“Melissa, put your hand over your mouth and leave it there for 5 minutes.”
The giggling of my classmates did not help.
My face aflame, I tried to make a joke out of the reprimand.
I clapped my hand to my mouth, the sting rivaling the verbal slap I’d just received from the teacher.
It was junior high preview day at my small, private school. The day the sixth graders got a taste of what the next year would be like. Multiple teachers, multiple classrooms, independence.
It was exciting and slightly scary. As was usual for me when I found myself in those circumstances, I was talking way too much.
The teacher, exasperated with my nonstop chatter, had had enough.
I don’t think I even realized what I was doing.
Speaking without thinking is a downfall of mine.
I’d like to believe that this is something I do less frequently now that I’m older…
However, something I witnessed the other day caused me to realize it’s still a problem.
“She’s a good girl; she just has a problem with cleaning up.”
I dreaded having a daughter.
Then Cora was born, and she healed me of some of those fears.
A recent interaction between a mother and daughter stopped me in my tracks and caused me to catch my breath.
Not blatant, but consistent.
Never is a compliment given without a negative accompaniment.
Oblivious to the whittling down of her daughter’s spirit, this mother airs her frustration in front of others.
What made it the worse is that I can see myself standing at the mouth to this same path.
“Cora’s cute, but she can tend to be bossy.”
“Cora’s so affectionate, but she doesn’t know how to be quiet.”
On and on it goes; as if I’m afraid to over inflate my child’s self-worth.
Shame versus Instruction
I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 1 Corinthians 4:14
As parents, ministry leaders, supervisors, whatever your role of leadership, our job is to provide training and guidance to those beneath us.
This can be done through shame, or through instruction.
I can pick apart the things in my daughter that frustrate or annoy me:
By highlighting them in front of others.
By scolding her incessantly.
By ridiculing her.
Or I can gently, graciously choose to instruct her in the ways of God:
By highlighting her giftings and talents in front of others.
By praising her incessantly.
By offering Biblical solutions for areas that prove to be more difficult for her.
I’m sure that teacher didn’t intend to cause me the pain she did; later I found her to be a caring, thoughtful woman. She was probably just overwhelmed by a classroom full of young, hyper students and I was the squeaky wheel.
She spoke without thinking.
She chose to shame instead of instruct.