Monday, October 16, 2006
"The Office" Spiritual Lessons or Happy Boss's Day, 2006
So the only TV show I make a point of watching regularly now is “The Office.” I’m hardly alone, I know, but I’ll bet few other people ended up being spiritually enlightened by last week’s episode.
Briefly, the guy we love to hate, Michael Scott, was grieving the death of the former Scranton branch manager, Ed Truck, Michael’s predecessor. Michael was disturbed at the lack of emotion from the staff toward their former manager. The underlying theme was that Michael realized he might not be missed either, should he pass, and he became morose (hysterically morose, though) and cripplingly afraid of dying alone, emotionally speaking. Pam eventually found a way to sympathetically address Michael’s fear without his discernment. I don’t know how the writers did it, but they made the viewer feel some-–gulp—tenderness—toward the most boorish character on TV. The guy we love to hate turned into the guy we hate lovingly. There is a difference.
Michael Scott is the narcissist of the universe. It’s so easy to criticize his obvious lack of confidence and immaturity masked in obnoxious bravado. I sit there and do it every week. He is disgustingly funny. “Wow,” I think. “Glad I’m not like him!”
“Oh really? We’ll address that later.”
Hey, who said that?
Steve Carell makes this show, but more and more I’m drawn in by the supporting characters, who seem to exist on the periphery but actually move the show along every week, contributing some of the funniest moments. I particularly notice Phyllis, the modest, humble worker who is plain looking, plain speaking and plain honest.
She had the winning line this week, as far as I’m concerned. In Michael’s forced grief management meeting, he tossed around one of those collapsible, springy balls made up of connectors. Whoever had the ball had permission to speak. Michael’s plans were thwarted by a less than enthusiastic group, which led him to finally shout, “What’s wrong with you? This isn’t a game, is it?” to which Phyllis quietly and sincerely replied, “Well, it is a ball.”
Allow me a spiritual stretch: Michael and Phyllis are studies in contrast. He is loud and overbearing, impatient, envious, boastful, prideful, rude, self-seeking, insistent on having his own way, thoughtful of himself first, only allowing any goodness to trickle down from the top. In essence, he is the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13. Phyllis appears to embody many of the beatitudes: meekness, purity, peace-making, humility, and is often undeservedly persecuted.
Now, I know I’m pushing the scriptural application a little bit, but it all just hit me out of the blue: “Who am I more like, Michael, or Phyllis?”
(Oh . . . here’s where we’re going to address that little statement I made above.)
Honestly, I have to admit: Michael. For instance, I like to receive credit for my ideas at work, be acknowledged. I like the approval of my supervisors. I’m impatient with co-workers and family. Sometimes, I’m not such a good team player. And concerning any decision, my initial response, although I may not be aware of it in the moment is, “How will this affect me?”
I want to be more like Phyllis. Or maybe even Jesus. You know, the type of person who doesn’t automatically put herself first. Who looks out for other’s needs. Who shines the spotlight on others. Who does her job quietly and contentedly. Who is faithful in behavior and spirit concerning every area of life, even when she’s stuffing hundreds of envelopes in her own Dunder Mifflin cubicle.
The characters in “The Office” are like giant children, barely able to contain tantrums and mask true motivations. We, the third eye, see it all. Is this the way God sees us—right through us—and loves us anyway? Guess so. And we, all of us mainly Michael Scotts, are the unlikely characters whom God loves to love, in spite of being blatantly unlovable.