Recently, some friends and I were discussing love, truth, and the relationship between the two. How do we confront without becoming judgmental? How do we love without becoming too permissive? What is loving and what is truthful? Where do they overlap? Can you have one without the other?
This idea of truth and love is something that has always been a real challenge for me and my vocal self. I’m a doer. I want to get things done. And if I don’t believe something will make a difference in the end, I generally don’t see any point in doing (or saying) it.
This leads to an often imbalanced application of truth and love.
Today, though, while teaching, I had a tiny little glimpse into how this should look.
I know teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but (if we’re honest) there are definitely kids who especially tug at our hearts. For the purposes of this story, I will name this particular student, who easily fits into the above category, Landon.
Landon didn’t care much about school last year, and sometimes got into trouble for being dishonest or consistently not doing his homework. This year, he’s really stepped up and taken more accountability for his work. He’s been trying much harder, and has readjusted his priorities. He’s growing up and figuring out who he is.
It’s been an absolute joy to see that growth, and it is something that I badly want to reward. That said, Landon still has a lot of growth to do in the English department. While I have desperately wanted to nudge his grade in the encouraging direction, I have avoided doing so, hoping that it won’t discourage him to the point of giving up.
Today I handed back an assignment with a failing mark. We talked through the issues, and some ways that he could fix them. I was clear in what the problems were, and told him exactly why he received that grade. I didn’t sugar coat it. He looked sad.
It’s those things that are hard as a teacher. How do you encourage a student, but at the same time appropriately cover their paper in the necessary marks? How do you call students out on bad habits without discouraging creativity? How do you speak the truth in love?
As I sat at my desk considering these things, the class filed out, with Landon being the last in the classroom. Despite our tough conversation, Landon turned around as he walked out of my classroom and added, “Miss? Thanks for believing in me.”
I was stunned that this was his response to our conversation. Even after I failed his assignment and told him in no uncertain terms what he needed to work on, he still felt believed in. The focus wasn’t on what I thought he had done wrong, but on what I thought he could do right.
Isn’t it the same in life? The same in relationships with family, friends, and even the people that are really hard to love? If we can invest, if people know, know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we believe in them, that we love them and we’re on their team, then the focus is no longer on the short-comings that we address. That negative aspect doesn’t govern the tough conversations that we may have.
Because, in reality, all of us fail at something. All of us feel like we just can’t get that one thing right, no matter how many times we try. That even if we do improve, that it’s still not good enough to be “passing” whatever test it is that we have set up for ourselves.
And sometimes, we just need someone to be real with us about it. To tell us that we do, indeed, need to keep working on this, but that they’ve seen growth. To tell us that, yes, we’re currently struggling in this department, but that they know we have the potential to beat it. To tell us that we are broken and sinful, but they still love us.
And that they believe in us.
I still don’t fully understand the whole concept of truth and love, and I am by no means any good at applying it, but I am thankful today for this glimpse of what that means!
Also, as a side note: I love teaching. It’s the best job ever.