23. Who Really Cares?

“I have never felt that football builds character.
 That is done by parents and church.
 You give us a boy with character
 and we will give you back a man.
 You give us a character —
 and we will give him right back to you..
 — John McKay


My teacher grabbed my shirt (sniff, sniff) and she said (sniff) … she doesn’t care about me!” Jonathan fought to hold back the tears that were puddling in his round, brown eyes. His eight-year-old shoulders slumped beneath the burden of injured self-esteem.

As I observed my son, a choking anger rose into my throat. How could his third grade teacher have said such an incredibly callous thing to my darling, brown-haired cherub? This babe from my womb? This child of my heart? The fact that I had grown to trust and admire Brenda Risner made Jon’s accusations seem like a dagger of betrayal. We had been working hard to try and piece together the little jigsaw puzzle that had become known to both of us as “our” Jonathan.

“Now honey,” I consoled. I was actually trying to calm the mother more than the child. “Are you absolutely sure that’s what Mrs. Risner said to you?”

Sniff, sniff .. “Yes! That’s just what she said.

I took a deep breath and prepared to utter the unthinkable. “Jon, did you do anything to make Mrs. Risner angry with you?”

“No Mom!” (Sniff.) “I didn’t do anything!”

It occurred to me that Matthew 7:12 may have been the most valuable Bible verse I was ever forced to learn as a child. It’s called the “Golden Rule” for a reason: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” … I decided that I owed Brenda the courtesy of asking for an explanation before I came unglued.

As I dialed her number, my stomach felt like I’d gone a round with Sugar Ray Leonard (the 1980’s equivalent to Manny Pacquiao). When Brenda answered, I filled her in on the situation from my end. She was obviously horrified and overcome with regret.

“Jon and I had a ‘difficult’ day,” she admitted. “I could tell that he was feeling extremely frustrated in his reading group and while he was taking his spelling test. I had to scold him several times for daydreaming. It was a real struggle to keep him on task while I worked with other children.

“When the day finally ended and the children were lined up at the door to go home, I felt frazzled. But I was also relieved that Jon and I had made it through without any unavoidable trouble. Then he pushed another little boy and started a scuffle. On impulse, I reached out and firmly held onto his shoulders. I looked into his eyes and said, ‘Jonathan, sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much about you!’”

Of course I had no problem visualizing the incident as she had described it. And I could also understand how an eight-year-old would come away with the misconception that his teacher didn’t care about him. The problem was easily resolved.

How often do I feel “abused” by my Teacher, only to discover in due time that He sometimes gets frustrated with me. But He always wants what’s in my best interest.


“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths.”

(Proverbs 3:5-6)



Misunderstanding and miscommunications are often at the root of seemingly overwhelming relational problems. If you are at odds with someone, give them a chance to clarify what happened to cause the conflict, and try to come to a peaceful resolution. For a biblical perspective, read what Paul had to say in Romans 12:17-18.