|True Stories: Confrontation in the Teacher’s Lounge
Although we should be willing to overlook minor offenses, there are some problems that will only grow worse if they are not dealt with in a straightforward way. Janet learned this lesson when friction between her and Larry, a fellow teacher, got out of hand.Larry seemed to irritate almost every person in the school. He continually made fun of other people, often in embarrassing ways. He was quick to criticize others, but was easily offended when someone found fault with him. For some reason, he seemed to pick more on Janet than on anyone else. Whenever she walked into the teachers’ lounge, Larry would look up and immediately say something sarcastic to or about her, so Janet found herself avoiding the lounge whenever she thought he might be there.
Janet, who had been a Christian for several years, was especially troubled by the fact that Larry openly claimed to be a Christian. She was particularly distressed by the effect Larry’s behavior was having on Carol, a teacher to whom Janet had been witnessing for over a year. The more Carol was repelled by Larry’s behavior, the less open she was to Christianity. “If that’s what it means to be a Christian, no thanks,” she said to another teacher one day. “The people I meet at the bar are more decent than he is!”
Janet had already confronted Larry several times about his conduct. Unfortunately, since she always did it without thinking, usually after he had just offended her, her words were usually angry and sarcastic. This only made Larry defensive and always led to an argument, after which they would both walk away fuming.
Finally realizing the damage that was being done by their open conflict, Janet asked a friend for advice on how to deal with the problem. After discussing ways that she could please and honor the Lord through this situation, they considered where she had been at fault. Then they carefully planned how she could talk with Larry in a more constructive manner. They prayed that the Lord would give both Janet and Larry grace to resolve their differences in a way that would show the reality of Christ in their lives.
The next morning, Janet arrived at school early enough to talk with Larry before any of his students arrived. After telling him that she was concerned about the argument they had had earlier that week, she asked if he would have some time later that day to talk. With some hesitancy, he agreed to meet her in a spare office at 3:30.
When they met later in the office, Larry was obviously nervous and defensive. Janet put him at ease by explaining what she hoped to accomplish through their meeting. She also admitted that she had behaved poorly and asked his forgiveness for losing her temper and saying hurtful things to him. He said, “That’s okay. I know I can be sort of abrasive at times.”
Instead of settling for this superficial repentance, Janet graciously went on to tell Larry how his conduct was affecting her, other people, and their Christian witness. Larry became defensive again and tried to excuse his behavior. Having already planned how to respond to that tactic, Janet was prepared to give him specific examples of sinful words he had said. She also appealed to him with regard to his Christian witness. Instead of getting angry or harsh, she kept her voice under control and continued to express her concern for Larry and her desire to do what would please and honor the Lord. While they talked, she continued to pray silently that God would help Larry to see the truth about himself.
After forty-five minutes of tense conversation, Larry began to soften. He admitted that his behavior was sinful and agreed that he needed to change. He went on to tell Janet that he had always had trouble getting along with people and that being sarcastic was his way of getting attention. Janet responded with understanding and shared some similar struggles in her own life. They then discussed several ways that they could help each other to overcome some of their harmful habit patterns. They also agreed to meet once a week for five minutes of prayer before school and decided to ask another Christian teacher to join them.
Finally, after recognizing how his behavior had affected Carol, Larry decided that he needed to go to her and ask for forgiveness. When he did so later that day, Carol was astonished. Her wonder increased over the following weeks when she saw how much better Larry and Janet were getting along. As of this writing, Carol has not yet become a Christian, but her interest in talking about Christ has noticeably increased. Janet’s decision to confront her Christian brother in love not only won him over but also cleared the way for others to learn about the peace that comes through Christ.