This week when I said I'm not ready for two of my three boys to move to the next grade, my oldest asked if the reason I was ready for the middle to be another grade older was due to a specific person. We all knew he meant this particular teacher. I paused and then said, "No. This grade is hard. It was hard when you were there and it has been a thousand times harder for your brother. The next grade was easier and I hope it will be for him as well."
He smiled and said, "Yeah, that. AND because of a certain someone. You don't like her, do you mom?" My pause while trying to think of the words to say was answer enough. "I mean, honestly, you would not go out and get a cup of coffee with her, would you?" Ok, bluff was called so I thought quickly and decided to answer.
"No, I would not ever go out and get a cup of coffee with her. She is not someone who I particularly like and not someone I can see myself ever being friends with. That said, she is a teacher at our school and I will treat her with respect as such. We all will respect that she holds a position of authority and will treat her with the respect that her position deserves. I will not stoop to the level of being nasty in my speech with her because at the end of the day I have to live with myself. I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and be comfortable with how I have treated others. I will treat her with the kindness and respect I would treat anyone else with simply because they are human beings."
I'd be totally lying if I said I didn't puff up a touch with pride in my answer. It was a good response, one that I hoped my boys would remember for years down the road. I was telling them that how I treat someone is not a reflection of that person but rather a reflection of me. That was some pretty good stuff and I meant it which, of course, makes it better.
There is only one problem. Words are empty if not followed by actions. I have been extremely respectful in my interactions with her. I have never gotten nasty or said to her the things that go through my head about her. However, I have spent the last two days bashing her to anyone who would listen. She's never heard me be disrespectful to or about her but that doesn't mean that I am treating her with kindness and respect.
If I am looking to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I have handled myself with integrity, then I have failed. Just because I have talked behind her back does not mean I have acted with integrity, actually the opposite is true. I have not clothed myself with compassion. I have not offered grace or forgiveness. I have attacked like a coward, behind the back of the woman I dislike.
Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God's chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness, and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another
if any of you has a grievance againts someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.