Learning the Hard Way

Published on October 2, 2013 by in Teens


punching boyI generally do not condone violence. That being said, there are consequences to every action, and teenage boys frequently test people’s boundaries. As 14 year old Sam discovered, we all learn some things the hard way.

Years ago when I taught at a private K-12 school in Ann Arbor, MI, we took students on a road trip to visit an alternative school in Tennessee. It was also a farm, with beautiful green fields surrounded by forest. The students and I camped out in tents, woke up to roosters, and experienced a very different form of “school”.

One afternoon while I was doing dishes, two students came in, one holding a frozen sack of peas to his left eye. The elder was a red-headed senior named Tyler, and the younger was a freckle-faced freshman named Sam. The boys sat down next to me, and I asked why Sam had a sack of peas on his face.

“Tyler punched me,” the small 14 year old said. This struck me as odd, because despite their age difference, Tyler and Sam were really good friends who hung out every day. “What happened?” I asked.

“I warned him,” said Tyler. “Go on Sam, tell her what happened.” Sam looked at me with his good eye, and spilled the beans.

“I was making fun of Texas.” (Tyler grew up in Texas). “Uh-huh…” I said, waiting for the meat of the story.

“I was being a jerk and kept making jokes about it. Tyler asked me to stop, but I didn’t,” Sam said, looking at the floor.

“Finally,” Tyler said, “I told him that if he made one more wise-ass remark about Texas, I’d punch him in the face. He did, so I did. Then I helped him stand up, we got some frozen peas for his black eye, and came to see you.” I couldn’t help but smile.

“Well Sam,” I said, “Tyler warned you. You’re lucky it’s a friend teaching you this lesson, or you could’ve had a real beating. What did you learn?” Sam adjusted the frozen peas and groaned.

“Don’t talk trash. And if someone says they’re going to punch me for talking trash, I should believe them.”


I know what some of you might be thinking. How could she be so calm about a senior punching a freshman?! It wasn’t actually a big deal. The boys were cool with one another, and no harm done. Besides, the lessons we learn the hard way often feel like a punch in the face – this time, it just happened to be literal!

The truth is, what Tyler did taught young Sam a lot about being a friend and being a man:

Have patience   —   Stand up for what you hold dear   —   Help your friends up

Give people a chance to stop being jerks   —   Follow through on your word.

What lessons have you learned the hard way?

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2 Responses to “Learning the Hard Way”

  1. Taylor says:

    I completely agree with the lesson taught. Though it isn’t any fun getting punched in the face, people need to understand that it’s equally painful, (if not MORE painful), to have to do the punching, especially if it’s a friend who didn’t heed warning. Maybe not physically as bad, but emotionally being true to one’s convictions as well as one’s word to do so. I have felt for sometime that being a “man” today has almost been mocked and slighted by more recent generations, either by fear and inexperience with confrontations like these, or a misunderstanding by those who raised them as children. Always though, there MUST be warning, fairness in knowing when it’s over, and above all, honor and respect for the action. Perhaps lack of teaching those last 2 things to growing boys is what creates these sorts of situations in the first place. Growth and understanding begins at home.

    • Mo says:

      What great input Taylor, thank you! I’m interested in what you said about how being a “man” today is almost mocked and slighted by recent generations. What have you noticed?

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