6 Lessons I Learned From Getting Fired.

A little less than 2 months ago I was suddenly fired from the church I served with on the Northside of Indianapolis. While I won’t go into the details of the firing, I’ll only say that I did nothing morally or ethically wrong. It simply came down to a difference in philosophy. In the weeks that have followed I’ve learned several important lessons about life, my family, and the world around me.

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It’s not really the firing itself that gets you. You’re kind of numb when you walk out of the room the moment after it happens. You can’t really think straight. It’s the day after, and the day after that, that are especially painful. It’s the thoughts you have as you wake up to the realization. It’s the moment it sinks in, after a few days, or a week, that causes the most nausea. It’s the rush of emotions that sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Embarrassment. Anger. Frustration. Loneliness. Pain. Desperation.

Over the course of your adult life you play out in your mind how you think a situation like this would go down if it were to happen to you. You play out whom you will talk to and what you will say. You envision telling your wife and your children the painful news. You wonder how you’ll recover, how your family will survive, and whether or not you can pay for health insurance on your own!

You also learn a lot about yourself when you have a moment to breathe and take stock of life. You learn that you’re not invincible, people are going to fail you, and nothing in this world is guaranteed. I’ve learned so much I could write a book. Maybe I will someday. For now, however, here are 6 lessons I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. I missed my family. I love the church. Always have, and I always will. But it can be an all-consuming place at times. If you’re a regular congregant and not part of your church’s staff, you don’t always see it like this. Of course there’s a personal balance that every person must seek. You choose how much time you give to your job verses the time you give to your family.  The demands of ministry are large. At times it’s a juggling act. It’s the reality of caring for broken people in a broken world. In any case, I missed my wife and kids. For the past 13 years I have missed so many important moments with them. Losing my “day job” has given me the chance to be with them and reconnect. It has helped re-prioritize my life. I’m not saying that losing your job is the way to achieve this. If you have a job you love, don’t quit to make this happen. But, take a moment to look at your priorities. Mine were a wreck. Something had to give.
  2. Integrity wins. Several years ago I watched a close friend go through a divorce. One day his wife told him she didn’t love him anymore and left. It was incredibly painful. He wasn’t perfect but he wasn’t at fault either. I was amazed as I watched him walk this hellish road. He kept his composure, only speaking openly and with transparency to a very small circle of trusted friends. When he was faced with tough decisions and moments of confrontation, he spoke gently, but firmly and he surrounded himself with accountability. He maintained his integrity through the entire process. I was told later on, by one of his superiors, that his integrity saved him. What I learned from him, and what I’ve learned from getting fired is that integrity always wins. If you keep your integrity, through the darkest moments, you will win. Nothing formed against you will stand. As a flesh and blood human being, I’ve felt the urge to lash out, write a nasty email, and call people on the carpet, but I haven’t, and I won’t. I believe in living by integrity.
  3. Nothing is guaranteed in this world. It’s been said that the only 2 guarantees in this world are death and taxes. As a Christ-follower I believe the hope I have in Jesus is the biggest guarantee but I agree on the other 2 also. No material possession, or career is forever. Nothing we own will go with us when we die. So, hold loosely to the things of this world. Hold tightly to your family, your friends, and the things that really matter.
  4. My calling is clear. There’s no question, this has brought my calling into focus. I love to write and connect with parents around the world. This blog was already doing that but now it’s on a larger scale. I’m excited for the future. I’m excited for the opportunity to reach frustrated, overwhelmed and tired parents with a message of hope!
  5. My kids love having me around. They’ve asked me a few times, “Do you have to go to work?” and I answer them happily, “No, I work from home now, remember?” They smile. It warms my heart. They missed their dad, and I missed them. They love having me around and, frankly, I don’t want to trade that. I love being with my kids everyday!
  6. Sometimes life is unfair! When you least expect it, life can slap you in the face. It’s the nature of being a human being. We are never promised that the road will rise to meet us, nor are we promised that everything will go exactly how we planned it. It’s quite the opposite. In this world, unfairness runs ramped and we have no other choice but to accept that and live the best life we can in-spite. Anything else will drive us crazy.

Bitter Or Better?

When the unfairness of life hits us, we’re faced with a choice on how we continue to live. Bitter, filled with angst toward an unfair world? Or, better, choosing to live life to the fullest everyday? It’s a decision that has come into focus for me through this experience. In fact, it came into focus for me just a few days after I was let go. We decided to attend a large church closer to our home. Ironically, the title of the message that morning was, “Life Is Unfair.” Yes, God has a sense of humor :-).

I will never forget something the preacher said toward the end of his message- “You can choose to let your tough life circumstance make you bitter. Or you can choose to let it make you better.”

His words pierced my heart. “That’s absolutely right,” I whispered to myself. My choice: Better! All the way.

Re-Inventing Myself.

I’ve discovered some valuable truth from this whole experience: this is a chance to re-invent myself. A few weeks ago I met my friend Chad at a local Starbucks. As we usually do when we meet, we talked about life, the church, Ohio State football, and our families. We also talked about getting fired. As I gave him the detailed version, he looked at me and said, “Maybe this is a chance to re-invent yourself?”

Those words spun in my mind as I drove home that afternoon. He was right. This is my chance, I thought.

