“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools” Ecclesiastes 9:17
Years ago I learned the value of using “quiet words” as a means of speaking to the hearts of my kids. As in every household with children, discipline was sometimes needed. As a new Christian I vacillated between two extremes: I either said or did nothing because I didn’t know what to do or. . . I yelled. Worse yet, when I thought my kids were not listening, I yelled louder! Compounding the problem, the louder I yelled the better they got at ignoring me. I would vow to stop yelling but continually found myself doing it again. It was awful!
Convicted and discouraged I began to pray, admitting my angry tyraids were sinful. As I asked God for wisdom in disciplining my kids, I saw the essence of my problem: “I” needed to get out-of-the-way. (Giving way to my anger, my frustration and (most of all) my fears was not helpful to my kids.) As I prayed, I remembered a biblical principle that we refer to in the Counseling Room as the “put-on and put-off” approach to making godly choices. One of the things I love about the Bible is how it establishes not only what sin is, but also gives instruction as to what we are to put in its place. Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:22-23,
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.“
When we submit our lives to Christ change happens. It begins in the attitude of our minds and hearts as the “old” is abandoned for the “new self” that increasingly reflects the image of our Creator. Change in disciplining my children began with my attitude. As I reflected on the word “discipline” it seemed as if “disciple” popped out at me for the first time. Everything changed with that epiphany. Before, I saw punishment as the necessary part of discipline, “making the punishment fit the crime.” As my understanding of the purpose of discipline changed, my approach and goals also changed. I began to recognize the opportunities to teach biblical truths discipline afforded so anger, frustration and fear no longer plagued my perceptions. When addressing a problem, rather than yell (putting off my “old self”) I intentionally lowered the volume of my voice to softer than my regular speaking voice (my “new self.”) I took greater care in choosing the words I used, wanting to minister to their hearts. In response, my kids appeared to listen more intentionally than ever before. It was amazing!
Many years have passed since I received the blessing “quiet words” can afford. I would love to be able to tell you that I have not yelled since, but that would totally not true! Anger, frustration and fear still have the potential to momentarily grip my perceptions so that I start down that old path. However, as God’s Spirit calms my heart I usually am able to “switch gears” by taking a deep breath and giving thanks to Him for the opportunity to trust and honor Him more.
I write this to encourage those of you who struggle as I did. The key to change lies not in your ability to change yourself, but in your willingness to trust and honor God more. He is worthy of your trust!
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
All to His Glory!