The School of Defiance


As a teacher, I am slightly notorious for handing out lunch detentions to students who misbehave. I’m working to lose this reputation. Regardless, in my basic classroom expectations, there are very specific behaviors that result in the consequence of a lunch detention. One of those behaviors that warrants a lunch detention is defiance.

Honestly, defiance was not a behavior I thought much of until teaching this year. But now it seems ever-present. Simply put, defiance is being told to do something and choosing not to do it or being told not to do something and continuing to do it. This morning, I asked one of my students to explain his view of defiance. He was thrilled, having previously saved himself many times from the consequences of defiance. His answer was, “It’s like if I say, ‘Mrs. Benham tuck in your shirt.’” Uniform violations are harmless, but expected to be fixed. “And then if you don’t tuck in your shirt, I say ‘Mrs. Benham, I asked you to tuck in your shirt and you didn’t.’ That’s a new problem. That’s defiance!” Now, in situations like this, I’ve yet to give anyone detention. They always tuck in their shirt, spit out their gum, do whatever they need to do to fix the small crime in order to avoid the punishment. It wasn’t until my professional development day in January that a colleague said something that made me think further on this subject. He noted very offhandedly that if a student knows the rule, not following the well-known and established rule could also be defiance.

His comment stopped me in my tracks and I couldn’t stop thinking about the whole thing. At school, defiance is understood as unacceptable. But do I accept defiance in other areas of my life? What about the sets of rules I abide by in my daily life? Let's start with the Ten Commandments. Thou shall not lie. How often do I tell lies? In my own brain, they are merely “little white lies” and “harmless.” But what does the Bible say? What is the commandment? Thou shall not lie. I disregard it. I ignore it. I defy it. Defiance demands a punishment because when one is defiant, one is choosing to defy.

What about this next one: Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's house, wife, male servant, female servant, ox, donkey, or anything that is thy neighbors. No issues with my neighbor’s oxen, but how many times each day am I envious of something? I’d say on many days that number is quite high. Yet again, I make the choice to defy the commandment. Now, I don’t want to get into our sinful nature and the fallenness of man, but when I sin, when I lie, when I don’t obey the Lord’s commandments, how often am I making conscious choices to do so? Frequently.

God has expectations. They are laid out for me very clearly throughout the Bible. There are so many that I choose to ignore, consider inconvenient, or don’t act on when brought to my attention. This rejection of the commandments is frequently, for me, defiance. Luckily, the Lord forgives. And so what next? At school, I am practicing second chances and forgiveness much more frequently as I am so aware of how often I am defiant toward God. Personally, I am making that conscious effort to not be defiant, whether that defiance manifests itself in ignoring what I know to be the rule, in not doing things I have been asked to do, or in doing what I have been asked not to do. I have the Lord who is gracious holding me accountable.

Plus, I told 105 seventh graders that I want to be more gracious and forgiving and so they take reminding me every day very seriously.

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