“The way you treat them in the first two weeks will dictate your relationship.” The home stay coordinator was talking to us about setting up proper household expectations with exchange students. She continued, “If you serve them breakfast and do their laundry at the beginning, they will expect it for the duration.”
“I took this to heart,” shared another host parent, “and when I pulled into the driveway with our first student, I pointed to the roof and told him our first project was clean out the gutters.”
We all laughed as he recalled the look on the student’s face before he confessed he was kidding.
Some time later, I was still mulling it over in my head. How much of that concept translates beyond house guests? For example, if we screw up our first few interactions with another person, is the relationship doomed? Well, of course it is. Right? If your first few dates with someone are horrible, why would you continue meeting? Or, if someone bullies or belittles you at each engagement, why seek their friendship? When stated in those terms, the answer seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Why would anyone pursue a relationship with someone who doesn’t encourage, inspire, or otherwise bring out your best, regardless of whether the bad behavior happens in the first two weeks of meeting or later on?
The mama-bear parent in me wants to scare away anyone who would try to tear my daughters down. I’ve grieved as one of my children shared about someone whose unkind behavior brought her to tears. “Don’t listen to that person,” we tell our kids. “Don’t waste your time with bullies.”
From an early age, we teach our kids to steer clear of anyone who hurts us, of course. But it goes further than that. What if, out of a very human desire for self-preservation, we also teach them to avoid anyone who is hurting?
Hurting people can do some pretty terrible things. Hurting people often lash out at others—even those who are trying to help. Hurting people can hurt us. So shouldn’t we avoid them, for our own protection?
I know I’m talking about this in blanket terms, as if there’s ever an easy answer. Sure, some hurting people aren’t as bad as others. But others are really really bad. So how do we proceed? How do we teach our kids to handle people who hurt and are hurt?
“How you treat them in the first two weeks will dictate your relationship.”
I wonder if maybe the answer really is as simple as…
…treating them with kindness.
Even when it hurts.
Because one day, maybe even today, we’ll be the ones who are hurting… we’ll be the ones others might want to avoid for their own protection. And in those moments, the one thing we really need just might be the person we’ve hurt or offended or pushed away.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. —Colossians 3:12-14