What to Do When Unscrupulous Opportunists Cut You Off

And the one question we should ask ourselves when we get sideswiped.

Last week a pickup almost ran me off the highway. The driver sped past until his truck bed paralleled my hood. Then with no pause, he lurched into my lane! I’ll call him Mr. Chevy.

What to Do When Unscrupulous Opportunists Cut You Off

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

No blinker. No wave. No kidding. Just here I come to squash the little Prius! Mr. Chevy came close to doing it.

If fact, if I hadn’t slammed my brakes, the monster truck would have sideswiped me at 65 M.P.H. and sent me careening off a bridge like Evel Knievel vaulting over Snake River.

Okay, sure, rather than call Mr. Chevy a “narcissist” (that’s one way to paraphrase what I screamed—a mere ten minutes after my quiet time), I guess I should have given him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he may have been racing to the hospital or the grocery store or something.

It’s one thing to deal with unscrupulous drivers on the highway. They surprise us yet seldom shock us. But dealing with this behavior from someone on our own team, where we all should look out for the benefit of others, can do more than anger us.

It should force us to ask ourselves a question.

Meet Your Opportunists

Few things provoke more frustration like serving on a team, working in an office, or living in a family that has opportunists at large. An opportunist is defined as: “a person who exploits circumstances to gain immediate advantage rather than being guided by consistent principles or plans.”

I see an opportunist as one who takes advantage of opportunities for his or her own benefit—considering little or nothing for how it may affect the team or the family—or the kingdom of God. For example:

  • Director Derek accepts a public commendation in a staff meeting for a project you deserved the credit for.
  • Sister Sadie grabs the last three cookies in the jar, leaving you none.
  • Pastor Pete pushes to attend another church mission trip himself rather than give the opportunity to you or other pastoral staff who have never gone.
  • Senior VP Suzie uses an insider moment with the boss to make a special request than benefits her—but fails to mention you and other direct reports.

You have your own examples. We all do. But when we feel sideswiped by opportunists, we need to do more than stoke our righteous anger.

We need to ask ourselves a question.

Why So Frustrated

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Why So Frustrated?

Why? Of course, we’ll point out that their motivation for taking the opportunity is selfish—a lot like the jerk that cuts you off on the highway.

But set their motivation aside for a moment. Or, better yet, for good. Their motivation is between them and God. And it really is possible they need to grow in grace just like we do. Let’s look instead at another set of motives.


Why do we fume when we feel undercut by an opportunist’s selfish request, abuse of power, or disregard of others? Here’s the question we should ask:

Am I simply frustrated, or am I really just jealous? Don’t I wish I had what they’re getting?

Sometimes the answer to that question is an honest, “No.” After all, I wasn’t jealous of the jerk on the highway. But when Derek gets the commendation, or Sadie gets the cookie, or Pete gets the mission trip, or Suzie gets the gets the boss’ favor, what is it that really bothers us?

I have found it helpful when it feels like someone cuts me off—whether at work, or in church, or at home, or even Mr. Chevy on the highway—and anger swells, I need to take the opportunity to examine my own opportunistic motives on the road to “greatness.”

In the next post, we’ll talk about the surprising secret to greatness we need to discover.

Tell me what you think: How do you react when an opportunist cuts you off? To leave a comment, just click here.

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