I’m not going to say that everything turns up peachy after you’re fired, because it doesn’t. Just three days after it happened I had one of the saddest days of my life. It was hard. I wanted to give up. In fact, I’ve had a few of those days over the past 2 months. I’m also not going say that miraculously, awesome opportunities suddenly started beating my door down, because they didn’t. The opportunities I have are the opportunities I’ve created. There’s no substitute for hard work. No one else re-invents me. Only I can do this!

What I will say is this: There’s hope! If you’ve got breath in your lungs and a heartbeat in your chest, you’ve got hope. You can overcome this and move forward. The reason I know? It’s simple: I’m living proof.

Yes, I got fired! Yes, it hurt! Frankly, it was awful. But I believe in a God who has never left my side, and I believe in myself. I love my family and I know they are with me on this journey. It won’t be easy, but we will succeed!

Question: Have you experienced this personally, or know someone who has? What lessons did you (or they) learn? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • terri hopton

    Amazing Mike Berry! I’ll be praying for you as you “reinvent” yourself. I’m sure God has great plans! for you! Can’t wait to see how HE works!

    • Terri, thanks for your encouragement and kind words.

  • Allisonm

    Yes, I have experienced it, only they called it being laid off. Same difference. It was God doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. I had to reinvent myself, too. Most of that was discovering more about the way God sees me–as a masterpiece of His creativity and grace. Resilience calls us to ask how God can be glorified in these situations and what these situations now make possible that might not have been possible before. Yet juxtaposed with our hope is the grief over the losses and the stresses inherent in any transition.

    I’m glad you were able to write about your experience and look forward to the perspective that it will bring to your blogging.

    • Allison, thanks so much for your comment. I am with you- I believe that God is moving in a powerful and unique way. Appreciate your words!

  • Billy

    Still trying to let go of being bitter. I know God’s got me and my family. And I don’t question where I am now. In fact, I rejoice in it.
    But it is so hard to maintain the integrity and not seek justice.
    And the pain of seeing people close to us not stand up publicly to match what they say privately about the situation is beyond disheartening.
    I know I left the right way. But the outright lies and mistruths that forced me out – even though it also was NOT a moral issue – well, like I said – still not able to let go of the bitterness.

    • Billy, the hardest part of going through something like this is maintaining integrity and trusting an unseen hand. I know the difficulty. It tough for flesh and blood humans to hold it together. Stay strong though. Integrity wins. Thanks so much for your honesty and transparency. Praying for you bro!

  • Connie Harris

    Dan and I went thru a firing many years ago. It was just before Christmas with two children and one on the way. I don’t even remember how we got thru Christmas . Everything seems to blurr. Dan took another job unrelated to his field . It at least paid bills . A year later a job came up in his field and he was hired . YA then came the training process he was away from home every week and home on weekends . If we only knew how that would affect our kids . I became a single parent with a spouse . If we had taken the time to re-invent ourselves dans relationship with our girls may have been better. You and your family are awesome and I can’t wait to see how you re-invent yourselves

    • Connie, oh my goodness, that is tough to hear. I know that had to be hard on Dan. And you as well. Thanks for your encouraging words. We appreciate it. And thanks for sharing openly here.

  • MaMeex5

    First of all I want to say I am sorry to hear that you have another burden added to your shoulders. I also want to say that your honesty in your story and journey has been so helpful to me as I walk a similar journey with kids from hard places. Your posts seem to speak to something we have encountered or struggled with in our own home. For so long we felt we walked our path alone so to have someone share a similar story makes the walk not so lonely. While I wouldn’t wish the struggles of kiddos from hard places on any one, it is so nice to know that we must not be doing it totally wrong as others are walking a similar path. I wish you peace and a guiding light on your new journey. I feel you are destined for bigger and better things helping people who often feel they are so alone in their journey. You made a difference before and I bet you will keep doing that.

    My husband had a brain tumor 2 years ago. Less than a year after his surgery he was asked to step down from his position. It was so hard to watch him deal with all that entailed especially after what he had just went through. He handled with great integrity that impressed me so much. Now I will say he is where he is happier, doing more of what he loves and less of what he didn’t like. I think he is still has a touch of bitter from the process but I think he being happier and loving what he does help make it less bitter every day.

    • Wow! I am overwhelmed as I read this. Thank you so much for your encouraging words and your courage to share some of your story. You are definitely not alone.

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  • wim

    I went through the same ordeal six months ago. Although I love God and is infatuated with Jesus, I still find that I’m bitter at night when I wake up. I work hard and with enthusiasm on everything that comes across my path but is haunted with the negative thought that I messed up my life. I’m 59 years old. I am fortunate to have been appointed as a teacher at one of the local schools starting January.

    • So glad you have landed in a good place but I am sorry to hear that you’ve struggled with bitterness. That is the hard part about going through something like this. Hang in there.

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  • Sandra bowman

    This happened to me about six weeks ago. It has been such a blessing. I’m now able to work part time doing what I’m passionate about (child advocate), am home to pick my son up from school, and I can arrange my summer schedule so there will be no daycare for my son this summer. We will be doing pool days, camping, traveling etc. Homeschooling may even be in our future. I didn’t reinvent myself God is molding me in to what he wants me to be. Getting fired is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Crazy huh.

    • Sandra, I found my firing to be a huge blessing too. I really never looked back and the only thing I missed was the income. In the months since I have begun writing and speaking full-time and love it. It is crazy to think that getting fired is a blessing but that’s how God works! Thanks for your comment.

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