It’s Back to School! Educators and parents alike are enthusiastic! It has been fun to see all of the beginning of the year pictures, from kindergartners on their first day of school to seniors ready to take on the world. Social media is loaded with brightly decorated classrooms and welcome signs as hopes are high for a new and different kind of school year. Everything feels fresh given our hiatus from in-person learning, and there seems to be a skip in everyone’s step. Fresh starts are energizing and downright fun! So why in the world would I write a blog entitled, “Protect Yourself”? To be honest, I’m not sure. I had this strong impression in my spirit, and I felt compelled to tackle this topic. Maybe some people need to hear the message? I know I do!
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but I have often found we are just as vulnerable to the enemy when things are going well as we are when trials come. When times are good, we tend to let our guard down. Our heightened awareness of God’s presence in and through all circumstances could protect us from unknown pitfalls or unnecessary detours. I’m not encouraging fear or anxiety, but I do believe we have to make purposeful decisions to protect ourselves from those situations or individuals that compromise our witness and our walk with Christ.
School cultures can be a bit tricky. I have been in hundreds of schools over the course of the last thirty-five years. Each school is different, possessing its own “personality.” It’s hard to describe, but I suspect everyone reading this blog knows exactly what I am talking about! Regardless of how positive or negative a school culture is, challenges and temptations will arise. Each day presents opportunities for us to rise above the fray or get caught in the muck. We always have a choice. Protecting ourselves can be as simple as asking ourselves two key questions.
· Will my actions and words reflect Christ? (2 Corinthians 5:20)
I believe in being prepared. Thinking through some potential problems ahead of time can equip us to protect ourselves from sin. Preparation can enable us to demonstrate a heart of grace and love to those around us. Where and when do Christian educators need protection? The list is probably endless, but let’s take a look at a few common areas Satan seems to capitalize on in school environments. Remember, he wants to discredit believers, and he will use any means possible to damage our witness (I Peter 5:8). Protect yourself!
Protect yourself from gossip.
Schools are highly social environments; as a result, they can be a hotbed for gossip. What can start off as an innocent conversation about a parent, student, or colleague can quickly turn to questionable accusations or assumptions. As believers we must resist these types of interchanges. However, I recognize at times we may find ourselves unwittingly caught right in the middle of a conversation gone bad. So what should we do?
If there are people on your staff who are known for spreading gossip about others, be cordial but stay away from them. It simply is not wise to fraternize with known gossipers. Additionally, if a conversation goes awry and shifts to gossip, you have a couple of choices. Do you excuse yourself, or do you say something? I can’t tell you what to do since I know each situation is different, but I think our first response should be to silently whisper to the Holy Spirit, “What should I do?” Doing nothing is not an option. By standing there and listening to gossip, we are condoning it.
I personally feel saying something may be the better option most times. We don’t have to be adversarial but can simply choose to speak grace into the situation. We might offer statements such as those listed below. Think about what other statements might work for you. Regardless, be prepared.
“I’m not comfortable speaking about this since I don’t have all the information.”
“I’m sure there is more to the story. I really feel for him/her.”
“We can’t make assumptions about things we don’t know much about.”
“I don’t feel it is right to share this information even if it were true. I wouldn’t want this said about me.”
“Have you talked to this person directly?”
“Let’s hold off talking about ___________ until they are here.”
To be fair, sometimes people don’t intend to slide into gossip. As we consider our response, let’s go back to our two key questions. Will my words reflect Christ? Will my response bear Kingdom fruit? Our response, spoken in love, can turn a conversation around. Protect yourself from gossip!
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6
Protect yourself from unforgiveness.
People will hurt you. People will disrespect you. People will treat you unfairly. These cold, hard facts are part of living in a fallen world. Unforgiveness is like poison spreading throughout our emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. Sometimes this poison moves slowly, and at other times it is swift. Regardless of the pace, unforgiveness is sin – plain and simple. Unforgiveness will become a barrier between you and Christ.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
I’m not saying you can never be angry when someone hurts you. In fact, the Bible says we can be angry but not sin. However, we are also told to not let the sun go down on our anger and to give NO opportunity to the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27). Unforgiveness opens the door for Satan to grab hold of our emotions. When this happens we end up responding in ways we later regret. Forgiveness is difficult, and forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Nevertheless, forgiveness releases the person from owing us anything and allows us to let go of bitterness.
If you are struggling with unforgiveness, take it to the cross every single day. The Holy Spirit will strengthen you and give you what you need to forgive. This is a promise (Romans 8:26). People are watching. When we choose to forgive, others see a glimpse of Christ reflected in us. We never know the fruit that may come from a heart of forgiveness. Protect yourself from unforgiveness!
Protect yourself from low expectations.
This one might seem a bit odd, but coming off a pandemic year, so much is being said about instructional time lost and learning losses. If we aren’t careful, it will be easy to fall into a mindset of low expectations. While it is a fact that much has been lost this past year, we don’t want to lower the bar for ourselves or our students. I’m not advocating unrealistic expectations, but I have found students often rise to the high expectations we set for them. As Christian educators we are called to be our best, and there is nothing wrong with expecting the best from our students (academically and behaviorally).
If our goal is to reflect Christ and bear fruit, then it behooves us to look to Jesus for direction. I can’t imagine Him ever having low expectations. He gave us a little insight into His expectations when speaking to the multitudes.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16
Let’s keep our expectations high! Salt our words with encouragement and praise, and let others know we expect great outcomes this year. God is faithful, and we can thank Him now for all He will do. Protect yourself from low expectations!
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17
Protect yourself from apathy.
I know apathy is a strong word and may sound a bit harsh, but as the year progresses and energy levels wane, we must protect ourselves from becoming complacent and indifferent. In other words, we need to avoid doing just enough to get by. I find this often happens when we forgo rest and exhaustion sets in. It can also happen if we aren’t good at setting boundaries, allowing ourselves to be overworked. Listen to your inner voice, and be wary of these types of thoughts.
“I can only do what I can do.”
“This isn’t what I signed up for.”
“I’m not sure I can keep doing this.”
“No one seems to care about what I’m feeling.”
“I’m not really making a difference.”
Stop! These phrases are joy killers. These types of thoughts do not reflect Christ and certainly do not bear kingdom fruit. To protect ourselves against apathy, we must recognize these thoughts are a ploy from the enemy and replace them with the truth of God’s Word!
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I wish I could tell you I have never succumbed to indifference. That is not the case. When I feel myself becoming apathetic, I start saying these Scriptures out loud, over and over. I let God know I am in desperate need of His intervention, and without fail He has carried me through. Every single time.
If apathy sets in, teaching becomes a job, not a passion. As Christian educators we truly reflect Christ and bear fruit when we possess an excitement and commitment to our profession. It doesn’t mean there won’t be bouts of discouragement. However, God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). I keep this verse posted in my office as a constant reminder of WHO I am serving. It helps me refrain from becoming lethargic. Protect yourself from apathy!
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24
2021-22 is going to be a great year and an opportunity for us to shine the light of Jesus in our schools. Let’s be prepared and protect ourselves from the enemy’s schemes to discredit our witness. Keep these key questions foremost in your mind.
· Will my actions and words reflect Christ?
· Will my response(s) bear Kingdom fruit?
Let’s choose to speak well of others, forgive quickly, set the bar high, and approach our work with dedication and enthusiasm! Have a great year!