“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” ~1 Peter 4:8 NLT.
When I was a teenager, I was not doing well. Due to circumstances that were out of my control, I rebelled and behaved very poorly. At the time, I was attending a Christian school and all of my friends’ parents told my friends to stay away from me. I grew bitter towards the church and towards God. My grades were failing and my mother was paying for my school, so I begged her to put me in public school instead.
Newfound freedom arrived the first day I walked down those halls. No one knew who I was or the past I had just walked out of. Being the new kid at school was like being the new toy at Christmas time that everyone wanted to play with. I had a ton of friends within the first week of school and felt like I belonged. There were no whispers behind my back or cat fight type behaviors from other girls. I just blended in. My friends came from every single clique, people just liked me. I hung out with each group without having to be a chameleon, changing my colors to fit in.
The first half of the year was awesome, no drama, until I met a guy.
One of my classes was N.J.R.O.T.C. which stands for Navy Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. It was a pretty cool program and I enjoyed it, maybe a little too much because I was constantly in trouble. My commanding officer (we will call him Pete) had me doing pushups daily for one reason or another. If I didn’t keep my eyes straight-forward, 10 pushups. When I didn’t salute, 50 pushups. During verbal quizzes, if I got an answer incorrect, 10 pushups for each incorrect response.
You name it, Pete had me doing pushups for it.
He was a few months younger then I was but really wanted me to know how much control he had over me. It did not appear that he was a fan of how popular I was. I got so good at doing pushups that I could do 50 the “guy way” and 100 the “girl way”. This made me even more popular and Pete less pleased.
Something needed to change.
I tried avoiding him. The N.J.R.O.T.C. was held at a neighboring school that we were supposed to be bussed to, and for avoidance’s sake, I drove. Some of my friends would ride with me, which made him angrier. I began studying to get “A’s” on assignments, thinking good grades might help. I paid someone to spit polish my shoes and heavy starch iron my uniform, and still Pete wouldn’t let up.
His resentment towards me made me feel a lot like being in the Christian school as he began to tell negative things to others about me. I began hearing the whispers and people making excuses why they couldn’t hang out with me. What was going on? Why couldn’t people just see me for who I was instead of believing lies? It just didn’t make sense.
At the time, I was still bitter towards church and God, so I didn’t understand how I received the answer then–but I do now. The Holy Spirit was working through me before I even knew Him.
I was so frustrated with what was happening that I internally thought what can I do to fix this? For some time I festered over things I may have needed to correct about myself until something inside of me told me, it isn’t you. The same voice said, he is hurting and just needs some kindness.
Message received, loud and clear.
Daily, I made it my mission to go out of my way to say hi to Pete with a smile on my face. It wasn’t even subtle, I was loud and clear for all to hear. I would ask him about his day, how he liked the weather, tell him he looked sharp in his uniform, or that he was such a great guy to know. I am 100% positive I was getting under his skin, to the point that he was trying to avoid me.
But, I was relentless. I grew to love him and did random acts of kindness towards him often. He stopped harassing me in class and even tolerated me being around our mutual friends. It never made him like me as a friend but it did stop his deliberate attacks towards me. I was killing him with kindness and I hope I did such a good job that he never forgets it.
That was 27 years ago, and I still think of Pete with a smile on my face and a soft place in my heart for him. My pushup abilities are not the same but I certainly can’t do one without thinking of him.
We never know what is behind closed doors or what another person is walking through. Just because a person does not have a positive attitude does not mean you meet them with negativity or challenge. Kill it with kindness. You can catch more bees with honey then you can with vinegar. Remember that next time you go toe to toe with someone, it is not worth the challenge. Their heart needs you to display kindness, it covers over the sins.
More honey, less vinegar.