Teaching is hard. One difficulty is balancing likability and professionalism. True, they are both very possible. But possibility does not equate ease.
My school has a no electronics rule. As a teacher, I enforce this rule. One afternoon, I saw a student using a phone and I asked him for it. He said I was being unfair, that I should give him a chance, that I was mean. He refused for eight minutes. We took a trip to the principal’s office, and he was allowed to keep his phone. On our walk back upstairs, he turned to me, “Ms. Callie, can I ask you something?”
“Why are you so cruel?”
The question hurt me and amused me. I have no personal vendetta against my student. I happen to like this student very much. Am I terrible?
As a teacher who has barely left her teens, harsh words still sting, especially when they come from students who I agonize for in prayer. Why can’t they see how much I care for them? Why must they curse me for simply being their teacher and enforcing rules?
I remember being in high school and becoming overwhelmingly frustrated with a teacher. My sarcastic jabs were escalated by hormones, and I’ve both thought and said plenty of things I regret. Besides, I didn’t actually believe them when I cooled down. Although my teachers were imperfect (as we all are), I can see how they genuinely cared for each of us. Aside from the precocious high schooler, teenagers aren’t always wired to recognize that until later in life. Like me.
My high school go-to face (captured senior year)
“Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others.” Ecclesiastes 7:21-22.
Even outside of the teaching sphere, we all regret certain things we have said; to loved ones, colleagues, waiters. Thus, “do not take to heart everything people say,” because even you have allowed anger to get the better of you. Knowing that we’ve done the same softens the blow, but it still hurts. Hurtful words hurt. Because what if…..they’re true?
A guarded heart does not require apathy (though apathy feels easy sometimes–I feel ya). Notice that Jesus never took harsh words to heart. Prominent religious leaders called him an illegitimate child, uneducated, under the possession of devils, and yet He never uttered a response that did not glorify God (John 8:19, 41; 7:15, 20).
Jesus had nothing to prove.
In the three temptations, He saw no need to prove He was the Son of God (Matthew 4). On the cross, He saw no need to prove that He could come down (Matthew 27:40). To the Pharisees, He saw no need to prove His Father, His education, nor His spirituality. He knew He was the Beloved Son of God, and that truth continually rang in His ears, renewed in communion with His Father, day by day.
Today, a 7-year-old tearfully told me his friends said he wasn’t smart enough to play a game. I smiled at him. “Just because they say it doesn’t make it true, dear.” He smiled. He knew he was smart enough.
Words are far more powerful than sticks and stones, but they are not stronger than truth. Truth always wins. Whether you’re a sensitive soul like me or are only scathed by the harshest of words, rest in the truth. Take the words of our Father to heart, for then there will be no room for the words of men.