Facing Unemployment Together
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Dale Kreienkamp talks about the realities of being unemployed. His wife, Deb, shares what she felt as she watched her husband struggle and tells what she did to support him in this uncertain season.
Facing Unemployment Together
Bob: For most of us, a big part of our identity/how we see ourselves is tied to the work we do. If the work we do/the job we have goes away, then who are we? Here’s author Dale Kreienkamp.
Dale: It’s a struggle for people, because we are wrapped up in our job; our job is us. When you cared about the work you did, you cared about the people you worked with; and someone made a decision to take that away from you—it’s just really hard; there’s a lot of pain that goes with that. It’s kind of the part where you have to remember, even though you don’t feel that way, “Hey, I’m not junk. It’s not who I am; it’s whose I am. God created me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 27th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a lot we have to process and have to recalibrate when we lose a job. Among those things, we have to think about who we are. We’re going to talk about that, and more, with Dale Kreienkamp today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think the word of the year for me, over the last six, seven, eight months: “disorienting.” Everything in life has felt unstable. You just look around at the world we’re living in, and things that used to be predictable are not predictable anymore. Things you used to be able to depend on you’re not sure you can depend on those things anymore. You thought you had a pretty good idea of what tomorrow would look like; now you don’t have any idea what tomorrow’s going to look like. I think all of us are in a season of upheaval.
We’re talking this week about those people who have experienced that upheaval in a more direct sense because, for a lot of our listeners, the job they had ten months ago is not what they’re doing today.
Dave: Yes; I was thinking the word for me is “uncertain.”
Dave: I mean, you’re never really certain, even though we think we are, in our lives; but this last six months—right?—
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: —you wake up and you don’t know what the day, or the world, or the future is going to be. It’s scary.
Bob: When you don’t have equilibrium/when you’re going, “Is the floor going to shake on me?” when you step out of bed, it’s hard to know how to function.
Ann: It feels insecure. That never is a great feeling when you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Bob: We’re talking this week to an old friend of mine, Dale Kreienkamp, who is with us on FamilyLife Today; welcome.
Dave: Old friend means high school classmates.
Ann: High school buddies!
Bob: That’s right; we were part of the Class of ’74 at Kirkwood High School—
Dave: Wait, wait, wait. You have a song? Is there a fight song?
Bob: Well, I know—
Dave: I mean, we have one from our high school; you have to have one.
Dale: There was an alma mater.
Dave: Okay; do you know what it is?
Bob: “Hail Kirkwood High School, unto thee we sing,”—do you know this?—“Ever victorious, homage we bring. Through all the ages, all our sons so bold, fight under Kirkwood High School; fight for the red and white.” There you go.
Dave: Wow; impressive! [Laughter]
Dale: I’d have joined in, but I can’t sing well. [Laughter] On a mic on radio wouldn’t be pretty.
Ann: I saw you mouthing the words, though.
Dale: Yes, we knew them.
Bob: Dale and his wife Deb are with us. Deb, welcome.
Deb: Thank you.
Bob: Deb didn’t go to Kirkwood High, so she can’t join in. She went to Lutheran High, so I don’t know if you had an alma mater that you want to sing for us.
Deb: I do not want to sing it, but we did have one. [Laughter]
Bob: Dale has, for 40 years, been an HR professional, most of it in the medical field; right?—
Bob: —and has recently written a devotional book for people, who have been displaced—a book called How Long, O Lord, How Long?—to help people through the transition that comes when the job you had is not your job anymore. You were both a displacer and a displaced person—right?—
Dale: I was.
Bob: —twice in your career—
Bob: —that you got displaced?
Bob: You described for us earlier the one experience: where it was six words, and the guy leaves the office, and you’re having to process it all on your own. What about the other displacement that happened for you?
Dale: It was a little bit different; but it ended up with a conversation with: “This isn’t going to work; we’re going to eliminate your job.” At that point in time, I’d been around it long enough to know that trying to argue to save it isn’t going to do it.
Bob: Yes; can I confess?—that in my situation, I entertained thoughts of sabotage and destruction for the people who had let me go. I mean, there’s part of the flesh that just wants to: “…prove you wrong,” and “…prove you just made a big mistake,” and “…undermine what you’re trying to do, and have you fail.”
Ann: I want to say that, sometimes, the spouse feels that even more.
Deb: I was thinking that too. It’s more that you’re angry at: “Did they not see how good he is and all he’s done for them?”
Ann: Exactly, and you want to go tell them. That’s what I feel like: “Do you have any idea who you just let go?”
Deb: That’s right; that’s right.
Ann: Yes; so Deb, what was it like for you, even as a spouse?— because so many of our spouses are going through this. How did you support Dale? What’s that look like?
Deb: My support for him changed a lot through it because of all the emotions that he went through. The hardest one to support was his identity—that when he doesn’t feel like he is anyone, that he’s not worthy, he’s not—
Ann: —good enough.
Deb: —good enough for anything—I think that’s the hardest one. That’s such an emotion inside him, and you can’t do anything; you can’t say: “But you’re good, honey,” “But you’re smart, honey.” You can’t change that.
Dave: That doesn’t really help?
Deb: No; no.
Bob: Well, your wife’s a partisan—she’s paid to say those kinds of—I mean, and you go, “You’re a biased objector.” You need the external validation; you want the company to say, “You’re really great”; because your wife says that—
Ann: That’s what I’m saying: “A spouse doesn’t do any good. What should we do?”
Deb: And you can’t control anything that’s happening to him. He gets a phone call and he’s up because of his job offer; and then, you know, two days later, he gets emails, saying, “We’re not interesting”; and you just dive. You’re just on this emotional roller coaster with him. You have to—your emotions have to almost take a step back. You have to deal with his emotions, and not your emotions at that time; because his emotions are so strong.
Bob: I think that’s a great point, because a spouse is having his or her own set of emotions/insecurities: “Where’s the money going to come from?” or “How is this going to work?”; and yet, you’re there to be a partner and a support for your spouse. You’re trying to process your own fears, your own anger, your own grief; but you’re also trying to be a support for your spouse in the midst of all of this.
Ann: I’m wondering if there’s a time—if it’s gone on for quite awhile—that the spouse, at one point, says, “Hey, what about me over here? It’s been all about you and your pain.” Is there a point where a spouse thinks that?
Deb: I think you think that. The second part of that is that nobody ever cares for the spouse themselves. I did have a wonderful sister-in-law and a good friend, who were really good to me during that time; but for the most part, you know, they don’t think anything’s happening to the spouse—you know, “Not a big deal.” But dealing with him/dealing with your spouse, and then dealing with your family, and keeping things all on an even keel—it’s hard.
Ann: What were you going through, Deb?
Deb: I’ve always been the person who was the cheerleader in the group. He’s the extrovert; I’m the introvert. I love supporting him, but sometimes you just lose yourself. You completely lose who you are; because all your energy goes into that spouse, who needs so much, because he’s going through so many emotions. It’s a day by day up and down. I always said, “It’s a rollercoaster that you’re on. You and your spouse—or you and a friend—are the only ones that are on that rollercoaster. You don’t know when the dips are coming; you don’t know when you’re going up and never know when it’s going to end.
Dave: In a sense—again, I’m listening to you, thinking, “It’s almost like Dale’s the one that lost his job, so he’s wounded; and you’re the caretaker.
Dave: “You’re trying to help; but the fact is, you’re wounded, too”—
Deb: Yes; yes.
Dave: —you know?
Dale: A couple of things that I learned in this process—I didn’t learn, until later on, how few people asked how Deb was doing. I grew up in my home congregation, so everybody knew me. Because I’m an extrovert, I know a lot of people. People would ask her: “How’s Dale?” “How’s the search going?”—never saying—“How are you doing with it?”
We do often forget the spouse, which I think is really important. If you’re a friend of somebody who’s unemployed, check in with the spouse; see how they’re doing. The spouse part of it, and everything, is one of the reasons for the subtitle on the book—And for Those Who Love Them—because the spouse is going through this same journey, but it’s a different lens. For the spouse, this book was to give them a glimpse of what their spouse might be going through; because when you better understand what somebody’s going through, I think you can better help and support. You don’t get as aggravated at them because you go, “Oh, yes; I understand that’s happening.”
Deb: It doesn’t mean you don’t get aggravated. [Laughter]
Dave: Talk about the identity thing you mentioned earlier. You know, the identity for a man, especially—and I’m sure it’s true for a woman as well—is connected to that work/to that job. Talk about that, because that’s significant.
Dale: Yes; it’s a struggle for people, because we are wrapped up in our job; our job is us. When you cared about the work you did, you cared about the people you worked with; and someone made a decision to take that away from you—it’s just really hard; there’s a lot of pain that goes with that. It’s kind of the part, where you kind of have to remember, even though you don’t feel that way, “Hey, I’m not junk. It’s not who I am; it’s whose I am. God created me.”
Bob: Your book is called How Long, O Lord, How Long? I want to talk about that person, who’s in month four or month five of having been displaced/being out of work. They’ve made the calls; they’ve called everybody they know to call. Nothing’s popping up; and they’re thinking: “I don’t know who I am,” “I don’t know how I’m going to survive.” What do they do in those moments?
Dale: Some people just shut down, and there’s a danger in that. There’s a danger in just—you kind of quit and bag it, and you don’t do anything—that’s the danger. I always think it’s important to just continue to continue trying to move forward.
It is important, though, that people stop and reevaluate: “What are my gifts and my skills?”—which is different than what we often think about as: “What were my job duties?”—it’s: “What are my gifts, and what are my skills?”—and maybe—“What gives me joy?” and “What might I do that’s different than what I did?”
Most people: “If I lost my job doing this, I want to kind of find that in another company.” Yet, this is a time to take stock in who you are and what you do well. Maybe it’s time to reinvent yourself and go in a different direction. It might mean that maybe the pay’s not the same, but we don’t know where God’s going to take it. We have a God that can take it all sorts of places. So we just sometimes need to rethink and move in a different direction.
When you’re unemployed, you’re looking for a couple things. You’re trying to meet people to try and find a job. You can also use that opportunity to meet people to take a look and talk about different career opportunities in different industries, with different skill sets and all that. That’s what I encourage people to do—is take that inventory and use that time to go meet people.
Bob: I had that happen when I was let go from a radio sales job, selling commercials on the local radio station. I had a local car dealer call and say, “You want to sell cars?”—he’d been one of my clients—and I thought, “Do I want to sell cars? Should I get into the car business?” Then I had another ad agency, that I had been selling to; and they said, “Do you want to come join us and help create ad campaigns for local businesses?” I thought, “Is that what I want to do?”
I really had to say: “What are my skills?” “What are my passions?” “What do I believe are the good works that God created for me to do that I should walk in?”—that’s
Ephesians 2:10—“What do I think God’s put me on the earth for? What can I do that is going to be most glorifying to him?”
One of the challenges we faced was—I could have taken other jobs that would have kept me where we were living—but if I was going to stay in the field I was in, we were going to have to move out of town. Now, all of a sudden, I have a whole different dynamic. This isn’t just me—it’s my wife; it’s our home—it’s all of that. “How much are you fueled by career motivations versus location?” This is a complicated issue.
Dale: Right; yes.
Ann: How did you guys, in the midst of this, bring God into your relationship/into the situation? I’m guessing, sometimes, there were times you could be mad at God in a way. Did you do anything, as a couple, or try to encourage each other as a couple? I mean, Dale, you wrote a book. [Laughter] You know, it’s a devotional! So you obviously have brought God into this.
Deb: I think part of that was writing the book, but I did his first edits. I think going through that process was a big thing—just even the process of getting it published and everything/working together—that we felt, together, that we were obedient to God’s calling.
Dale: Yes; I would say, Ann, we were intentional in continuing the disciplines that we had prior. Even though I’m hurt and I’m wounded, I never stopped being there Sunday morning for church. That was a regular discipline, and that’s where I want to be: that’s where my support is; I need to be there. Our daily prayer life together needed to say there. We stayed with those things; that was important to do.
It was, also—you know, it was an example to other people—I was very conscious that other people are watching.
Dave: Have there been moments—you know, I’m looking at some of your chapter titles, which are about “Faith Is a Muscle,” “Allowing for God’s Amazing Grace,” “Where’s My Protector?”—have there been moments similar to the title of your book—“Lord, how long?”
Dale: Regular moments.
Dave: Yes, what’s that look like?
Dale: Frustrating: “Lord, why don’t You turn Your face toward me? Why am I going through this? What am I supposed to learn?” So yes; there are tears; there are moments you can’t figure it out, and you want to figure it out. I mean, that’s our human nature—is, “I have to figure it out.”
“It’s not mine to figure out,” is the hard part. It is, though, an amazing thing how He uses that time to mold us and shape us. I’d like to say I’m a better person today because of the experiences that I’ve gone through.
Ann: Is that true, Deb?
Deb: I think so; I do. He had a good friend, who was having a really hard medical issue. Because he [Dale] wasn’t in a full-time job, and he had some time, he was able to minister to him and to his wife. You know, God puts things out there for us to care for other people.
Dale: I think the hardest part was just wanting to do something. It’s like you’re the relief pitcher, and you’re waiting to get into a game: “Put me back in, Coach; I’m ready,”—and just wishing you could get in the game and frustrated that you can’t—you don’t know when it’s going to happen.
Bob: You know, we talked about how much of our identity is wrapped up in what we’re good at and what we do. Family is part of how we represent identity; job and career is another part. But I’ve just had to recognize that this has to come back to, first and foremost: “You are a child of God: you are beloved by God; you are a part of His family.”
