Before going to the field, I used to watch skin divers from the beach in Southern California. Some could stay down mere seconds before coming up for air, and others (my husband among them) would stay down a full two minutes without resurfacing, with my fears mounting as the seconds ticked by.

The same sort of thing is true on the global worker field. Some global workers can “submerge” themselves in a culture and never seem to need to “resurface.” Others need to come out of the culture often to regroup.

It is easy for the person who can stay submerged longer to feel superior, even to criticize those who can’t. And those less gifted may criticize their “workaholic partner who is headed for burn-out.” But instead, this is the time to “clothe yourself with compassion, humility, gentleness and patience. And to bear with each other and forgive grievances” (Col. 3:12, 13). The time may come when you will need to change places, either to stay submerged or to refresh yourself outside the culture more than you do now. Perhaps even now with her shorter amount of time in the culture, your coworker is able to get done exactly what the Lord has planned for her to accomplish.

The list of actions we can criticize is endless…boarding school and home school, sleeping patterns and spending patterns, work patterns and use of leisure time, philosophies of ministry, language ability or the lack of same, and so on.

My friend Cathie was directing a global worker training school and noticed that a candidate, Denise, was showing up late for class, often missing chapel. Cathie talked with Denise about her attendance and got a weak answer about not feeling well. This went on for some time and one day with a full head of steam, Cathie prepared to confront Denise. Then Cathie felt a check in her spirit from the Lord.

The other candidates (most with little children) grumbled about why they had to be in class on time if Denise (who was single) didn’t. Cathie never felt freedom in her spirit to talk with Denise again about this issue.

We think we know all the factors and can intelligently evaluate situations, but God says we don’t know enough to judge people accurately. We are to refrain from criticizing others precisely because we don’t know all the facts. God has information we don’t, as 1 Cor. 4:5 indicates. He knows motives. He knows what He has assigned and He knows what He’s given the person to work with. We don’t know any of these.

Everyone at the candidate school thought they knew all the facts in Denise’s case. But they didn’t. Not at all. Sometimes the factors aren’t ever ours to know.

How could the other global worker candidates have handled this situation better? James 2:13 makes it clear that mercy triumphs over judgment.

Assuming the best of our fellow workers is one of the healthiest reactions we can have to their actions that disturb us. Making your first thought one of grace, assuming that others have a good reason for what they do (or don’t do), goes a long way in keeping up good team relations. If you find out otherwise, there is almost always time to take any necessary steps.

We all want to be judged kindly by others, so we need to be sure we are extending the same courtesy to them. Matt. 7 warns us that by the kind of judgment we judge others, we ourselves will be judged.

If we are working hard and others aren’t, it makes our ministry harder. It is painful to endure, but God does a better job of evaluating and correcting if we leave things to Him and to our leaders to straighten out.

Some of us have energy to spare—bouncy, exuberant, get-it-done type “cheerleader” energy. Others barely have energy to make it through the day. God has blessed us all in many ways and handicapped most of us in some ways. If you are blessed with high energy and get a lot done in a day, thank the Lord for that gift. But don’t look down on your sister who may appear lazy because she can’t keep up with you. She may be doing the best she can with what God has given her.

I don’t have much energy. I never have. It is easy for me to get down on myself when I see what others accomplish in a day. I can be envious and jealous and wonder how they do it. But just like judging others harshly is counter-productive, so 2 Cor. 10:12 states firmly that it is unwise for us to criticize ourselves or compare ourselves with others. I may not have my coworker’s energy, but God has gifted me in other ways.

There are too many varying factors in all of our lives to make comparisons. When two things are impossible or inappropriate to compare, we say, “That’s comparing apples to oranges.” Human beings are far more complicated than apples and oranges. We’d have to know every factor of an individual’s life, seen and unseen, to evaluate another person properly. That kind of knowledge is called omniscience, and only One has it.

Some women have organizational skills, of which they may not even be aware, that help them handle several children, keep up the home and have others over for meals. Some women are not blessed with those skills and have to work hard just to keep up with a small apartment and one child.

Some of us came from homes where our moms didn’t teach us how to work well or prepare us for marriage and life. Thank the Lord if you got such life training at home, but let God work with your sister who is not similarly blessed. Be ready to help her and, if asked, offer tips that have helped you. We, global women, might paraphrase Romans 14:10 and 12 this way, “Why do you judge your sister? Or why do you look down on your sister? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. So then each of us will give an account of herself to God.”

