Obsolescence

When I was in high school, my father’s pharmaceutical company merged with a similar-size company. My father became the executive vice president of the newly formed organization, overseeing the smooth transition from two companies to one. By the time I was a junior in college, the merger was complete and a new executive board had been voted in, populated primarily with young lawyers who put my father in their sights. By then he was a 25 year veteran of the company and had poured every bit of his energy into making the company as successful as he knew how (it was a one billion dollar corporation in the 1970’s, if that gives you an idea). But none of those years and none of that sacrifice mattered. My father was making too much money and was too old for the lawyers to rest easy. It was only by God’s grace that my father found out about their plot, and before they could sack him, he resigned, thereby preserving his significant pension. I always thought that whole scenario was such a shame — you can imagine how very disillusioning it was for my father.

I am now the age my father was when all of that went down, and I’m just beginning to understand what he must have felt. I have served in various positions, at universities, in churches, in ministries, where judging from the response of those around me, I could have (and did) convince myself that I was being effective in my position. I don’t mean that people just acquiesced to my bidding. I mean that there was enthusiastic support for the vision I put forth, and there was real enjoyment of the process of making that vision a reality. But then everything changed. At first there were only hints and allegations, distant rumblings of dissatisfaction. But then the chants grew louder, until it was obvious I was no longer the one for the job. I’m very pragmatic, and I can handle that kind of reality. There are seasons of service, and when that season ends it’s often the best course to move on and work other fields.

But what has been difficult, much more difficult than I imagined, is to begin hearing feelings and impressions of others come to light that had been suppressed while I was still in my position. I doubt those expressions are really meant to hurt me, but hurt me they have. And I’ve come to understand at least some of the pain my father experienced. It’s not just negativity, it’s rejection. Whereas I felt that I took the initiative to leave, and did so in a timely manner, I have the lingering impression that people had been looking at their watches wondering, “why is he still here?” The word that comes to mind is Obsolescence. That’s a scary word for someone approaching his 60th birthday, for myself and for my father before me. Was it simply that those around me changed, or was it the recency effect where people just wanted a newer model? Or was it that I was misinformed the whole time? That latter thought has really shaken me, especially given the fact that I had served in those positions for years. That’s a long time to be self-deceived. Or was I? I’m just not sure. I guess one reason I’m writing this is to try to think things through more clearly. Your comments are welcome.

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1 Comment

  1. Being, at age 67, more “obsolescent” than you ☺, I have gone through almost the same experience you are going through now. I remember you and your activities at KIBC and, please, know that you have ABSOLUTELY nothing to reproach yourself for. You served (and are serving) the Lord in the most dedicated way, and He is the only One whose judgment should be decisive for us. As for the people… well, unfortunately, they are, in their majority, animals with the instincts of envy, jealousy, rivalry, and the “homo-homini-lupus-est” mentality prevalent among them. Let’s be higher than that. Be overjoyed that our values are different.

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