Some people I just can’t be mad at. How would you respond?

A coworker quoted the bible to me a few days ago. We were having a very vague conversation about politics and I admitted to her that I don’t feel like a democrat or a republican. I just don’t fit with either. (If you’re curious, I tend to be very progressive and wish we didn’t have a two-party system. We need better choices! I didn’t tell her that though.) She agreed with not fitting in and said a bible quote about unity, and while I agreed with the quote, I really don’t think it should be said at work. Guys, she even said, “god sayeth…”. This is a common occurrence at work, and it often enrages me. However, this coworker really is the sweetest lady. She’s very short and very pregnant right now. She’s just an adorable little meatball. She wasn’t pushy about the bible quote, and it made sense with what we were talking about, so I said nothing. I know this shouldn’t be happening at work. We probably shouldn’t have discussed politics even though it was very vague.

I know nothing will change if I don’t open my mouth, but I just can’t be mad at her. Guys, what if she was the one who hung up the faith poster?

Have you ever had that happen? When you want to be offended by someone saying inappropriate things, but at the same time it feels harmless? Maybe it was harmless, but at the same time, it reminded me of how out of place I feel at the office sometimes. I love my job, but I’m definitely uncomfortable around my coworkers at times. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Would you have said anything?


  1. Katydid says

    Whew, that’s a tough one. The part of the country you live in and the intention behind the words combined makes it hard for me to give advice, so I don’t have a good answer for you. On the one hand, I think she meant well (you’ll tell me if I’m wrong, but that’s the sense I got from your description). On the other hand, it’s terribly unfair of you to have to listen to that talk all the frickin’ time when you don’t share the belief.

    In my part of the country, if someone were to speak that way to me, I’d counter with, “And the Flying Spaghetti Monster says…[whatever, even if I was just making it up on the spot].” But that’s (barely) acceptable in my area. Likely not yours.

    I do suspect she’s the author of the religious poster on the wall. And have you put up your poster yet? If you want to keep anonymity after you put the poster up, I’d let the religious words go in one ear and out the other–in other words, put the poster up and lay low to see how they take it. There’s nobody as thin-skinned as the religious.

    100% agree it’s not fair and it others you. That’s one reason why that kind of talk should not go on in the office.

    • ashes says

      Thank you for your comment. I haven’t put up the poster, and I doubt that I will. While I think it’s cute, I’m pretty sure the rest of the office is going to be offended. I really love my job, and I don’t want to get in trouble. But yes, it feels very unfair.

  2. billseymour says

    Like you, I can’t get angry at, or even disrespect, decent folks just because we disagree about metaphysics.

    I remember a time back when I was still gainfully employed.  One of our testers was a really sweet woman who was also a Bible believer and one who loved Jesus (no need for scare quotes there, it was genuine).  Her husband was a Baptist preacher, probably with a very small congregation, because he also had a day job as a computer programmer.  There were several times when she was very helpful to me, finding bugs in my code before the boss found out about them 8-); and I always thanked her in team meetings.

    On one occasion, she remarked about my St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap; and I said that, although I really like the red one, I was thinking about getting a blue one since folks who didn’t see the S-T-L monogram and saw only the red baseball cap might think that I wanted to “make America hate again.”  She thought that was funny.

    Real people are really complicated.  (As I’ve said on my own blog, that’s probably why I became a programmer:  machines are so much easier to understand.)


    While I appreciate your quandary, and agree that this does not require a response, I also see a challenge if I reframe the issue as ” in private conversations at work, should I be intolerant of others who express different religious beliefs than my own?”

    • ashes says

      Good point! It was actually a really nice conversation and I feel a little closer to her because of it. If it was just a one-time thing in private, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me at all. What bugs me most is that I deal with this all the time at work, to the point where I’m afraid to just be myself. Most of my coworkers are very vocal Christians, and I don’t think it ever crosses their mind that someone might believe differently. Majority rules, I guess, and I’m left feeling ostracized.

  4. billseymour says

    I guess I might have misunderstood the main thrust of your post.  Sorry if I hijacked your comment thread with my little story @2.

  5. John Morales says

    I’m guessing the quotation was not Luke 14:26. 🙂

    Can’t really answer your question, other than to say that it would depend very much on who, where, how, and history.

  6. Bruce says

    If you were one month away from retirement, I would encourage you to speak up.
    But in the real world where you live, I would encourage you to avoid the topic with anyone connected with anyone at work, even if it’s just in passing at the grocery store. So please be equally chatty with your coworker, if you can get the conversation to either work or anything else nonreligious. Otherwise, minimize your time talking with her.
    If some third person gets an impression that you made her sad, the third person might suggest to the boss that the site would be happier without you being there. Don’t make enemies at work, just because of a desire to be honest. Good luck.
    I hope random chance operates in your favor.

  7. xohjoh2n says

    @2 billseymour:

    There were several times when she was very helpful to me, finding bugs in my code before the boss found out about them

    Oh, you had a bad boss?

    (Having just finished Chapterhouse Dune, I remember a section about how a particularly low number of mistakes in a department is deeply suspicious, it indicates deceit and cheating. Mistakes are to be corrected, not punished, but coverups need to be rooted out vigorously. Of course these days everything goes through the bugtracker anyway so there’s no point in hiding, and saying “this guy found my bug, and I fixed it the same day” makes us both look good.)

  8. Prax says

    If you’re not mad at her, ashes, I don’t see a reason to force yourself to be mad. But you mentioned that other coworkers’ quoting the bible often enrage you, so maybe it’d be helpful to examine why your reactions are so different. Is it just that you find this woman personable and nonthreatening? Or is it the way she presented the quote? Or the choice of quote itself?

    If you find a significant factor, it might make it easier to define and then communicate your boundaries about acceptable speech. You can even use this woman to help you with the second task–mention that you usually don’t appreciate people hitting you with Bible quotes, then offer her your appreciation for doing it “differently.” If she actually cares about your comfort, she may well dial down the quotes herself and quietly encourage your coworkers to change their language when you’re around. And if she doesn’t care about your comfort, well, then she’s not actually “the sweetest lady” and you can stop worrying about hurting your feelings! (I mean, maybe you would still worry. I would. But you don’t have to.)

    Personally, I enjoy talking religion as long as it’s not an angry argument, so I tend to react to faith-based statements by getting all perky and cheerful and “well, as an atheist, here’s how I see things, and look at how much common ground we end up with in our goals and values!” People who were trying to convert me generally give up and go away at that point, and if they don’t I feel justified in no longer rewarding them with my attention. People who weren’t trying to convert me usually take the hint and just focus on the “goals and values” part in subsequent conversations.

    I gotta have the spoons to be perky and cheerful in the first place, though, and they aren’t always available. And some believers read any expression of impatience or exhaustion as a sign that I need even more Jesus. For them, I have no solution.

  9. billseymour says

    xohjoh2n:  I actually had a very good boss; I was trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to be funny.

  10. Katydid says

    @Bruce; some people can turn anything into a talk about their Christian beliefs. E.g. “Good morning, I hope you had a nice weekend.” –“Yes, thanks to Lord Jesus, God smiled down upon me and God gave me one more day on his earth to glorify him and his works!”

  11. says

    Have you ever had that happen? When you want to be offended by someone saying inappropriate things, but at the same time it feels harmless?

    I had a great conversation with a devout Muslim friend, in which I taught him the basic tenets of Mormonism. We both had a good laugh. Then he asked me what I believed, and I said I was a Nietzschean nihilist and offered to teach him the basic tenets of not believing, but he decided he had something else he’d rather do, since nihilism sounds a lot like apostasy. Well, they do both have an ‘s’ in the name.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *