Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Mildness and in Meekness

In dealing with my own children, I find myself very tempted to employ tactics of compulsion. I demand that they comply rather than helping them understand why compliance will help them and make them happy. This tactic works in the short term while they are little, but it cannot succeed as they grow older.

In online discourse, I see people who demean and belittle others who do not hold their positions. This is equally fruitless. The rest of this post is a quote from Gerald Lund that teaches an important lesson that I needed to hear.


Let me share with you another experience that I think illustrates the balance between raising the warning voice and doing it with mildness. When I was a junior in high school, our teachers held a dance as part of gym. ...I was deathly afraid of stepping on the girl's toes and making a fool of myself because I did not know how to dance. So during the dance I took my chemistry book and went to the top row of bleachers and started studying chemistry.

About halfway through the dance, they announced a girls' choice, at which point I promptly buried my head deeper in my book. Then I heard footsteps coming up the bleachers. I can remember refusing to look up and thinking, Oh no! Don't do this to me! But finally there were a pair of legs and a skirt standing before me. I looked up, and she said, "Jerry, would you dance with me?"

I said, "I'm sorry, but I just can't."

Well, you can imagine how she felt. ...The girl's gym teacher, who had been watching the whole thing, came over.... She said, "Jerry, this young lady has come all the way up the bleachers to ask you to dance. Now you're not really going to tell her no, are you?"

I said, "Yes, I am. I do not dance."

She said, "I know how you feel, but you can't tell this young lady no."

"Oh yes, I can."

"You won't tell this young lady no."

"Oh yes, I will."

She started to get angry and said, "You will dance with her.

I said, "No, I won't."

So she took the girl and went down the bleachers. Of course, the girl was flaming red by now--and as I think of this now, I cringe to think of what it must have meant for her. But I was so wrapped up in my own worry and low self esteem, I could think of nothing but myself.

The teacher dropped the girl off at the bottom of the bleachers and went straight across the gym floor to the coach, who was also my gym teacher. He looked up; she talked. He looked up again. He motioned me to come down, and I shook my head no. It was at that point he decided to teach without mildness and meekness.

The coach turned the record player off, went to the microphone, and said, "Could I have your attention please." The gym immediately quieted down. "Sandra," he said, "has just walked all the way up to the top of the bleachers to ask Jerry Lund to dance. Jerry Lund said no. How do you feel about that?"

Well, you know what the kids did. "Hey, Jerry," they shouted. "Come on!"

I just shook my head, and then my coach, who was famous for his temper, got angry. He said, over the microphone, "You will be off those bleachers in thirty seconds or you will take an F in this class." And I said, "Coach, flunk away!"

I took an F in gym that term. You see, I would rather have taken an F than face the pain of being a fool. And when the coach backed me into a corner, there was no way I was going to come out.

...I think of that experience now when I read, "Let your preaching be with warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness." I believe in the power of warning, but I also believe in the power of love.


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  • It seems part of the problem may come when we focus on short term results (as teachers).

    But in the long run is there also a responsibility on the student? Young children and some people simply are not very rational. It is difficult to know what to do in such situations.

    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 6/25/2007 8:54 AM  

  • There is certainly a responsibility on the student, or on my children, or on my friends. But I can't control any of them.

    God doesn't compel us to do things very frequently, but it is a big temptation with my own kids. Maybe it is necessary sometimes to set them in the right path while they are young, but I'm becoming convinced that it can't be the norm.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 6/25/2007 9:13 AM  

  • I was just reading C.S. Lewis' chapter in Mere Christianity on pride yesterday. It ties in very well with this post. Lewis' definition of pride drives right to the heart of this issue. I am stunned at how often I succumb to the temptation to use coercion when working with my children.

    By Blogger Scott Hinrichs, at 6/25/2007 9:42 AM  

  • I think you made up this story.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/21/2007 7:34 AM  

  • The story in the post was quoted from a book that was a compilations of talks and articles by Gerald Lund. I checked it out from the library and I don't have it handy, so I can't provide a fuller citation at the moment.

    I suppose it is possible that Brother Lund fabricated the story, but I don't have any reason to believe that to be the case.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/21/2007 11:40 AM  

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