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What Honor Looks Like When You Can’t Stand Someone

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It’s important to remember that love is a decision. So how do you act in true love and honor when you can't stand someone?


from our partner

written by

Michael Gibson

Excerpt from Real Life Love: Saying Goodbye to the Fairytale and Hello to True Relationships.

For some reason, it was always easier for me to keep a “hurt list” or “pain‐in‐the‐neck list” about people. It stood out in my mind whenever I thought of anybody I had negative beliefs about. When I was in high school, I had a Spanish teacher who couldn’t have been more mean. She was constantly embarrassing me in front of my peers. Foreign language was always hard for me. Like algebra, Spanish was a class I dreaded each day. And it seemed that every time I had forgotten to study the previous night or practice my vocabulary list, my teacher made a point of ridiculing me.

One day my worst nightmare was realized: a verbal pop quiz. I’m sure you could have literally seen the fear in my eyes. I wasn’t prepared. As panic overtook my body, I wanted the earth to open up so I could escape and hide. Guess who she called on first? Question after question, I didn’t get one answer right. She then proceeded to make an example out of me of what not to do in Spanish class. I was so embarrassed.

So I took it upon myself to be a martyr. I was out to save my fellow classmates and any students after me from her wrath. Immediately after class and fuming with anger, I marched into the principal’s office. Determined to get this woman fired, I began to share with my school’s principal all of the “horrible” things this woman had done to me, one thing after the next, hoping my principal would take my side and invite me to do the honors of firing her myself!

Her response was a bit different from what I expected. My principal said very gently, “Michael, I think you need to take an extra‐long lunch break. Why don’t you go get something to eat and we can talk later?” After walking out of her office, I checked my phone and noticed I had a text from my grandpa inviting me to join him for lunch at our favorite Mexican place down the road from my high school. How ironic, I thought to myself. I got in my car and drove the short distance to the restaurant. The whole drive I was practicing my best Celebrity Apprentice–style “You’re fired,” which I was planning to use on my Spanish teacher when I returned to school.

Once we were seated, my grandpa asked me how my day was going. I proceeded to share with him the same words I used with my principal. I went on and on about how terrible this teacher was, how she embarrassed me in front of all my peers, and how I would dethrone her. I told him that it was now my new life mission to get her fired before I graduated. Grandpa then got really serious. He looked me in the eyes and said, “You’ve shared all the bad things about this teacher, but what about the good things?”

After almost choking on my chicken enchilada, I looked at him, dazed and confused.

“The good? Grandpa, did you not just hear what I said? This woman is Satan himself disguised as a Spanish teacher. Are you crazy?” I said.

He wasn’t crazy. He was dead serious. Grandpa had me ask our waiter for a pen and an extra napkin (in Spanish of course) and advised me to practice honor by writing down anything and everything that was positive about my teacher. It wasn’t easy. But after several items on the list, I realized that maybe the reason she was so hard on me was the potential I had as a Spanish student. Or as a student in general. Maybe she saw something inside me that I didn’t. Maybe she wasn’t evil after all. Here are a few points from my list:

  • Driven: She challenges me on a daily basis to be my best.
  • Passionate: She loves the Spanish language and is eager to teach her students this beautiful language.
  • Talented: Being the chair of the foreign language department, she is extremely knowledgeable of foreign languages and cultures. Especially Spanish.
  • Caring: She wants to see me do well in Spanish and is pushing me to commit to excelling in her class.

All of a sudden, I started to feel icky inside. All of the words I spewed to my principal about this woman made me feel sick. It wasn’t until after making my honor list that I realized what I had done.

“I think you need to seek forgiveness from your principal,” my grandpa said.

He was right. Once we paid the check, I raced back to school and made a beeline directly for the principal’s office. I knocked on the door and entered. I could tell she was bracing for another blowout. After seeking her forgiveness, I realized that it was time for me to in turn forgive my teacher.

Of course, Spanish class didn’t get any easier. The lectures still came, the embarrassment still occurred, my terrible pronunciation was still prevalent. But each time something embarrassing happened, I would reach into my backpack and feel the soft paper napkin, which held my honor list for her. Each time, it reminded me that my teacher was to be honored like a priceless gold brick, because that’s how Jesus sees her. And later I found my anger turning to understanding and compassion.

Honoring for Real

A few months later, as the school year was coming to a close, my teacher announced she was retiring. As a gift, I gave her my napkin of the things I honored about her. Big tears filled her eyes. She said it was the nicest thing a student had ever done for her. Though today I can barely remember the Spanish word for “hello,” I am still reminded of that story and how God first taught me to honor by focusing on the positive qualities of people.

I love these words from Jesus: “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21 NIV). Affection for your significant other, family, friends and someday your spouse will continue to grow as you maintain an awareness of each person as a treasure highly valued by God. But it’s also important to remember that love is a decision. I had to make the decision to make the list about my teacher. It’s also important to keep it in front of you and add to it as often as you can. Even though the embarrassment in class hurt in the moment, I couldn’t wait to refer back to my list. I even added to it a few times! When you invest time, energy, words, and actions in treasuring someone this way, your heart will grow in love for them.