Teaching math has a way of bringing up interesting interactions and emotions. I have said many times that the more significant work I do is with the psychology of a student and not with math.
When I am working with students, it is necessary to choose my words carefully. One poorly chosen word can shut someone down entirely. And no matter how careful I am, there are still times when what I say is received by the student in far different ways than I intended.
Because of this, I spend a lot of time working on conveying an overall intention that I am working for them. If they really believe I am working for them, then they will hear my words from that frame. If they don’t believe this, they can hear the kindest word as an attack.
Of course this all rings true in life in general and also with our relationship with God.
With that in mind, imagine a student worked a straight forward math problem and got that the answer is 2 when the correct answer is -2. Missing a result by a negative sign is a notorious mistake.
Now imagine when the student asked me for help I responded something like, “You stupid idiot, you lost your negative sign again. You do this EVERY TIME. You’re never going to get this. I don’t know why you’re still trying! Really!?”
Chances are the student wouldn’t just be upset, they would be angry. They would probably march out of the room to report me to the dean. There might be some paper work involved.
I certainly don’t speak to students like this. I’m not even resisting speaking to students like this because I really am working for them. I care about them. Whether or not they realize it, I care about them more than I care about their ability to do math.
Here is a very frustrating truth, though: they talk to themselves like this all the time.
The things I hear them say to themselves are heart wrenching.
We put so much effort in being kind to others for various healthy and unhealthy reasons, but what about self-kindness?
Jesus said that all the laws of the Old Testament came down to two things: Love God and love others as we love ourselves. (Mk 12:30-31)
When it comes to how we treat others, perhaps there is no other way.
Perhaps how we treat others will always flow out of how we treat ourselves.
Perhaps the love we have for ourselves is first dependent on how much we believe God is working for us.
Perhaps if we really believe that God is for us, we will be freed to live a life of love towards others.
Maybe all of that is why I like the similar sounding but very different new command Jesus gave: Love each other as I have loved you. (Jn 15:12)
My hope for you is that you believe, truly believe, that God is working for you and not against you; that you believe through and through that God’s unlimited love for you means you are a lovely, lovable, and loving creature; and out of this wellspring of life within, pours an abundant life of love for all.