Remember when it was suggested teachers shouldn’t use red ink to grade students’ work? According to the idea, red creates nervousness and may even contribute to poor grades. Even though everyone knows a teacher means business like nobody’s business when the red comes out, I’m not quite sure what I think about that. I mean how powerful would Jesus’ words have been if he spoke in purple letters?
Here’s my red ink story.
It was group time during a typical 2nd grade day. We had just finished an assignment to show off our skills at writing complete sentences. Now, it was time to see what Mrs. Anderson thought of our work. Our words stretched from the bottom red line, through the dotted green line and up to the top blue line, and even beyond. Thankfully, we weren’t being graded on penmanship–that dreadful day would come later. No, this day we were just asked to write sentences.
It takes all of 5 seconds to read a second grader’s work. So, everyone knew their grade pretty quickly. A few of us heard “good job” or “excellent.” No one seemed terrified by red check marks. One student, however, was about to receive the red ink special.
- I went to the store.
- I saw a dragon.
- I am 8.
- I like Cocoa Pebbles.
- I live in a house.
- I want a Nintendo.
- I am Mad Max.
- I play football.
- I watch Moonlighting.
Complete sentences. Nothing wrong here.
Truthfully, I don’t remember at all what he wrote. I only recall that each sentence began with the word “I.” That’s when the Bic hit the fan. Our teacher readily underlined every I -filled sentence with an angry sigh and a lead-heavy stroke of her pen. She finished off her red masterpiece by making a billboard across the page, in all caps writing the word: B-O-R-I-N-G.
If the red-ink theory is true, we should pray for that boy. He may or may not be emotional stable today. All I know is that Mrs. Anderson didn’t like boring sentences, even if they had a main clause and good verb construction. What our teacher found boring was that the young boy had not learned to incorporate others into his writing. Every sentence was about himself. Granted, I can’t recall that the assignment indicated we couldn’t write all about ourselves, but with so much I, his assignment was boring to listen to and boring to read.
And I guess that’s true for life, too. Too much I makes life boring.
I need to admit that often I’m stuck in 2nd grade. Sure, my sentence-writing skills have improved, but I’m in the habit of keeping I in front way too much. Something tells me you might know someone like that, too. We have that tendency to look out for Numero Uno. We like us and we like thinking about us. Don’t agree? Some have estimated that 1 million self-I-es are taken everyday. That may or may not speak for itself. Still, it’s easy to see that what’s important to us seems to often take center stage and our concern for including others gets dragged in only as long as it is good for us.
Don’t get me wrong. You are important; I am important. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That implies a little love our direction. But life is better spent with a great concern for others.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…
How ya feeling about that red stuff?
When God is our first priority, a concern for others is an expected result. We think less of I and begin to pray more for someone else. We begin to find ways to express Christian love to others, even if it means I might be uncomfortable or inconvenienced. So, think about the way you write your sentences, or really how you think about each day. What places can you move the I around to make sure there’s room for others to fill your life.
Well, that’s my red ink story. It didn’t scar me. Then again, it wasn’t my paper, or my feelings.
++While there is no I in team, “there’s also no ‘selfish hypocrisy’ in team either.”++
+picture credits: morgue file & flickr