Friday, June 22, 2012

The Guilt Trip

When it comes to teaching, leading, and shaping lives, a healthy dose of conviction is necessary.  A good parent knows how to make sure their kids feel the pain of disobedience and rebellious attitudes, and to feel badly for what they have done.  All of us need correction from time to time, but some teachers, parents, and leaders can't grasp how to use the power of positive leadership.  When guilt and condemnation run through every message, especially without a stronger message of hope to counterbalance it, something is wrong.

The continuous dumping of guilt over the heads of people who sincerely want to do what is right, but sometimes get it wrong, is a sure fire way to discourage and cause them to give up.  Only those with a firm sense of who they are can deal with that, but not without some form of negative effects.  You can force a child, an employee or a follower to do what you want for a time, while actually making it harder for them to find joy in what they do.  When it comes to children, your harshness can become a message that stays with them for life: "You are stupid, a loser and a big disappointment to me."  Once that's sunken in, healing that unnecessary wound will be very difficult.

Authoritarian cultures respond better to authoritarian leaders.  15 years ago in South Africa, my son was struggling through the very regimented school system there.  He was bright, creative and intelligent, but the dictatorship of the teaching staff at his various schools caused him to withdraw and shut out the demanding angry words that surrounded him every day.  His teachers complained that he was lazy, distracted, irresponsible and everything that I knew he wasn't.  The other children seemed to be doing fine, accustomed to that manner of education.  I was at a loss for what to do, but knew there had to be a better way.  How he was treated at home was so different from the treatment he got at school, but how could I explain that to his teachers?

After a few frustrating years of forcing him through this system, we moved to the Philippines where we found an American missionary school to enroll him.  Instantly, he blossomed, and not only his grades, but his love of learning shot up to high levels.  He was a pleasure to his teachers, and he made some very good friends.  When I saw that, I vowed never to subject him to the former again.  Homeschooling became our norm after that.  The difference?  Leading through encouragement, not through guilt.

For those who insist that it can't be done, that being too positive makes you "soft," I'd like to point out that Jesus' form of leadership was far more positive than negative. Sure, He said shocking things, sure He called the Pharisees vipers, a poor woman a dog, told a man to let the dead bury the dead, but that was not His normal mode of teaching.  He knew that people in general struggle with negative emotions, doubts and self-criticism.  Beating them down with criticism wasn't the way to win their souls.  Only the exceedingly proud religious leaders who resisted Him needed harsh words from time to time.  But the Early Church followers were ready to face the lions for His sake, not because they felt guilty if they didn't sacrifice their lives, but out of a sense of gratitude and joy to honor His name.  That was and is the effect of God's Spirit upon His children when He's allowed to work.

If the sun can peel the jacket off of a stubborn man's back more effectively than a storm, if a gentle constant drop of water can break through solid rock, don't doubt that leadership through encouragement is too weak or ineffective.  There's always that fear that no one will get the message if you're "too nice."  It is possible to be kind, encouraging, positive and firm all at the same time.  Maybe you've never really seen it done, or been willing to give it a try.  But if Jesus could do it, why not us?  There's another world out there that you may never have discovered.


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1 comment:

Anny said...

I really enjoyed your post mrs Evelyn! I'll be sure to check back here to read more of them!