You might notice the mathematical theme running through my recent posts. Geometry class will do that to you.
Learned some really cool lessons in Composition class today. We watched the made-for-TV movie The Ron Clark Story, a film about a teacher from North Carolina who transfers to Harlem to teach ghetto kids. Clark had had great success with his fifth-grade class in NC; all of his classes graduated with above-average test scores. But when he transfers to Harlem, his world is turned on its head.
Upon arrival, he is offered a position to teach the highest-scoring class in the school, but insteads decides to teach the class that consistently scores the lowest. In contrast to the well-behaved environment he maintained at home, here he encounters a class full of juvenile delinquents, gang members, 14 year-old mothers and 5th grade gamblers who push him to his absolute limit. The turnover in teachers is alarming, and the kids actually place bets for how long he'll stay.
Seeing the vandalized classroom and noting the mocking indifference of his students, he tries to impose order. He comes up with a list of rules, foremost of which is his declaration that they shall treat each other like a family. This means that when one person suffers, they all suffer.
In one scene, the mocking and unruly ringleader of the group, Shamika, characteristically belittles his rules. Clark calmly tells her to obey or none of the kids will get to eat lunch, because when one of the family members suffer, they all suffer. So, Shamika grudgingly obeys under the pressure of her classmates. This approach works for a little while and Clark is satisfied.
But soon the kids are back to their delinquent behavior, mocking him and his rules and doing as they please. He quickly realizes that the kids (and even the principal!) don't respect him one iota.
Frustrated, a dejected Clark decides on a new method. He learns their games and interests and appeals to the desperate need in their lives for a consistent authority figure. He begins to earn their respect, and they in turn begin to open up to his instruction.
He comprehends what Benjamin Franklin wrote long ago: "If you would persuade, speak of interest, not of reason." He sees that you must win respect before you can give instruction.
You may have a fantastic set of rules for maintaining order, you might have an irrefutable argument, but these tools mean nothing if you don't first win respect. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
People may follow your rules, but they'll do so out of necessity rather than a commitment to your values. You might have achieved the desired result, but you took the shortcut, and you'll pay for that in the long run. The person obeys only out of convenience, or fear of the consequences. You haven't imparted anything.
I see this tying into 1) family life and 2) evangelism. In your family, if you lay down the law without first securing respect, you're in for long-term problems.
Your kids may comply with your instructions when you're there to enforce them, but if they never internalize the values you're trying to plant in them, they won't take any of your teachings to heart.
Similarly, in evangelism, you may have a perfect apologetic which, according to the evidence, no one could deny, but you haven't evaluated what you're up against. The human heart, with all its emotions and intricate wiring, can often override the logical response of the brain. So, if we're to redirect evangelism to aim for the heart rather than the head, we've got to win the respect first.
Winning a person's respect is like chipping out the first shoveful of dirt from the hard soil of all their defensive arguments and rationalizations, in order to get beyond the hard exterior to the soft earth, the real heart issues that lie underneath it all.
I desire to make a change in my relationships that accomodates this goal. I want people to know me as the person who really devoted himself to God and to his friends and being an encouraging and helpful presence in their lives, giving his all for them and those around him, more than just being known as the guy who had good arguments. The former is the better legacy by far.