Reflection on MLK’s “Loving Your Enemies”
We all have that one student. For me, it was a group of 5th grade boys…probably the most hardcore group of 5th graders you have ever met. Except, they still couldn’t read above a 1st grade level.
These were the boys who were running out of the classroom, flipping desks, and using an array of vivid vocabulary. They would come in my classroom, and we did all we could to do 15 minutes of learning before we had to take a break.
I remember that day. Two of the boys had gotten into a fight, and one of them picked up my metal garbage can. He had felt wrongly accused, and was going to take matters into his own hands. He went out in the hallway, and threw the garbage can, as it clanged with a loud noise. When I went outside to invite him back into the classroom, he began to direct his anger at me. He slowly picked up the garbage can over his head, and aimed it at me.
I had two choices in this moment: continue yelling or show love. I looked at him with “that look” that all teachers have, and most use on a daily basis. After several moments, he threw the garbage can down, looked at me, and walked away.
In that moment, when words were few, when I was sure that I was this student’s enemy, he showed me a level of respect that I thought was lost
This student had noticed the daily choices I made to show him consistent love. He was able to show me, in a way that he never communicated with words, that he knew that I loved him.
As I reflect on this moment, Martin Luther King Jr’s words come to mind. Choice lines from his sermon titled Love Your Enemies delivered November 17, 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL:
“And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.”
It is the daily choice of the teacher, no, the human being to decide that they are going to see the good. That no matter what the student does, or what last year’s teacher said, or what the latest gossip about her is, we will see the image of God in each and every student and person that comes into our classroom, and into our lives.
Showing anger about situations out of our control doesn’t get us anywhere. Hating our enemy doesn’t get us anywhere. But, if we make a daily choice of loving, it will get us to places that we would never imagine we’d be.
With hate, nothing is possible. But with love, all things are possible.
-Domenic Andolina, Class of 2015