Stolen Laptop: Violence and forgiveness

November 20, 2009

Smashed car window

This is Part 2 of a series on my stolen laptop.

Having my laptop stolen from my car left me feeling violated. I’m sure there is only slight resemblance to suffering personal violence, but the experience gave me greater sympathy for victims of violence. The daze. The fear. The uneasiness in innocent situations that would not have bothered me previously.

The incident also affected my immediate family. My wife drove the car that night, taking our youngest daughter out on a date. They were uneasy about leaving a car with one window missing, so they parked right in front of a restaurant window and sat at that window. And watched the car as they ate. And felt uneasy.

The theft occurred over lunch on Friday. The following Monday, I went out for lunch again, this time with no laptop in the car—because I didn’t have one. Although the lunch was with my agency recruiter (technically my employer), the conversation became quite spiritual, and she surprised me with this challenge:

“Have you prayed for the thief and forgiven him?”

This took me aback because the thought had not occurred to me, even though forgiving one’s enemies is one of the primary practices of following Christ. I had just finished reading The Shack on Sunday, so as I drove away from lunch, I followed the example of the book’s main character and said aloud, “I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.”

…Bear with me as I digress for a moment. It will come full circle.

At work, I was asked to implement a feature, an extension of something that had been done before. But I didn’t want to simply copy the previous work and change a few things; that’s fine as a starting point but you can’t leave it that way. Besides, the original code was already full of copy-and-paste repetition in extraordinarily long functions. I wanted to do it right.

So I spent four days doing it right: two days on Mac, two on PC. I started with the large copy-and-paste version but carefully decomposed it into ten functions. My goal was to leave useful, expressive code that could be reused the next time (and eventually retrofit the old code). I completed my work by early Friday evening—the same day that my laptop was stolen. I had suffered loss, but at least I could feel proud of my work.

When I looked at the code on Monday morning, I found that my boss had quietly reverted all of my work and replaced it with copy-and-paste code. I expected him to say something: “It wasn’t working and I had to get it working, so I took drastic measures.” Some kind of explanation.

I got nothing. My art had been replaced with his crap. Four days of work gone without a word. My boss simply gave me my next assignment. Oh yeah, I feel motivated now.

…Now, what does this have to do with my laptop being stolen?

On Monday afternoon, I took my first steps toward forgiving the thief, and prayed for him. But on Monday night, I was still ticked at my boss.

And God said, “Let me get this straight. You’re more upset about your work being wiped out than about your laptop being stolen?”

“You’re a jerk!” I replied with a laugh. Ha ha. I knew he had me.

But I still could not forgive my boss.

Who do you still need to forgive? What are you going to do about it?

Stolen Laptop series:

  1. In broad daylight
  2. Violence and forgiveness
  3. Prevention and recovery

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

2 responses to Stolen Laptop: Violence and forgiveness

  1. That is very interesting about your boss. Could you ask him why he did it?
    I would certainly be frustrated. I think the laptop theft is something you can understand. Someone stole something of value to get money, right? But what you boss did is hard to understand. That may be why you are having trouble letting go of it.
    What do you think?
    I think I have trouble accepting personality traits or actions in people that I just don’t understand. Like, “why in the heck would you do that? I would never do that!”
    There are two people in particular with which I have this struggle. I keep coming back to God saying “Why are you worrying about this? It is their problem, not yours! Get over it!”

  2. Samia,
    This was simply one event in a series of frustrations, though it is certainly the most egregious. I don’t intend to bring it up, as I don’t think it would be fruitful. I have worked through to peace and some measure of forgiveness.
    The friend who gave me his personal discount for a new laptop said:
    No, that makes perfect sense to me. The car and computer are just things. But your code is an extension of yourself, so when your boss burns your code, then that’s a direct attack upon your self-worth. If you can’t code, then he might as well show up and say “You’re worthless. Why are you even here.”
    Thanks for sharing your bit. I’m sure a lot of people will identify with that!