Remember, you are not responsible for a coworker’s ministry, her emotions or her reactions. Encourage one another and build each other up. Compliment when you can. God will judge her by her actions and motives, just as He will you.

Some of us have husbands who help with the children and the housework, freeing us to be more a part of the ministry. But some do not. This one factor can make a gigantic difference in how free we are to minister outside of our homes. Behind the doors of your coworker’s house may reside a frazzled woman trying to do it all herself. She may keep house and raise children virtually alone.

Some children may have trouble in school ( a learning disability perhaps) necessitating more of mother’s help. Some children are just harder to raise.

Women in these situations don’t need a critical spirit, but encouragement. Wholesome words from you might build up a coworker, and make your friendship a benefit.

Differences in our spiritual gifts have created ridiculous tensions between us ever since the Holy Spirit started dispensing them, as Paul lamented in his letters to the Corinthians. Some have upfront skills and may appear to be doing more than the quiet one behind the scenes who ensures that an event goes smoothly. Another coworker is a “people person” spending time with individuals. Scriptures assure us of the value of all of the gifts. Maybe you are the Bible teacher and “all” your coworker does is have a quiet ministry with widows and orphans. God does not judge by outward appearance and neither should we (I Sam 16:7, Gal. 2:6).

Phil. 2:3 urges us to consider others better than ourselves.

I’ve seen global workers “eat and devour” each other over sleeping patterns. One liked to get up early and go to bed early and another went to bed late (as was the cultural custom where they were) and got up late like the people did. The one who got up early felt superior to the one who really was more in tune with the local culture, as though Ben Franklin’s adage “early to bed, early to rise…” was a biblical proverb and not merely an American one.

Taking the plank out of our own eye before we attempt to help a coworker with her splinter (Mt. 7:3-5) could keep us busy enough to not even notice how much she “needs” our correction.

One abiding truth that will help us keep our focus where it should be is that we are to serve the Lord with a whole heart and do our ministry for Him, rather than anyone else.

More and more global workers come from broken homes, from one-parent families or from homes that didn’t function well. Some come to the field racked with invisible pain from childhood. A huge factor in functioning well or poorly in life and ministry comes from the type of childhood God allowed us to have. Those who had wonderful parents and childhoods need to be thankful to God and mindful that our coworkers may not have been so fortunate.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Romans 2:1) Ouch. That scripture fits the adage that if you are pointing a finger at someone, you have three pointing back at you.

God never seems to put a good face on judging each other. In fact, He seems to indicate that we say more about ourselves when we criticize others.

I’m not diminishing the need for global worker supervisors to set clear assignments, hold people accountable, and manage with good stewardship. The time may come when you should say something to your coworker or say something about your coworker to their supervisor who has asked you. Then you need to speak the truth about what have you have observed. Just be careful to speak in love, and avoid comments about the person’s motives, which you cannot see.

Sometimes it is a matter of finances. Some global workers receive their pay in full each month and some live not knowing from month to month what will come in for them to live on. If finances aren’t sufficient, then their ministry will likely be curtailed. Your coworkers may not want to admit to you why they can’t do their part of the ministry.

Or it may be a matter of health difficulties. Lots of illnesses do not show overtly. Headaches or anemia or some tropical diseases do their destruction silently. Many are reluctant to share their woes with others, and your coworker may not feel free to share medical problems with you.

A proverb attributed to Native Americans advises, “Walk a mile in my moccasins before you pass judgment.”

How humbling it would be to get to heaven and find out that the reason for your ministry success was the constant prayers of your coworker whom you thought was not pulling her weight in the ministry.

A global worker told a group of us newbies about a time when he was chafing under a difficult supervisor and coworker. He poured out his complaint to a wise older saint, who listened politely until asked what he should do. “Breathe through your nose and carry on,” the elder answered as he stood to end the conversation.

As for Denise, the global worker candidate who was often late to class, weeks later Cathie understood why the Lord encouraged her not to criticize. Denise was diagnosed with incurable cancer and was with the Lord in a short time.

To this day Cathie is grateful that she listened to the Lord, took the criticism from the other women, and protected Denise from it.

© 2005 Thrive


View the original print magazine where this article was 1st published.