Taking on airs

by Stan Mitchell

“Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up. A slave when he becomes king, and a fool who is full of food; an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress” (Proverbs 30:21-23, ESV).

It was Barry Goldwater who said: “The United States is a wonderful country where anyone can grow up to be president … except me.”

We like the idea that in America, anyone who works hard will get ahead. But it doesn’t always work like that.

Josh had worked hard in his firm for twenty years. His first job was right out of high school doing errands. He didn’t have the college training some of the others had, but he made up for it in long hours and effort. When his boss offered him the plant manager job, no one was surprised; he had earned the chance. Here was a rags-to-riches story that should have warmed the heart.

But he surprised his colleagues by becoming dictatorial and unreasonable. The people he managed began to fiercely resent his high-handed manner. He began to wear eight hundred dollar suits and drive fancy cars.

Clearly the promotion had gone to his head. It shouldn’t have, because he of all people should have known what it was like for the ordinary folk, the ones who sweated on the workshop floors, the ones who were just starting out with families at the bottom end of the rung.

Within a year management realized their mistake, and Josh was transferred to a branch in North Dakota, the business’ version of the Siberian salt mines.

Like a servant who becomes king, then takes on “airs,” or an old maid who suddenly becomes a bride, then treats her new husband with disdain, Josh had allowed his good fortune to go to his head. He had forgotten where he came from.

As Will Rogers once said, even a president is nothing more than “our hired help.”

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