One of my favorite thoughts is found in a chapter of scripture unique to Mormons. This verse is a revelation given by God to Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the faith. I find the insight into human nature and relationships to be compelling, even outside of the context of the church. In fact, the insights are so compelling and profound, that I feel they are evidence of Joseph's prophetic authenticity in that I don't believe an uneducated charlatan could have made this up--but I digress.
The entire chapter is full of insights into human nature and leadership--righteous and unrighteous and bears studying. However, here are the most important words: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge...without hypocrisy and without guile. Rebuking betimes with sharpness (note: that means clarity, focus, not harshness) when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth an increase of love toward him whom thou has reproved...(D&C 121: 41-43).
The chapter also gives an idea of the opposite form of leadership, which is to compel and force, and warns us that exercising compulsion or domination upon the souls of humans in any degree of unrighteousness is a serious sin.
As a teacher and director, I have tried (note: tried is the key word here. Attempted, endeavored--not necessar to base my system of discipline and motivation on these principles, even though this revelation was given specifically in the context of ecclesiastical leadership, the principles are universal, I believe. Especially when working with children, which is what I do.
So, I try to build everything around motivating and encouraging as opposed to enforcing and punishing.
Consequently, I don't often get really mad at the kids.
Yesterday was different. It has been a frustrating week in that they have been doing sloppy work at play practice. I don't mind honest mistakes, but detest sloppiness and laziness. My efforts to motivate in a positive way seem to be largely (though not universally) ignored and my attempts at being kind and gentle have been interpreted as a license to relax, socialize and generally do anything but the work that needs to be done.
Yesterday, it came to a head. I didn't lose my temper, but when the whole group of nearly 60 kids was goofing off on-stage, I spoke to them very directly, with much more heat, energy, and volume than they normally hear from me.
It surprised them, and got their attention--and they did very good work for the rest of rehearsal.
By being sloppy and presumptuous when I am gentle and loving, but doing good work when I am stern and strict, they are giving me incentive to continue to be that way. If I were not committed to the other approach, it would be almost impossible to refrain from veering to the enforced/punishment model. I don't want to do that, and I won't.
But I thought it was interesting, this small microcosmic moment. It is human nature to want loving, gentle authority figures--but it is also human nature to ignore that and to pay attention to the harsher, stricter leaders. And that poses an interesting dilemma. In my opinion, it completely explains the difference in tone in the Old Testament vs. the New--God did what it took to keep His unruly children focused and on-task. Could it be that He begins with gentle reminders and then, as they are ignored, goes to stricter, more stern methods?
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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