100 Posts Later, It’s Out of My Hands.

22 02 2012


This post marks a milestone–the 100th post I’ve written on this blog.

And the pressure of writing something stunning for this mini-monumental moment has been mounting for some time.

Do I write something extra-sarcastic and humorous, or deeply heartfelt and gut-wrenching? Do I write about joys and blessings, concerns or worries, insights and observations?

Ironically, I only started this blog on a whim about a year and a half ago. I only intended to use it for my own friends and family, at first–and in my spare time, working around my wacky schedule. I was stunned to find out that my youth and their parents were reading it…and then that I had a steady few hundred followers…and then that it caught the attention of the WordPress editors, who nominated it as a top post of over half a million writers, and recommended it to as many readers. I was surprised again to find that one of my most personal posts–one about the realization that my childhood was dead–was nominated by these same editors again, and that it was read by the equivalent of stadiums full of people all over the world.

So, you can see the interesting conundrum that’s going on: I intend only for this to be a fun, once-in-a-while side outlet, and people around the world are writing to me and telling me that they “love my work” and want to hear more from me.

Add to that the fact that I’m really not interested in devoting too much time to my personal blog–since I’d rather be engaging with the people around me–and you can see why this blog is a difficult balancing act.  I refuse to utilize the “tricks” that professional bloggers use to gain more readers and make waves to garner interest, posting at ideal times of day and with certain keywords  and word counts to maximize exposure. I’m simply a twenty-something who loves people, loves to write, and wants to be real. That’s it.

So, in the spirit of authenticity, I’ll devote this 100th post to something deeply meaningful to my life.

This past weekend, I helped facilitate a retreat for our Missouri District’s Peer Ministry Training team. Picture the cream of the crop student leaders from all around Missouri gathering at a camp and spending the entire weekend learning counseling skills and leadership training to use right away with their own peers, and you get a little glimpse of what we do at PMT. I brought 5 high school youth from my churches–young leaders who have been instrumental in my own middle school ministry–and it was incredible to see them be challenged and grow in knowledge and confidence right before my eyes, over the course of the weekend.

I had a flash of personal insight this weekend, however, while I was teaching a room of nearly 30 teenagers about “letting go” of all the things you’re holding onto in life. As I was speaking, I was struck by the absolute truth of what I was telling these students: when I let go off all of the “stuff” in my life, I’m more open to receive the blessings God wants to pour out on my life.

I know, it seems so simple. But it’s so profound.

To be frank, I shudder to think what my life would have been like if I would’ve ignored the Holy Spirit’s whispers in my life to let go of all I was holding so tightly to. In middle school and high school, I devoted nearly every waking minute to being perfect. I strove to practice my instrument diligently, trained to be the best athlete I could be, studiously completed my homework, took on every conceivable club and extracurricular activity and leadership position possible, and poured my life into friends. I spent countless weekends at school, hours at the gym, and every waking moment enjoying my whirlwind social life.

I knew I couldn’t possibly sustain the level of activity I was operating at. But I refused to let go of all of these things I was doing, and all of the things that I loved.

My life changed when I finally released my white-knuckle grip on everything–my future, my friends, my life goals, my choice of college major, my daily activities–and let it drop into God’s lap. I realized that I could finally open my hands up to what God wanted to give me, once my hands weren’t full with the immense burden I was trying to carry on my own.

So often, I pick things back up and cradle them to my chest, refusing to let go of them. And they aren’t just bad habits–many of them are noble, worthwhile endeavors. But it’s not until I let the Holy Spirit pry open my hands and gently drop this “stuff” that I’m able to clear my vision and see how much my Heavenly Father has blessed me with, and how much more He wants to give me.

That’s not to say that life is necessarily easier when I let go, or that God is guaranteed to pour out an abundance of blessings in my life. God isn’t a magic genie who grants my every whim. But He’s proven to me that His peace, love, and joy are lasting and deeper than anything this world can offer, and I’d rather possess that than earn a staggering paycheck or be known as the “top banana” in my field.

It certainly hasn’t been a coincidence that the incredible opportunities I’ve had in the last two years–chances to speak internationally to teens, write a youth ministry column professionally, participate in radio and video interviews, and help our international Lutheran organizations in various ways–have all come right after those moments when I’ve again dropped all of those things I’ve been holding in my grip.

