A Whack on the Side of the Head

By Mike Anderson

At one minute to eight, Rich put his white styrofoam cup down. He walked to the podium, slid his fingers through his hair, and began to move papers around. For 30 seconds he frowned at one of them, while the group took their seats and quieted down. Someone’s watch beeped the hour. Rich looked at the group and spoke,

     “A man was walking down the street. He turned the corner and saw five guys, about

15 years old. They were all just standing around, smoking cigarettes. He glanced at the

first four, thought nothing of it, and kept walking. But when he saw the fifth he stopped.

He walked up to him with an angry look on his face, yanked the cigarette out of his

mouth, whacked him on the side of the head, and said, ‘What do you think you’re doing?!   Don’t be so stupid! Go home, right now!’”

     Rich paused, surveying the group again. They watched him and waited. 

     “Why did he treat that kid different from the other kids?” he asked.

     Silence. The group stared back blankly.

     “Come on now,” Rich said. “This is the part where we have lively discussion. Why did the man treat that boy like that, and leave the others alone? Any ideas?”

     One person in the group stirred. “Um,” he said. “Did he know him?”

     “Very good. Yes, he knew him. How?”

     There was a pause, then another member of the group spoke.

     “It was the man’s son,” he said.

     Rich pointed at him. “Bingo. You got it. It was his son. Okay, next question. Why did he treat his own son worse than he treated strangers?”

     More blank stares, and a few puzzled frowns. He explained further.

     “I mean he lets the other four do what they want; he doesn’t interfere. They’re happy. But with his own son… He’s mad at him, he hits him, tells him to get home. You’d think he’d treat his own son a little better.”

     “Well,” the second man ventured, “he cares about his son. Wants what’s best for him.”

     Rich pounced. “He cares about him so he gets mad at him and hits him? This is caring? The other four must’ve been pretty glad he didn’t care about them!”

     A third member joined the discussion. “His son was doing something stupid,” he said. “He was smoking. Plus it sounds like he was hanging out with a bunch of losers. So because he cares about his son he doesn’t want him hurting himself. He’s kind of rough on him because he wants to get his point across.”

     “Wait a minute,” Rich said, holding his hand up and frowning. “Are you telling me that the father’s anger was actually an expression of love?”


     “He gets mad at him.”


     “Smacks him upside the head.”

     “Well, maybe he didn’t need to actually hit  him. But it wasn‘t like he punched him in the mouth–it was just a hard tap on the side of the head.”

     “Yeah, but isn’t letting someone do what they want to do more loving? Isn’t it more

loving to not  get angry, and to not  hit someone? When I see somebody get mad at somebody else, my first thought isn’t, ‘Aww, look how much he loves him.’”

     The group laughed. Rich continued.

     “It seems to me he was more loving to the four who weren’t  his sons. He let them do whatever they wanted.”

     Another member of the group chimed in. “He left them alone because he didn’t care about what they did–they weren’t his sons. He wasn’t showing them love, he was showing them…” He searched for a word.

     “Indifference,” someone finished for him.

     “Right. But because he loves his son, he gets in his face to stop him from doing something stupid. He’s kind of harsh because it’s important to him.”

     Rich’s frown remained. “So you’re telling me,” he said, “that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to get mad at them, maybe even get a little rough with them.”

     “Sometimes, yes,” the first person said.

     “To let them know how strongly you feel they’re making a mistake,” another added.

     “Then would it also follow that sometimes letting people do whatever they want, and not  getting in their way, could actually be a very unloving thing to do?” Rich asked.

     The group nodded.

     “But,” one of them added, “you can’t go around acting like a parent to the whole world, so you concentrate on those you’re close to–the people you really care about.”

     “And you hope that other people have someone like that in their life,” the second person said.

     “So if the son in this example has the eyes to see it,” Rich said, “his father’s anger and harshness is a way of saying, ‘You’re my son, my flesh and blood. I love you and care about you and I’m not going to let you mess up your life.’ It should give him… a sense of security. Is that what you’re saying?”

     “Yeah,” the group answered.

     “Do you think it did? Give him a sense of security, I mean?”

     “No. At least not right away,” one of the group answered. “It probably just made him mad or scared or something. But later on I think it would, maybe when he’s older and looks back.”

     Most of the group nodded; some looked lost in thought. Rich watched them silently for a moment.

     “Interesting,” he said. “Anger, harshness, and punishment–being a sign of love, a sign of belonging. Something to make you feel cared about and secure. I wonder if anyone’s ever looked at it that way before?”

     “I haven’t,” the first man said. “Until now.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12


Michael Anderson

Copyright 2007