I gave him a detention for typing something inappropriate into his graphing calculator. Understandably, that made him upset. As class progressed, I had them work in partners and he was not interested in doing anything I asked.
It is your fault you got in trouble, I thought to myself, as I watched him sulk.
Each of the partners was responsible for give part of the response to the rest of the class. His partner went first and then I asked for him to give the rest of the answer. It was brief and visibly filled with bitterness. It was enough to qualify as disrespectful and I narrowed my eyes slightly as I deliberated about what to do.
I didn’t want to let disrespectful behavior win out. But then I had a moment of considering his perspective. He had just received a detention and was frustrated with me and probably himself. If I sat in his position, I would also be upset. I realized that maybe it wasn’t sensible to assume that he would just continue on in a perfectly pleasant attitude.
It isn’t much and I’m light-years behind the saints, but in that moment I was able to acknowledge his humanity and adjust my expectations. I don’t think I would have responded just as he did, but I could understand why he was behaving this way. My eyes warned him, but then I moved on with class.
The next day, he no longer seemed sore over the detention and he was volunteering to answer questions. While the exchange and deliberation only took a few seconds, I was thankful that I handled the situation as I did. Sometimes I forget to take into account the humanity of the other person. I expect people to be far more perfect than I am and then I get frustrated when they fail to live up to my impossibly high standards.
I’m working on being merciful and letting humans be human. Clearly, I’ve got a long way to go. Pray for me.
Blessed are you because you have made me glad. It has not happened to me as I expected; but you have treated us according to your great mercy. (Tobit 8:16)