A thought-provoking devotion arrived in my email inbox this morning, sharing the story of Jesus’ first miracle–turning water into wine–with a new twist: when Jesus told the servants at the wedding he was attending to “fill the jars”, they went and filled them “to the brim” (John 2:7). The devotion pointed out that Jesus likely would have transformed those water jars into wine even if they had only been filled halfway, or three-quarters full. As the author pointed out, “Likewise, God will transform as much of our lives as we give Him.”

I read recently in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship these words:

“When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time–death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old person at his call…But if we lose our lives in his service and carry our cross, we shall find our lives again the community of the cross with Christ.”

It is so true. If we lose our lives to Christ, we will find it again in Him.

Perhaps it took me 100 posts to reveal that one valuable nugget of Truth–but it’s certainly been worth the rollercoaster ride it’s taken to get here. Because no matter where I end up in life, or what I do, or whose approval or respect I earn, I know one thing:

My life is securely in Christ’s nail-scarred hands, and there is no safer or more satisfying place to be than there.


The #1 Sin of Church Workers?

27 05 2011

I know, you haven’t heard from me in a while. I’ve been busy.

This whole spring-rolling-into-summer-rolling-into-summer-camps-and-VBS-and-mission-trips-and-confirmation-stuff thing is pretty much the most chaotic time of year for those of us in youth ministry.

But trust me, things haven’t slowed down in my mind at all, even though I’ve neglected my blog here in the last month.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about ministry and what sort of legacy I want to encourage my youth to have in their own lives. I happen to have a couple of kids who aspire to be in ministry someday, so I’ve been pondering what the most important bit of wisdom I could possibly impart on them could be, in view of this long-term goal.

After a lot of careful thought, I think it comes down to this single shred of wisdom:

Remain humble.

It seems so simple. Anticlimactic, almost.

Yet I think that the sins of pride and arrogance are the ones that cripple church workers the most.

The very nature of a pride issue cuts one off from being teachable or moldable. From ever admitting wrongness or failure. From sharing the credit with others. From truly connecting with other people. From ever apologizing. From rolling up the shirtsleeves and doing the gritty, hard work that’s required—because, after all, it’s beneath you or it’s not your thing.

Pride makes it impossible to try someone else’s idea. It isolates from being open to God’s promptings. It makes it difficult to work with others. It prevents others from coming to you—because who wants to confide in or seek counsel from someone who sneers down their nose at you?

Most shamefully, arrogance can lead us off of the real path of God’s work and instead focus our eyes inward, on our own kingdoms, accomplishments, and successes—whether actual or merely perceived.

By the very nature of the problem, it’s impossible to try to convince someone that they do have a pride issue. Anyone who offers an honest opinion, a helpful remark, or even a harsh criticism is brushed off by those who think they know better than anyone else.

Pride says that people are just bodies to control. Pride whispers falsity. Pride dominates and boasts and refuses to actually care about anyone but itself.

I definitely know that there are incredible, humble, servant-hearted people out there. I thank God for those people—they are the salt of the earth. I have many of them in my ministry, and I absolutely couldn’t function without their constant encouragement, love, and care for others.

But lately, I’ve realized more and more that pride is a stronghold for many in the ministry. Pastors, youth workers, students across the board seem to struggle with being possessed with an arrogance problem.

In fact, in my opinion, pride is the number one sin that has a grip on those in the ministry.

Is it possible to start out with the purest of intentions, and become something that does a disservice to our loving Savior?


Which is why we must constantly be on guard with our actions, and aware of what we’re allowing into our hearts. We must regularly and honestly evaluate ourselves, and ask those we trust to evaluate us. Sin can—and does—swallow us whole, without us being aware that it’s happening. And only our ever-patient, ever-loving, ever-forgiving Savior can help us guard our hearts and minds from this deceit.

Jesus had the harshest criticisms for the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law. When I was younger, I didn’t understand that. Now that I work in a church, I completely understand. As people charged with the task of sharing Christ with others—with leading and teaching and exhorting—we should be the biggest proponents of humility.

Instead, it’s the trap that Satan has carefully laid for those in the ministry—and he has snared many in its deadly clutches.

When I was in college, I was a resident assistant for two years. During our month-long training in the summer before school started, we were asked to help prepare the school for the arrival of students by cleaning the dorms. On a skin-searingly hot summer day, we spent ten hours scrubbing mold from refrigerators, plunging toilets, mopping floors, painting hot metal railings, moving back-breaking piles of mulch, and repainting parking lines in the student lot.

