Small talk isn’t really my thing.
In fact, I have respect for people who have the gift of being able to chat about different things casually. Some of the students I know better are easier to talk to, but I have to force myself to generate conversation with others.
The other day, I asked a student how his snow day was the previous day. His lack of response prompted me to say semi-teasingly, “Come on!” To which he responded with an annoyed, “No.”
Suddenly, frustration and anger filled me. Here I was, making an effort and he couldn’t even give the common courtesy of responding to a non-invasive question. I wasn’t asking him to share the depths of his soul, just to have him share about something from the previous day.
While small talk doesn’t come easily, quick retorts generally do. So I struggled to keep back all of the sharp responses I wanted to give and I forced myself to continue to acknowledge him during the rest of class, even though I childishly wanted to ignore him. I had the desire to demonstrate to him just how rude he was being…by being equally rude myself. You have a question? Too bad, I don’t want to answer you, just like you didn’t want to answer me.
I didn’t do those things, yet I am continually surprised how deeply small-heartedness is ingrained in me. God is justice and mercy, but I naturally favor justice. Old Testament eye-for-an-eye justice. It isn’t what I want to receive, but it is definitely what I want to mete out.
So what did I do? I kept my littleness in check and I tried to not wall off parts of my heart. When I wanted to turn cold, I tried not to. I wasn’t warm and bubbly with this student yet I fought to not be dismissive or mean. The remarks that were perfectly poised to come out of my mouth did not make their escape. I swallowed them and considered how much work the Lord has to do in this heart.
Magnanimous. This is what I need to be. Translated it means “greatness of soul.” When I want to pull inward, shrink into myself, and harden the walls of my heart, I must seek to do the opposite. Instead of constricting, I need to expand my heart, widen it so that I can be generous and large-hearted. It involves not being petty about wrongs, forgiving continually, and seeking the greatness that is found in not being restricted by things not of the Lord.
May the Lord magnify our hearts. May our souls be great, overflowing with the goodness, generosity, and love of the Lord. Even towards teenagers with attitudes. Especially them.