When that becomes where you find your sense of value and worth—not in your career, not even in your family and who they are—that’s never going to change. That is what’s most important; that’s the eternal. Even family is not eternal; there’s no marriage in heaven; right? We have to come back and say, “What really matters is this: Who I am, as a child of God, that’s where my value and worth is; and that’s what I’m going to rest in.”
Ann: It’s interesting—at the beginning of a Detroit Lions season one year, for a Bible study, I lead a Bible study with all the wives—there were a lot of wives in this room, maybe 16 wives. These women are educated, sharp, gifted, beautiful. They kind of give up their career, their life, their home to follow their husband for his dreams. This one year, I decided to start—and I said, “I want you to introduce yourselves, but I don’t want you to say who you’re married to. I don’t want you to talk about your education or what you’ve done,”—because a lot of them are incredible athletes as well—“I want you to talk about who you are.”
There was absolute silence in the room, because it’s identity. They didn’t even know what to say, because it’s so contrary to the world: it’s all about who we are: what we’ve done, who we know, how much money we make. One girl started; and she said, “I’m friendly and kind.” They started going through some character traits. That was really interesting for them; they had never done an exercise like that, to say, “Who am I apart from what I do?”
Then, at the end of that year—and we do this almost every year—we have a woman sit in the middle. We all speak life into her of her gifts, her strengths, her abilities, her character qualities; and then we all gather around her and pray over her that God would use her for His kingdom in all the strengths, gifts, talents that she has, wherever she goes.
I’m thinking—we just did this with our friend, who is out of work—he was at our house just last week. He sat on a chair—we laid our hands on him; we spoke life into him of, “This is who you are…These are the gifts that you have…This is the impact we see you making,”—and then we prayed for his job, for his future, for his family. I’m thinking, “What a great application for family members, if someone has lost a job, to put them in a chair, to pray over them, to remind them who they are, not just what they do.”
Dave: Yes; my last thought would be—and Dale and Deb, I’m guessing you’re experiencing this—is you can’t go through this alone.
Ann: Yes, yes.
Dave: You want to make sure, like you said, “I’m going to church; I’m in community”; you have to have others around you. I know you can easily lose perspective. When somebody speaks into you and says, “You are a good man,”/”You are a good woman,” “You do have great gifts,” “God’s in control,” “God sees you,” “God’s with you,” “God has a plan,”—hearing that from somebody else sometimes is what we need, because we lose perspective.
Dale: Yes; and your friend is blessed to have you guys; because you’re engaged friends who care, want to understand, and want to help. I think there are often people, who want to help, but don’t know what to do; so they don’t do anything; they pull back. The person, who’s unemployed can sense that; so it’s like you’re not going to really tell them what’s on your mind; yet deep down, there’s a loneliness to unemployment of nobody understanding what you’re going through.
That’s one of the interesting things about the book. I’ve had people say, “You get it. You understand. I know you do, because I’ve read your book.” There’s a desire on our part for people to understand what we’re going through, but so few people want to really listen and understand. They just want it to be okay. So kudos to you.
That’s one of the things that I would hope we can be—is better friends. We need more people who care and want to get in the middle of it and help.
Bob: Talk about having friends—I’m thinking about your book—and I’m thinking about the number of listeners we have, who ought to get multiple copies and be a good friend and say, “I bought a book for you.” You were talking earlier about pastors having a drawer full of these. I’m thinking that’s just smart for a pastor to be able to say, “I want to recommend a book to you; I want to give you a copy of a book.” In fact, if they’re unemployed, don’t recommend the book to them; give them a copy of the book!
Ann: Buy it for them. [Laughter]
Dale: Don’t say, “We have one in the lending library”; they’re not going to go. [Laughter]
Bob: Dale, thank you for this time. Thanks for helping us process all of this. This has helped so many listeners, and we’re grateful for you coming and doing this.
Bob: Deb, thank you as well.
Deb: Thank you.
Bob: We want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of your book, How Long, O Lord, How Long? and pass it on to somebody. We’re making the book available this week for a donation of any amount. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; help support the work we’re doing here at FamilyLife®; and you can request your copy of Dale’s devotional to give to a friend, who may be in this very situation. Again, the book is called How Long, O Lord? It’s our gift to you when you make a donation to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about issues of anxiety and depression, especially among teenagers. How can we, as parents, know if what our kids are going through is normal adolescent behavior or if it’s something more serious? Pastor and biblical counselor, David Murray, is going to join us to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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