As I stood with a gallon of bleach in one hand and a brush in the other, panting in the heat, I kept looking over at our directors. Although they were the loudest cheerleaders for doing this service project, they had been sitting all day in the shade, sipping their ice waters. They didn’t do a thing the entire day—in other words, their talk didn’t even come close to matching their walk.

And when we had finished up what later became known as “Slave Labor Day”, they were the ones to receive the accolades from the university for working so hard.

Their arrogant pride ultimately turned an entire staff of student leaders against them, in pure disgust. And no amount of team building or pep talks could ever restore the respect that was lost in one day.

If that can happen, I shudder to think how many people we’re turning off from Christianity because of our pride issues.

People’s eternal lives are being impacted.

All of those people in the world that shout “hypocrites” to us? I get it.

Pride. It’s a dangerous pitfall—and that’s why I tell my student leaders over and over and over again that they must remain humble.

I recently saw a quote online that said, “We’re called to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.” I’ve found myself repeating that constantly.

He didn’t call me to lord over a church.

He didn’t call me to put myself up on a platform.

He didn’t call me to consider myself better than the rest of my synod, other churches, my staff, or the students and families I work with.

God didn’t call me to be a keeper of the aquarium, but to be a fisher of men.

Things I Probably NEVER Should’ve Said Out Loud…

24 03 2011

While in the office today, chatting with some of my male coworkers, they confessed that they think I’m a very intimidating person.

Dare I mention that one of these coworkers saying this was my own husband?

When I pressed the issue–genuinely a bit concerned, I might add–they wouldn’t stop laughing long enough to give me serious reasons why they view me this way. I think they were snickering at my disbelief.

Finally, one of my coworkers stopped giggling long enough to say, “When you write things like, ‘I’m going to chop your fingers off’, that scares people!”

Hm. Good point.

Let me explain…it’s not as bad as it sounds.

I think.

Back away from the cookies....

About two years ago, I had a problem with people from the office sneaking into my candy and cookie stash that I was saving for middle school events. When I dragged in several large cookie trays one day and had to leave them overnight, I was obviously concerned for the welfare of said cookies. So, I did what any other creative young individual would do, to deter people from creeping into my cookie stockpile:

I wrote a note saying, “If you steal a cookie from here, I will chop off your sticky fingers and feed them to you.”

It worked. Not a single cookie was stolen.

However, I haven’t lived it down since then. It gets brought up at least once a week around here.

I had another one of those, “Oops, I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud” moments a few weeks ago, as I was teaching a Communion Instruction class at church on a Sunday afternoon. As it was a large group and I was busy with organizing paperwork and prepping for the long lesson I’d be teaching, I had a few young students standing around me, pestering me mercilessly.

Since I was about ready to get up and teach the large class of students and parents, I had to get this youngsters to leave me in peace for a few moments. So I asked them to leave me alone and go sit down.

I actually don’t remember what I said, to be quite honest–but plenty of witnesses later reminded me of exactly what I said:

“Hey, go sit down or I’ll have to stab you with a pencil.”

Their response? “Whaaaaat?! You wouldn’t stab us, would you, Cassie?”

Me: (glancing around the table) “Well, you got lucky today. I only see pens here. Go away.”

I know, you’re wondering if I would actually stab a sixth grader with a pencil, aren’t you?

Come on–I don’t want to ruin my pencils. Silly.

I think the problem stems from the fact that I’m coupling my sarcastic and witty humor along with the fact that I work with such a turbulent and boisterous age group.

Often, I’ve caught myself saying things at youth events like, “Don’t make me throw you off the roof, pal” and “If you don’t put that basketball away, I’ll shove it up your nose”.

You think I’m joking? Ask my kids.

Or my coworkers.

Or…anyone that knows me.

I’ve become infamous lately for the “Focus Fist”, an effective (albeit cruel-sounding) form of silencing a large crowd during Bible study. The “Focus Fist” actually used to be the much more humane “Focus Fox”, where I held up my hand and formed an adorable little fox by extending my index and pinky fingers and clamping the other fingers down into a little snout. The purpose of the “Focus Fox” is to distract the group just long enough to refocus them. And it’s usually quite effective.

