Guessing at someone’s intention is almost always a disastrous choice.
It can be so difficult to ascertain what the other person meant by the words they said or the tone that they used.
However, when the words do get under your skin or the inflection of their voice hits a nerve, how do you handle the situation?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) whybotherany when they came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for some outside opinions.
“AITA for telling a coworker I’m not interested in prayers?”
OP gave a little history.
“I work for a big corporation.”
“I’m Jewish/Atheist with a long history of Christians trying to push their religion on me.”
“I’m aware that there are many Christians who don’t do this and I believe in respecting people’s faiths. I also get annoyed when religion is inserted into the workplace.”
Then got right to the issue at hand.
“Today I got an email from an IT person that started with ‘pray you and your family are blessed and doing well’ before answering my IT question.”
“I responded ‘not interested in prayers, but thanks for the $solution!”‘
“I asked a couple people who told me I was rude, that it’s a figure of speech and they were trying to be nice.”
“I’m sure they were trying to be nice but I don’t like prayer/blessed language directed at me.”
“I thought my response was polite-ish as I let them know my preference directly and included the thanks!”
OP was left to wonder,
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
Some responses applauded OP’s directness.
“I think it’s pretty fair to not expect religion in work emails. A lot of businesses and corporations actually have a policy about not pushing your religion on others even this sense.”
“I don’t think you were rude, just said you weren’t interested in it and then thanked them for their help.”
“You could have just ignored it and moved on. But at least with you establishing this boundary, it won’t happen again in future.” ~ wanesandwaves
“You set a perfectly reasonable freedom-from-religion boundary.”
“Religion has no place in the (secular) workplace.”
“While I’m sure the IT person’s intentions were good and kindly, he really shouldn’t be bringing religion into the office.”
“Maybe your comment will make him think.” ~ calligrafiddler
Others felt that OP was being a bit over-sensitive.
“M an atheist, and the wording still sounded rude to me because that’s the 1st thing they said.”
“(I know the praying part was the first thing in the email they were responding to, but I see it is a kind of greeting of ‘hope this finds you well’ variety and hence don’t mind that it was the first thing in that email).”
“I would keep the body of the email to be just about thanking them for the solution. And then a quick informal P.S. to say that I don’t like prayers sent my way because m an atheist.” ~ nutwit9211
“I’m an atheist.”
“I get squeamish about religious things and hate when it’s pushed on me.”
“I understand your coworkers phrasing made you a little uncomfortable (I sometimes have that gut reaction, too), but he was sending you well wishes, not actually asking you to participate in prayer.”
“(Which is what I originally assumed based on the title).”
“Your response was a little rude, even if it wasn’t your intention.”
“Kind of reminds me of the people who get offended and snippy when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays…”
“You could have easily just said thanks for the IT solution and left it at that.”
“Or, maybe you could have phrased your response a bit more gently —”
‘“Hey, thanks for the well wishes. But in the future, would you mind avoiding religious language? While I appreciate your intentions, that kind of language makes me a bit uncomfortable.”’
“Something like that.” ~ BlueBumbleb33
Some offered alternatives to consider.
“I’m not sure where OP is from, but this could very well be a cultural difference.”
“I worked with persons from different countries, and have encountered regions where this type of greeting is just the norm (usually where English to not the universal or main language spoken there.)”
“It honestly has little to do with religion.”
“The term “pray” is simply meant to denote them hoping that you are doing well as opposed to actually implying that they are actually praying to God that you are well.” ~ Electrical-Date-3951
“A good rule is that no one should expect you to use or not use religious language, but you shouldn’t expect them to use or not use religious language.”
“If someone tries to convince you to become a Christian, then it’s entirely fair to tell them to stop – but in this situation I agree with the YTA judgement.”
“I’m an atheist and have had religious friends saying that they would pray for me and things like that.”
“I don’t see why I as an atheist would have an issue with that. Maybe they’re wasting their time, but they are just trying to be nice.” ~ Citrongrot
“I am also a Jewish atheist and dislike all forms of organized religion but especially fundamentalist types that are imposing their religious views increasingly over society.”
“I resent the pervasiveness of Christian practices in public settings like prayers etc.”
“However I do pick my battle especially since I actually use ‘pray’ and ‘blessing’ sometimes instead of hoping and wish or thiing good thoughts for you.”
“For example a friend was going for a biopsy and I wanted to express the sentiment that I was hoping results would be negative for cancer and she was in my thoughts.”
“I don’t think my hopes have any impact on the outcome any more than I think that prayers to a mythical being do but I wanted to express my feelings in the moment.” ~ Jujulabee
Word choice and intent came up several times.
“Agree and also an atheist from a mostly lax but technically Catholic family.”
“I think of it as culture/ habit.”
“I don’t think of it any more than someone saying ‘salud’ vs ‘gesundheit’ vs ‘bless you’ as imposing Spanish or German in the first two.”
“I also still use religion-based phrases out of habit sometimes.”
“(Mostly cursing, but we are mostly talking about vocabulary choice here)”
“However, I even had a ‘praise Jesus’ run through my head not long ago which immediately cracked me up because I don’t think that had EVER happened before and that’s just how relieved I was at something getting resolved. 🤣”
“Faith and religion are rampant and to me it’s puzzling more than anything.”
“I only bristle when someone tells me to trust in/pray to god or Jesus or otherwise tells me I should engage in a religious practice.”
“If they say they will on my behalf, though- whatever.”
“If they are genuine people of faith and concerned about me, it’s part of their love language.”
“If it’s something super casual like this, it’s up there with them saying something cliche, like ‘I’ll eat your share!’ if I say I don’t like eating something.”
“Have at it. 🤷🏽♀️” ~ audioaddict321
“I agree with that.”
“I don’t feel like the IT person meant any harm.”
“I don’t think they were trying to push their religious views on you you either.”
“They just wished your family well.”
“I’m pretty sure Christian’s aren’t the only ones who pray.”
“Buddhists pray/meditate. It seems like you assumed this person was Christian.”
“That’s not really fair. There are many other religions that person could practice that pray. In my opinion YTA.” ~ jord-pie
And, yes, there were personal stories.
“One of my co-workers has a client who is very religious, who keeps sending her emails asking her to ‘prayerfully consider’ whatever it is he is asking for.”
“She is Jewish.”
“She is not ‘prayerfully considering’ anything in the way that he wants or expects.”
“I advised her to respond (not really lol), ‘I asked God, and he said no.’ People should not be bringing their religious beliefs into professional interactions, it’s not appropriate.”
“For those who disagree, I can only say, ‘Bless you heart.”‘~ mlmarte
“I grew up in a Christian home with everything pushed on me too and my family is still like that.”
“I can’t stand it and it makes me uncomfortable.”
“I probably would have said the same as you and for the people who said you were rude, you could say the same to them.”
“You said your freedom of speech and if you’re not comfortable with this situation than you should be able to say so.”
“It’s rude of people to push religion onto anyone no matter where.” ~ lukieNchristina
Clearly this is a complicated issue.
Reddit may have landed on “NTA” but the comments were certainly a mixed bag.
Judging someone’s intention s from a single line of text can be challenging even in the best of circumstances, not even considering office politics, cultural shadings or religious leanings.
Be careful when assuming when it comes to the behavior of others, and try to remember that we’re all doing the best we can with a language that is sometimes imprecise at best.