Obedience Training?

Will Your Child Be Somebody’s Servant? Are You?

Mike said his dad looked ready to spit poison. One of the ladies at church had just commented, “Teddy, your little boy is so polite.” As always, Mike’s father loved to hear that. He beamed, “Yep, I’m raising my boy to be a good, obedient kid.”

But that particular day, old Mr. Corley happened to be walking past. Mr. Corley … the old man who owned half the town. The old man who never dressed fancy, never lived high, and never said much to anybody, and who certainly never poked his nose into anybody else’s affairs. That Mr. Corley.

But this time, old man Corley butted in. He growled, “Aw hell, Teddy, you ain’t raising a kid. You’re just training somebody’s servant for ‘em.”

Mike watched his father’s face go through shades of shock, then outrage, then fear of Corley, and finally impotent fury. “Dad looked like he was chewing his tongue off.”

Corley added over his shoulder as he strolled away, “Young Mike is a good boy. He’s got real spirit to him. Spirit can be smothered, y’know. Manners are a good thing, and so’s obedience, but a leader needs more’n that.”

Mike was only 11 at the time, but he knew his father… and he knew trouble was waiting for him at home THAT day.

“Dad ranted about old man Corley for a couple of months. And every time I stepped a fraction of an inch out of line, he came down on me hard.”

Then one day it began to dawn on Mike what Mr. Corley had been talking about — at least a little of it. And he decided to try and find out more.

“Our little country town didn’t have high-rise office buildings, but to me, Mr. Corley’s office looked like the biggest building in the world. Must have been all of six stories.

“Somehow I worked up the nerve to go up there, took the elevator to the very top floor and walked into Corley’s office.

“The secretary was trying to shoo me out, but I was being very persistent… the way an 11 year old can be. The old man must have heard the noise because he came out, and the first thing he did was laugh. ‘I was right about you, son. You’ve got spirit.’

“And that rich old man ushered me into his office, sat me down, and talked to me just like I was an adult. Nobody had ever treated me like that before. He even made his secretary — her name was Gladys — he made Gladys go get me a Coke.”

Mike’s life changed that day. It was like the old man had adopted him.

“I learned a world of new things from Corley,” says Mike. “He taught me all about confidence and handling money and managing people.”

After that, the balance of power shifted at home.

“A couple of the people at church asked dad what I’d been doing up at Corley’s office, and he had a fit. Forbid me to go up there again.

“But no matter how many whippings dad gave me, I kept going back, and it became clear to him that Corley was happy to see me at any time.

“Finally, some of Mr. Corley’s prestige or power or something must have gotten transferred to me — at least in dad’s mind. My own father eventually started giving me the same hang-dog look that came over him when he was around ‘rich’ people.”

But Mike hastens to add, “Don’t get me wrong. My dad was not really a bad man. He taught me good manners and how to get along with other people. But he was just small-minded… nobody had ever taken the time to teach him the stuff that Mr. Corley was teaching me. I have to say I was just really, really lucky.”

Yes, Mike, you were lucky… plus you were willing to wade through whippings and emotional storms and severe parental disapproval.

How many 11 year olds have what it takes to be that lucky?

Come to that, How many adults have it?

In this life, there are people who help, and there are those who don’t.

Then there are those who think they’re helping, when they’re really trying to turn us into somebody they can handle more easily. A docile, obedient servant, ready to do the bidding of anybody who happens past.

Maybe no one has ever stood up for you, never offered you a hand up when you were a kid, like Mr. Corley did for Mike.

I can’t recall anybody ever doing that for me. Maybe you can’t either. But it doesn’t matter.

You have no doubt heard about people who go out of their way to help someone: mentors … mastermind partners …

These people are important to your growth, and it’s crucial that you begin thinking in those terms. You’ll need emotional, intellectual and moral support when you start walking new paths.

So go ahead and start thinking now about getting a support group together.

