I dreaded going to my first class of the day, and it wasn’t just the 7:30 bell that made me cringe. My teacher, Mr. M., was the worst teacher I’d ever had. He dryly lectured for most of the class period and I could rarely understand what he expected from our homework and papers. I asked for help, but his explanations confused me even more.
|Photo: Paige Foster
And it wasn’t just me. Many of my classmates were aggravated too.
I spent a lot of time with friends complaining about Mr. M. and his class. We complained to his superiors, and when nothing changed, we vented our increasing anger on Mr. M., having private conversations and doing other homework in his class. Out of frustration, I refused to do several projects that I didn’t understand and he couldn’t explain. I was a good student, and I thought skipping a few assignments would make him realize I was fed up with his teaching style.
My plan backfired.
Mr. M. didn’t change his style—he changed my grade. The assignments I’d skipped made my grade drop, and Mr. M. accused me of being lazy for not doing my homework. He even stopped re-explaining confusing points to me, saying that if I wouldn’t listen in class, he wouldn’t spend time helping me after class.
The rest of the school year was miserable, and I was never so happy to see summer vacation. The next fall, I avoided Mr. M. and ignored him when we passed in the hall. I even changed my course schedule so I wouldn’t need to take his class. When I graduated, I promised myself I would never treat students like he did.
Looking back, I realize my actions were immature and destructive. Even though Mr. M. wasn’t a great teacher, I made matters worse with my negative attitude. The steps I took to correct the problem weren’t positive, either. I spent so much time griping about him and his class that I had a bad outlook everyday—before anything negative even happened. I expected the worst, and the worst is what I got.
I’d been raised a Christian, and my mom had always told me to love others no matter what. But it was so hard to love someone as frustrating as Mr. M. Even though the Bible tells us to love our enemies, it’s easier to complain about them than constructively confront the problem.
A new attitude
It’s been a few years since I’ve suffered through Mr. M.’s class, and I’ve met several frustrating people since then—but I’ve changed my attitude. I have experienced how rolling my eyes and clinging to negative feelings makes things worse. Besides, the world is full of all kinds of people—some of them are bound to be my best friends while others will treat me badly. I can’t change their actions, but I can change mine.
In Matthew 5, Jesus speaks to a crowd of followers and admonishes them to love their enemies and pray for people who treat them badly. In fact, He touts love as the identifying mark of a Christian. “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that” (Matthew 5:44, 46).
Friendly people have more friends, and it’s no mystery why—it’s easier to be kind to people who are nice to you. But oftentimes, the least friendly people are those who ache most for kindness.
Over and over in the Bible, we see Jesus lavishing love on those who least deserve it. From thieving Zaccheus to betrayer Judas, Christ spent time and kindness on people who were the antithesis of lovely. In one of His final acts of forgiveness, Christ asked His heavenly Father to forgive the very people who were driving nails through His hands and feet.
Love was Christ’s only absolute. I choose to follow in His footsteps. I choose love.