But, after an extremely long day at work and an evening capped off by attempting to lead a Bible study with the most tenacious group of ten and twelve year olds you’ve ever seen in your life, I abandoned the “Focus Fox” and instead waved my fist at them. Thus, the “Focus Fist” was born, and a new youth group tradition was started. And quickly spread to other youth groups a few weeks later, at a retreat.

My legacy: one of fear and control. How nice.

I guess my coworkers are right. I’m quite an intimidating person.

Now, stop reading my blog or I’ll throw you off the roof, buddy.

My Ponytail-Anger Correlation…And How A Squirrel Is Driving Me Insane.

3 03 2011

Even as a little tot, the Ponytail-Anger correlation apparently existed...

I overheard an interesting conversation last night.

I was rounding up my eighth and ninth grade student leaders, who have been helping me lead our Wednesday night Bible studies with a rowdy bunch of fifth and sixth graders. Since we were running short on time, I quickly started explaining how the Bible study would run and assigning jobs to my student helpers for the evening.

As an assertive and highly efficient leader, I’ve learned to counter my strong personality by being overly friendly and warm when dealing with other people. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, I cast off that fuzzy exterior and get down to business.

It unsettles my younger leaders, because usually they’ve only ever seen me as nice.

One of my helpers confusedly asked, “Cassie, are you mad? What’s wrong?”

Before I could respond, one of my other helpers piped up and matter-of-factly said, “No, she’s not mad. If she was mad, her hair would be in a ponytail.”

That one caught me off-guard.

Immediately, I could recall at least a half-dozen times when I had been at my absolute angriest…and yes, I’d been wearing a ponytail every time I could remember.

I thought of a blow-out fight I had with a boyfriend in high school. I trounced away from him, down the long hallway, and later had a friend remark that she could tell how mad I was by the “killer vibes” she was getting from my swishing ponytail.

I remembered the first big fight I had with my now-husband, Tyler. He eventually followed me back to my dorm room and told me that watching my ponytail swinging “furiously” was his wake-up call to how angry I really was.

So, was I angry last night?

Yes. A bit.

You see, I’m pretty sure there’s a rabid squirrel hanging out around our apartment complex.

And I honestly think he’s out to get me.

Squirrels. They look so cute and cuddly. I always secretly thought that they’d make great pets–after all, they’re small enough to throw in your purse, infinitely more amusing than gerbils and hamsters, and so dexterous.

That childhood dream has been dashed to pieces by the cold reality of trudging up a long flight of stairs to my apartment, and all of a sudden shrieking as this darn rodent swings out mere inches from my face, scampers down the handrail over my hand, and then hangs upside down from the railing, chirping angrily at me.

Listen, you insane little animal: do you pay rent here? Do you have a right to chirp at me with your bossy little voice when you have no business loitering in my apartment complex?

I didn’t think so.

Needless to say, my nerves are a little on edge. This happens nearly every day, after all. I think my little foe actually skulks around, just waiting to attack me every afternoon. Sometimes he’ll even pop out at me in the morning, as I’m trying to carry a mug of steaming hot coffee down the slippery steps to my car.

Devious little rabid monster-squirrel. He’s going to kill me one of these days. I just know it.

Well, guess what? My hair wasn’t in a ponytail last night…but it is today.

Watch out, world.

I’m Cranky–But Being Honest.

16 10 2010

If I’m being honest with you, I have to admit that I hate the phrase “If I’m being honest”.

Doesn’t it make you automatically distrust the person saying this overly used, pithy phrase? Like instantly their credibility is in question, because they have to actually clarify their honest statement in the face of the rest of their statements, which are clearly nothing but baloney?

Anyone else feel that way?

Alright. We cleared the air on that one. I’m the only loony in the world.

Since I strive for honesty in everything I write, I think it’s time to confess something: Sometimes I seriously question my sanity.

Fine, you’ve got me. I know I’m sane. It’s the rest of you who are the insane ones.

What I really mean is that I question why on earth I decided to go into youth ministry. I’ve been in that funk for a few days—that sort of haze where you look around you and say, “Gee, this is a really stressful job with way too many deadlines, and I’m getting pretty darn sick of texting kids all the time and getting messages back in a language that only halfway resembles English.”