But in this lesson, let’s turn our attention to the seemingly “negative” subject of people who don’t help, who may even try to beat us down…

… and what we can do with them.

It’s easy to draw up a list of people who regularly make it hard to dream our dreams:

  • The loved ones who wound us with well-meant but piercing ridicule
  • The friends who laugh at our ambitions because they wouldn’t know how to relate to us if we changed
  • The strangers who kick us as they pass because maybe they’re having a bad day of their own

Most of us have family. And most of our family members think they know everything about us.

Now, let’s be realistic. Mastering real poise in the face of major emotional stress — especially when it comes from family members or close friends — that’s going to take more than a single lesson. You’ll be working on this area for some time.

But you can make a strong and substantial start right away. You can get yourself pointed in the right direction within days or weeks. First step, your support people, your mastermind group.

First, Insulate Your Wires and Shield Your Circuits

When electronics engineers design a precision instrument, they’ll usually put a little wire cage, or even a solid metal enclosure around the central circuits. They’ll also wrap wire shielding around any conductors that carry sensitive signals.

They do this to keep stray outside influences from affecting the stability of the processes going on at the core of the instrument.

You’ll need to do the same.

The people around us are constantly interacting with us, expressing how they want us to act — by using approval or disapproval. Most of us will usually adjust some of our actions to keep their goodwill.

This is right and proper. It’s important to be cooperative, open and responsive to the feelings and wishes of others.

However, it’s also extremely important to shield your innermost core processes. These core processes are the ones that govern your goal-seeking and determine where you’re going in life. You need to shield and protect these core processes from random, thoughtless outside influences.

Other than your mentor and mastermind group, most of the people around you haven’t a clue what your highest good might be. They only know what makes life easiest for them. That may be the only thing they want from you.

Unless you want to be pulled and pushed this way and that by every random influence, you’ll need to keep your own goals, your own core processes, clear and uncontaminated, shielded within your mind.

In other words, you need to know your own “signal” very clearly, and be ready to deflect anything from outside that distorts or degrades it.

Fortunately, this can be a gentle process; it doesn’t have to be a violent or confrontational one. I repeat — it does not have to be confrontational.

Cherishing Those Who Block You

Jim came home from work one Friday and told his wife he couldn’t keep working at the tire store any more. It was driving him nuts, he said. His wife was not happy to hear that. She went silent.

“Anytime I mention doing something Reba really, really doesn’t like, she goes into this … routine. This time was just like all the others. She got real quiet and acted hurt. You’d think I was having an affair. She cried off and on the whole weekend.”

“The way it works,” Jim said, “I get this awful guilty feeling for ‘hurting’ her. And mostly, I just give up any idea she doesn’t like. I know she’s just worried about our security, but how secure would she and the kids be if I suddenly keeled over from work induced stress?”

This time looked like it would be the same as all the others, but Jim was prepared. He’d thought it through very carefully beforehand, and he didn’t try to placate her.

Neither did he argue.

“It was an uncomfortable weekend, but I just let her go. Let her get past the first panic. Gradually, though, when she saw me working on plans and not consulting her, she started sniffing around, wondering what I was up to.”

Jim didn’t fight his wife, didn’t oppose her, didn’t argue. He simply went about doing what he needed to do to create a satisfying change that would benefit the whole family.

And when Reba saw that he was determined, she got over her uncertainty and gradually joined Jim in planning his next career move.

“Once she got really committed to helping me,” Jim says, “She was unstoppable. She was coming up with better ideas than my own. My wife is a wonderful team player. I just had to give her (and me) time to remember which team she was on.”

What happens, however, if your “team member” never does remember which team they’re on? What if they never stop opposing you? That happens sometimes.

Or what about the friends who keep making fun of you, even after it’s clear you won’t be ridiculed into quitting? Friends can act that way.

Well, it’s true that things change. Sometimes the people now in your life simply don’t want to go where you’re headed. You must not try to force them nor persuade them. Allow them the dignity of selecting their own future (even if they don’t want to give you the same consideration).

