Have you ever worked with a student who just couldn’t stand you? I have. You know the deal – the rolling eyes, snarky comments, being completely ignored, blatant efforts to be disruptive, and the heaps of sarcasm. Having a hater is totally awesome. Ok, not true. No one likes to be hated and it’s not awesome at all. We want all of our students to love us, but the reality is, they don’t. Sometimes they hate us.
In most cases, haters hate for reasons beyond our control. It’s important not to take it as a personal attack. We do well to keep things in perspective.
Why all the hate?
You’ve replaced their former youth pastor.
You represent authority
You’ve embarrassed them
Their parents make them attend youth group
They fear getting close to adults because of abandonment issues
Other various insecurities and fears
Here are few things I’ve tried to remember and practice that have turned some of my haters around.
Understanding and clarity: Try to gain an understanding of where the student is coming from. By understanding why they feel the way they do, and why they hate the way they do, you can take steps in the right direction. Don’t assume anything. A bad assumption is just fuel for the fire. Do what ever you can to start a dialog – which means starting where they are, not where you want to be.
Space and Time: Some students just need time to get to know us. It is possible to try too hard to gain a student’s approval. This just pushes the student further away and irritates them. Give them space. Say hey, but don’t smother them. If they are with friends that are a little bit friendlier, approach and talk to the entire group. You’re in this for the long hall. Ask God to show you opportunities to connect and reconcile with this student. Give it time.
React Responsibly: Haters will test you. Students desperate for attention will push adults in negative ways because it draws your focus to them. When being tested, we should not respond while we’re angry. We should defuse the situation by not over reacting and not responding in a crowd. Addressing a student who is testing should happen outside of the large group during a more appropriate time, not in the moment.
Outlast the hate: Gods love dwelling in you can outlast the hate of some of the best haters out there. Here are some of the traits of love that outlast all haters: fairness, honesty, patients, kindness, grace, understanding, and wisdom. When we outlast the hate, good things happen. Hate will get tired when all its tests have failed, all its lies return void, and waves of kindness and understanding wash over insecurities and fear.
The saying is, haters gonna hate. Relationships with some teens might begin with this phrase, but they won’t end there. What have you done to turn your haters around?