Part of my stress comes from the fact that one of the biggest events of my entire year is just a week away, and naturally the one year I decide to bump this retreat up two weeks early, I’ve ended up being away at conferences for two weeks—cutting my prep time in half. Add in several difficult issues within my various programs, increased responsibilities, leader issues to manage, and the additional strain on my schedule in deciding to become a high school leader this year—as well as trying to maintain a blog and a column, joining a district leadership team and promising to write curriculum for them, and mentoring a few students—and you get me on a rampage, ranting about the rest of the world being crazy.

What on earth WAS I thinking?!

This stress is probably what has prompted me to start cracking odd jokes about clowns and spontaneously buy the movie Killer Klowns From Outer Space for one of my students.

I know. Nonsense. You’re wondering what sort of fine, upstanding youth leader I can actually be, if I buy cheesy horror movies on impulse.

I’ll tell you exactly what kind I am—in Pastor Mark Driscoll’s insightful words, “a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody”.

What exactly am I trying to say here? I don’t know. Maybe I’m trying to be brutally honest and tell you that life isn’t always so great when you work in the ministry. Weekly, I feel like I’m in an uphill battle against a downward landslide in our world. I have people get angry with me, blame me for problems, and share the worst parts of themselves with me.

I hear unbelievable things from students and parents—issues I never even imagined going on under calm exteriors. I routinely meet dozens of new kids who are crushed if I don’t remember their faces or names the very next time I see them. I have to remember hundreds of inside jokes and details about students’ lives, and I have a constant radar scanning for kids who are secretly troubled and upset so I can help them.

I have articles and curriculum to write, events to schedule and plan, programs to run, mission trips and banquets and classes and retreats to plan, and leaders to train.

And that’s all on a good week.

This week, we had a multi-site expert come in to talk to our staff. I stayed after his presentation to chat with him. He told me that, based on the number of kids in our program, I was doing the work of three or four full-time employees.

Hm. Not sure if that was more of an affirming, “Way to go, Cassie, for handling everything you do!” or a “Hold still, sister, while I try to hit you in the head with this shovel and bury you just a leettle bit deeper!”

In the midst of my already very stressful week, I ended up with some of the most immature, worst-behaved kids I’ve ever dealt with in a small group Bible study I was leading. I was exhausted, cranky, and didn’t really want to be there. Everything I just stated was hanging on my shoulders like a heavy load. And, to top it off, I had been so pressed for time that I had asked my husband to help me write this Bible study—and was ticked that he had only written three questions for an hour and a half long study (never again, dear, never again).

I was counting down the minutes till the study ended, to be honest. I didn’t even care that the floor was coated with a lush carpet of popcorn and candy wrappers. I just wanted to go home and put on my pajamas. And that’s when it happened:

I watched a student have an “Aha!” moment as we talked about what Jesus has done for us.

And instantly, all the frustrations and stress vanished—the load was lifted.

I can’t really describe it much more than that. All she said was, “Oh!” in a surprised way, and her face absolutely lit up—but I knew that all of my long hours had been worth it. She connected with her Savior. God used me, in the midst of all my crankiness and bitterness.

Me. A nobody, trying to tell everybody about Somebody.

In the end, it’s all worth it. The Holy Spirit is always working, even when we’re wrapped up in our own frustrations and irritations.

And that’s really all I have to say…if I’m being honest.

5 Phrases They NEED To Hear (But Often Don’t!)

23 08 2010

No matter what you do, I won’t give up on you.

To me, it’s hard to believe that my students would ever think that I would give up on them—but when I really think about it, I can think of plenty of adults that I looked up to and trusted who did give up on me. Some of the adults I looked up to most in high school stopped talking to me entirely—I mean, wouldn’t even acknowledge me at graduation—after a silly prank I pulled as a senior. I was so devastated that it took years for me to get over that rejection.

Adults who influence for a weekend, a few months, or even a year are a dime a dozen. People who are passionate about students, invested in them in the long run, and who are willing to love fiercely—even when those kids they love so much screw up—are a rare breed.

But they’re life changers, I think—and I’ve been privileged to work with many of them in the last few years. They are truly shaping the entire future of the kids they’re invested in, and allowing God to literally speak through them to these kids—and as a program director, there’s nothing more inspiring than that.

I expect more from you.

