I was playing ball with my four-year-old friend yesterday when her ten-year-0ld cousin came out to join us. Her face crumpled.
“Make him go in,” she said. “He’ll scare me. He’ll jump up behind me and scare me.”
I tried to explain that I couldn’t punish him for something he had not yet done. She sighed and stage-whispered in the most world-weary tone, “He’ll scare me. He always does.”
I sympathized with her. After all, it is the nature of ten-year-old boys to bother their little cousins, especially once they discover that a specific action really does scare or irritate them. But she’s learning one of those life lessons: When do you give another chance and when do you say ‘no more’?
I tend to be in favor of second or third chances, probably because I’ve received so many in my life. For every stupid thing I’ve done, someone has been willing to overlook and still believe in my potential or basic decency. Besides, I have to believe in change for the better, or why else would I be in education?
Still, there is a fine line between giving many chances and being a doormat. A friend of mine works with a person who simply can’t pass up an opportunity to make a snide comment or subtle or not-so-subtle criticism. Everyone who knows my friend has given her the same advice: You’re not going to change this person, and it’s obvious that, for whatever reason, she will never respect your work. Disengage. When she comes at you, walk away. Realize it has more to do with her than with you.
Still, my friend is constantly hurt because she keeps believing, despite all proof to the contrary, that this time, she will have a respectful encounter with her colleague. She’s like Charlie Brown and the football.
So the Monday Motivator for this week is this: Give people second and third chances, but protect yourself as well. And for my little four-year-old friend, keep playing with your cousin, but don’t turn your back on him.