Huge thanks to this contributor for their anonymous post.

Delfina is driving me crazy. Okay, the person who is driving me crazy isn’t actually named Delfina, but I’m leaving Guatemala as I write this, and the name Delfina is on my mind. So that’s what we’ll call her.

Delfina is someone I work with occasionally but whom I can barely tolerate as a coworker. I feel like it’s almost deceptive to explain why Delfina makes me so crazy, rather than focusing on my own dysfunctionality in dealing with her, but perhaps it’s necessary to anchor the story. I don’t really know. I just know that if I’m trying to be diplomatic, I’ll say something like, “Delfina can be … difficult to work with.” But if I’m just being honest, I’ll say something closer to, “Delfina makes me want to rip my fracking hair out.”

But this is less a story about Delfina and more about the fact that I’ve basically grown obsessed with her, and my own exasperation with her, over the past few months. There are times when, lying in bed with my partner after a long day at work, she’s all I can talk about, or when, during mid-day therapy sessions, I can’t imagine discussing anything but how my brain is exploding because of some ridiculous new thing she’s done. I find myself able to endure conversations with her only because I’m simultaneously transcribing them via chat to a coworker/friend to maintain my sanity: “DELFINA JUST TOLD ME _____. IS SHE SERIOUS?!?!?” or “She talks SO MUCH,” followed twenty minutes later by, “Oh my GOD SHE IS STILL TALKING.” I’m only emboldened by the fact that women more senior than I have even bigger issues with her, and I find that I’m the one treading more cautiously in the conversation, saying staggeringly lukewarm things like, “Well, Delfina can be good at x,” or “Sometimes Delfina is fine.”

Recently, Delfina did a particular thing that “sent me over the edge,” so to say. I don’t know that I really need to describe the thing, so much as the feeling it gave me—that she had zero respect for my work or my time and that, at this point in our working relationship, any attempt to communicate with her about it was futile. I opened my e-mail while on this latest work trip to discover the particular thing, and my emotions rolled forth, gradually gaining steam, like a flaming barrel of tar: at first, I was surprised; next, sad, nearly wanting to cry; and finally, furious. I told a few people what had happened—one, a senior manager, and another, a close colleague—and came to the conclusion that I would e-mail her supervisor, with whom I have a good relationship.

At first, I felt a sense of relief. I shared the experience with my colleague in Guatemala, and we despaired together: two junior staff with minimal power but maximal feelings. But soon, the icky feelings return. As we continued to rant, I was reminded of other rants and other feelings, and I heard myself say, “I think I need to give up talking bad about Delfina for Lent.”

I continue to be surprised by the smallness of sin. I’m rarely confronted with monumental moral choices, but rather tiny ones that have the potential to sneakily eat away at me like termites. There’s something so particularly satisfying about shit-talking—about deciding that it’s other people who are the problem, or that hell truly is other people—but the satisfaction only lasts about two minutes, before the realization hits that my audience is only about 1/100th as interested in my gossip and experiences of injustice as I am, while for me, it’s become the most important thing.

This particular sin has a parasitic quality: the more I feed it, the larger it grows. I ask myself, in jest and in seriousness, “How can I continue to love God and my neighbor while this woman continues to cross my path? When the mere sight of her or sound of her voice makes me want to erupt in spontaneous screams like a faulty fire alarm? When I often feel powerless to do anything to make the situation any better without causing more pain and suffering?”

It truly seems laughable that one person could have such a powerful effect on my emotions, but it also sometimes seems like it’s the only thing that could. Whereas in God’s world we are all beloved regardless of what we do, in the professional realm—a world characterized by mazes of do’s and don’ts, by myriad direct and indirect communication channels to influence a desired outcome, where I’m judged not by God but by men and women with titles and degrees—the opposite is true. In this world, I feel an even stronger need to self-defend so that my reputation doesn’t suffer. I feel I have to write frankly to her supervisor, having painted the situation somewhat more delicately in previous conversations.

In this world, Delfina and I are trapped. The only ways for us to love each other are rare and unpracticed. They require the removal of all of the pressures that professional life entails. They require irrational levels of grace.

The funny thing, though, is that when I think about the name “Delfina,” I smile. This name came to me through the training I was co-conducting for a group of data collectors in Guatemala. On our first day of training, I looked around at the novel Spanish names—Fabiano, Paula, Danilo—and seeing hers, I smiled. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve decided to call this particular colleague by a new name, as if by doing so I might transfigure my attitude towards her.

It reminds me of how a friend of mine recently declared that she was going to try to stop swearing at people when driving. Instead of yelling, “You [insert expletive here]!” her strategy has been to exclaim, in faux anger, “You … beloved child of God!!!”

It’s difficult to be mad at someone when you call them God’s own, and it’s difficult to be mad when you call them Delfina.

I imagine I’ll never stop being mad. But God has given me a gift in this name, in that I’m able to see D., at least for a moment, neither shrouded in layers of self-importance and ego nor clouded by my own. I’m able to see her as a beloved child of God.