As strange as it sounds, it was an epiphany to me when I first realized that I could set my own expectations and standards for my students. And believe me, up until that point, it was my biggest struggle in ministry. I used to think to myself, “How can I expect things out of kids when they aren’t given the same standards at home? Isn’t that unfair? Just because I was raised with high standards doesn’t mean that I should impose that on other people’s kids—right?”

In the real world, though, I quickly realized that kids need standards. Everything they do, in fact, is an attempt to find out where I stand on every issue. And, their constant nagging is simply a way to find out how firmly I stand on things.

Kids—especially middle schoolers—are adaptable. They quickly figure out what adults expect a lot out of them, and respect those adults in their lives much more than those who don’t expect anything out of them at all.

My students would likely all tell you that I have high standards, and that I expect a lot out of them. And, several of them would probably be able to tell you when I’ve had a stern but loving talk with them about how I do expect more from them as young Christians. I’ve always been upfront with my kids, clearly telling them that if I catch them swearing on Facebook, for instance, I’ll call them on it. And I do. That’s my standard—and kids respect that.

In fact, they strive to live up to it. Within my standards, too, I always strive to teach students life skills. To me, everything is a learning opportunity—a chance for growth. For instance, I’ve demanded that every young man remove his hat while praying. Unnecessary? Maybe. But a teachable moment about the respect and reverence we should have towards our Creator? Definitely.

It’s ok to wrestle with God.

The first time I ever said this to a group of kids, it was when I was a college student stepping in at the last-minute to lead a weekend retreat with a bunch of middle schoolers. I hardly knew the kids, but connected with them well. So well, in fact, that we ended up cramming all 11 of us into a hotel room that night to talk about the day.

As the kids talked, I began to notice a common thread—they were all wrestling with doubts about God, but skirting around the issue. It was like they just couldn’t admit that they did have those thoughts.

When I finally blurted out, “You guys are human! You’re grabbing onto your own faith and understanding it as teenagers now, stepping away from the faith that your parents have thus far raised you in—you should have doubts and be wrestling with these issues if you’re actually thinking about this stuff seriously!”, a sigh of relief literally went through the room.

A whole new, deeper level of conversation started—one that went beyond the “right answers” to brutal honesty that actually impacted these kids. I’ve moved half a country away from these particular kids, but they still remember that night and talk about it with their youth pastor often.

I think the story of Jacob wrestling with God is one that all teenagers need to hear. They need to be told that they’re not going to hell just because they’re questioning and wondering. We’re all sinful, imperfect people, and we all experience doubts from time to time—but how crafty is Satan, to sneak in there and pry these kids away from their faith entirely by convincing them that their questions about God make them unworthy of His love?

(Answer: very crafty!)

Sometimes I think that maybe my only purpose for being on this earth is to comfort those kids who are struggling so painfully with this issue–and have been stressed and guilty and overcome with shame for years because no one’s ever told them this before.

Because, at the end of their questions and doubts, stands a God who outlasts every query.

You can trust me–really.

People constantly open up to me. I don’t know if that means I’m a nosy person, a good listener, or just have a knack for being approachable…but whatever it is, it happens all the time. I’ve been in grocery stores, talking to random people, and have had them telling me their life stories. And usually, people confide in me so deeply that at some point, they suddenly reel back and say, “Oh my goodness! You can’t ever tell anyone else that I said that!”

Kids, especially, tell me all sorts of things they don’t want others to know. I’m more trustworthy than their peers, I suppose—but still close enough to them that I’m not a total stranger. They know that I won’t promise them blind trust—I would have to seek professional help and connect with their parents if I found out that they were severely depressed, anorexic, or suicidal, for instance.

But what they constantly want to know is how trustworthy I am with their day-to-day confessions. I need to remind them that I do keep my mouth shut—and that I would always inform them if I ever were to share anything confidential with anyone else.

I don’t like your behavior, but I still love you.

I learned this little nugget as a resident assistant in college. It was simply incredible what a difference it made to the students I was disciplining—keep in mind, those students were my peers.

You learn fast how to avoid making an entire student body angry with you when you bust up one of the biggest sophomore parties of the year, believe me.

Explaining to people that while I didn’t like their behavior or the choices they made but I still cared about and wanted a relationship with them was the dealmaker. It seems like an almost unnecessary thing to say–but simply saying it makes all the difference in the world. And it does make a difference to kids, too, on the occasion that I do need to discipline them.