Ben (not his real name) came into year 10 at the school of which I was a Principal. He made an immediate impact!
By his third week, teachers were petitioning for his expulsion. He was an angry young man, with no limits on his resultant behaviour. He bullied everyone; teachers, fellow students – anyone who he perceived was a problem to him. Ben was the epitome of rebellion and anger which resulted in harmful speech and actions.
The Senior School Principal tried every strategy, to no avail. Ben ended up in my “meeting lounge”. I sought to understand the reason for his damaging attitudes and behaviours. He refused to talk. So, I displayed my intransigent stubbornness, (which I like to believe is positive determination!)
The deal was, that we would remain in my “meeting lounge” until we were able to have a meaningful conversation. It took over three hours for the conversation to begin!
We explored a number of issues and agreed to some strategies that would be more positive for the community as well as Ben. There was no immediate dramatic change, but some improvement did occur.
As a consequence of many discussions, Ben realised his need to submit his life to the Lordship of Christ. A genuine relationship with the Father began to develop; but behaviour change did not seem to occur at the same rate.
Many of Ben’s contemporaries doubted his salvation and questioned how a self-professed disciple of Christ could continue with frequent bullying, sarcasm and rebellion.
My challenge to Ben was that he had a responsibility to explain his actions to his fellow students. He agreed to be interviewed by me at a Senior School chapel. Ben started by giving some family background. He was the eldest son. His younger brother was born three years after him with significant physical and mental disabilities. This caused Ben to be angry with God, he felt displaced in his parents’ affections and he resented having a brother who needed constant care.
Ben’s brother died and Ben felt tremendous guilt; but he also experienced envy; that in his brother’s short life he had brought more joy and had a greater positive effect upon others than Ben himself. He was ashamed and his real anger was against his own responses. The audience of contemporaries and teachers were deeply touched and began to understand Ben more deeply.
I pushed a bit harder, pointing out how people found it difficult to reconcile his understanding of forgiveness in Christ and his ongoing angry behaviour. Ben’s response: “Christ can change our hearts in an instant; changing our habits may take much longer”.
Attitudes changed that day. Fellow students, as well as teachers, recognised a desire in Ben to change but an inability to make that change instantly or by himself. They committed to help in the process.
Today Ben is a Church pastor.
How do we challenge our community members (including ourselves) with Truth and Hope?