tell him/her this is just a little something for you for your break. Really makes them smile!

    • 12

      What a great idea!

  9. 13

    The word “reaction” in realtion to me is usually preceded by “over”. Unfortunately, it’s hard in the midst of frustration to have that humble, fertile-soiled heart, and I’m a frequent failure. Thanks for this reminder. I appreciated the gentlen way the Holy Spirit convicted you, by mirroring your actions back to you. It’s his kindness, not his condemnation, that leads us to repentance!

  10. 14

    This has been on my mind a lot lately. Do I respond in a way that the person I’m talking to will know that I’m a Christian? Even more, how will my children follow my steps in relating to others?
    Whenever I think of someone being kind and gracious in a heated moment, it makes me pause and wonder when the last time was that I responded in that way. How convicting!

  11. 15

    Thanks for the great reminder that the people on the other end of the phone are SERVING US!! It’s so easy to forget, especially if things don’t go the way we want them to.

  12. 16

    I think the same thing is true of so-called “road rage.” When I consider the car that just cut me off “a jerk,” I’m thinking of the car as an obstacle to me achieving my goals. I’m not thinking of the driver as a person who is dearly loved by Jesus.

    When I can “catch” my self-ish reaction long enough to ask, “What’s caused me to cut people off in the past?” I am able to empathize with the all-too-human in the driver’s seat…and calm down.

  13. 17
    Vonessa Barker says:

    Thank you!!

  14. 18

    Hit me with a ton of bricks! I am the worlds worst about going off if I don’t think I am getting the customer service I deserve. Thanks for this post. Will stop next time, take a breath & smile my way thru it

  15. 19
    kimberlee says:

    There really are a few layers to what you have shared, Lysa. As I dwell on the frustration you share, I think of my frustrations that escalated after losing our daughter at birth. My 5YO’s frustrations had as well. When I would see her throw her tantrum bc I told her “no” she was acting out how my heart felt to God telling us “no.” Hearing “No” can hurt. And it is hard for some to not take personally. I realize it isn’t God holding back His good and perfect gift because He doesn’t love me, it’s because He has a better plan and I am not in the position to know all of His plans.

  16. 21

    Thank you very much for reminding me to always keep my emotiions in check no matter how frustrated I think I am

  17. 22

    This book looks fantastic, I am sure I would benefit great from reading it so plan to get myself a copy! I would be happy to review it on my blog if you like and I am currently doing a Massive Christmas Giveaway – perhaps you would like to contribute a couple of signed copies for this giveaway. On Saturday I will be giving away two signed copies of Christine Caines latest books – it’s all very exciting.
    xxxx

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