BEST APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE IV: PROPER APPLICATION OF DISCIPLINE #1
In this teaching series, we’ve seen the right motivation and prerequisites for discipline. Discipline should be actuated by love for one’s subordinates, by the desire to bring out the best in them and not by the authority figure’s lust for public endorsement or vindictiveness. And it should be preceded by teaching of right and wrong as well as the setting of good examples by the authority figure, among other things. In this segment, we discuss some tips on the correct way to administer discipline.
PROPER APPLICATION OF DISCIPLINE #1
1. The first question you need to ask yourself when an issue of misconduct comes up is: Am I the one that God wants to handle this matter? Try not to get steamed up every time people under you misbehave. In the Book of James 1:19-20, the Bible admonishes believers to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God”(New International Version). Sometimes, you just need to keep quiet and let God handle obstinate people.
Years ago, my “daughter”* got riled up against me because she couldn’t have her way on an issue and was shockingly rude. I sensed as I prayed in my heart that any attempt to exert my authority then would further complicate matters. I gave the issue a rest but God did not. Later, she started weeping in her room and came to apologise. The Holy Spirit had been dealing with her and she acknowledged that she had been totally out of line.
You may say the girl was saved but the lot you have to deal with are not. Then you are thinking like Abraham who felt there was no fear of God in Gerar, so he lied that his beautiful wife, Sarah, was his sister to avoid being killed by the men of the land who would desire her. The King of Gerar did take Sarah but God scared the life out of him in a dream and he returned her to Abraham, the point being that God can discipline anyone, saved or not (Genesis chapter 20).
So, find out when you should be the one to apply discipline and when it should be God or another human, say, your spouse. Don’t let the unnecessary stress of being the one to punish always push up your blood pressure and endanger your life.
2. You should give the person you think or know has done wrong a chance to explain why. While you should not allow them to play on your intelligence, there may be a cogent reason why they acted the way they did which might attenuate the need to punish them. If, for instance, you hear that your help took money from your room to buy snacks while you were away, he or she may be let off with a warning if there was no food at home and your kids were hungry. You will also need to leave them with a little money for such emergencies in future.
I just finished reading the book of Leviticus and I recall the time when Aaron and his surviving sons allowed a sin offering to be burnt up rather than eat it as instructed in the law. When Moses asked why, Aaron alluded to the tragedy that had just occurred (the loss of his sons, Nadab and Abihu, for offering unauthorized fire before the Lord). In other words, he was grieving for his sons and just couldn’t …. Moses understood and was satisfied. (See Leviticus, chapter 20.)
Giving your subordinates a hearing helps you to understand how they reason and that will enable you to teach and pray for them according to their needs, else where you’ll be scratching won’t be where they are itching.
3. You also need to be lenient with first offenders and the penitent. A rebuke or warning may suffice and a reiteration of the rules that need to be obeyed. And on some occasions, a lighter punishment than they expect may be applied. Just go as you are led by the Holy Spirit.
But don’t be so eager to exert punishment. God never is. As dire as the prophecies He gave through His servants in the Old Testament were, He usually withheld their fulfilment if those addressed paid attention. Remember Jonah’s complaint when God forgave the people of Nineveh to whom he had been sent to prophesy destruction.
“This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the LORD about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen'” (Jonah 4:1-3 New Living Translation).
While you shouldn’t allow your granting of clemency to be abused, understand that it is in the nature of God to allow mercy to triumph over judgment and that “the one who has shown no mercy will be judged without mercy” (James 2:13 International Standard Version).
If you come across as cruel, you become a terror to those under you and the distance that will create will make it harder for them to initiate interaction with you that will help you to mould them right. Those earnest inquiries, heart-to-heart talks and cries for help from your subordinates which result from the assurance that your first instinct is not to punish can nip a lot of their bad behaviours in the bud.
Say, for example, your teenagers have begun to smoke or experiment with sex and you sense it and begin to pray for wisdom, rather than slamming penalties on them at once, they may be the ones to confide in you and confess their misdeeds even before you are ready to gently confront them on the matter. Rashness and heavyhandedness can push them farther away from you and deeper into misconduct.
In the next segment of this teaching, we’ll explore other ideas about how to exert discipline. It’s coming soon. Watch out for it! And do read the previous instalments of this series, “BEST APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE” if you haven’t done so to get a comprehensive view of what has been shared.
May the Lord grant you peace in your home, office, church, in fact, wherever you have dealings and may He help you to use your authority to build up people under you in Jesus’ name.
*On my “daughter”, I call this young woman my daughter to date and she calls me mummy although she’s not my biological child. She lived with me for close to ten years till she graduated from the university and finished the one-year mandatory national service.
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