It’s your job to decide where you’re going, and it’s their job to decide their destination. It can be a heartbreaker when it’s close family members who decide to take a different path, but it happens. This means they’re making room in their life for someone who fits them better than you.

And you’re doing the same.

However, no matter what changes come, they don’t have to be rancorous ones, at least on your part.

In The Face of Trial — Grace, Humor and Calluses

Know this: whatever you decide to do, there will be a price.

Whether it’s cowering in the cellar, or striding boldly along the mountaintops of exciting and exotic places, you will pay something. You will pay in effort, in time and in emotional energy.

Some few people make success look easy; we’ve all seen this type. And most folks treat them like a special breed apart, something reverently referred to as a high-achiever.

The rest of us mere mortals expect that success will somehow always be harder than failure … that settling for less than success has somehow saved us a lot of effort. This is a really tricky illusion, however.

In fact, success is easier.

Consider: most people gripe and complain at every little turning. Some part of them resists every inch of progress, even when it’s progress they desire. Whatever the price, they want the universe and everyone in it to know the price is too high. They drag their feet, bargaining, coaxing and wheedling, trying to get their success at closeout rates.

But success, real success, is not actually like that, is it?

The people who make success look easy — they’re the ones who don’t anguish over the price. They simply go ahead and pay it and get on down the road.

Let’s say you’re a stay-at-home mother, and you decide you’re ready for the stimulation of work, so you announce to your family you’re going to start a little home business. Immediately you know your price will have to be paid in several different currencies.

First is physical effort: getting the actual business set up and going.

Second is intellectual effort: doing the hard, clear thinking necessary to make your way through the maze of challenges you face.

And third is emotional. You’re going to have to adjust to a new you. But you’re also going to have to deal with the notions and attitudes of the people around you.

If your family is like most, everybody will offer you free opinions on what you should do. Your husband, your kids, mother, father, in-laws, even your neighbors. Everybody.

Unless your family is unusually supportive, you can expect a lot of opposition at first. That’s where you come face to face with the first installment on your emotional price.

Everybody who knows you is familiar with you in one mode, one role, and now you’re announcing you intend to be somebody else. They’re not sure how to handle that, so of course they want to herd you safely back inside the old familiar territory.

Not only are you moving out of your own “known zone,” you’re moving outside of theirs as well. An emotional double-whammy. If you become different, they have to learn a new way of relating to you, and people resist change. That’s the way most humans are made.

So the first and most important thing you’ll learn on your journey to success is to embrace change. Not change for its own sake — rather change that will take you where you want to go. And you’ll just go ahead and let change come, without stopping to defend your decisions when they’re criticized.

Once you learn a love for change, you will start hearing comments like, “Everything comes so easy for you,” or “How do you always end up so lucky and successful?”

When you willingly, gladly, eagerly pay the price of success, the way 11-year-old Mike determinedly paid whatever it took, then that’s the way it’ll look to others — easy.

Okay, so you tell your family and friends about your plans to start a small business, and many of them start objecting.

Right here, right now, this is the moment where you choose either to explain yourself to everyone and get sucked into the endless round-and-round arguments, or you simply put a pleasant smile on your face, go straight forward, and pay the price only once.

If you choose to explain yourself, you’re announcing that others have the right to review your decisions and correct them. Then you’ll end up battling everyone, including yourself, and pay a much higher price — you’ll pay it many times over.

But if you smile graciously and refuse to get sucked into arguments, you only have one task: getting your job done.

But that’s not easy, is it? Ignoring the disapproval of others? Most of us have this automatic reflex to defend ourselves, even though it’s always a huge waste of time and energy.

The only time it is appropriate to defend yourself is when your physical safety is at risk. All other threats are intangible — only ideas and emotions. Emotional threats can be painful, but it is possible to build up a resistance to them. Enter the lowly callus.

A callus is a wonderful thing, when used appropriately.

Years ago I worked with my dad in his plumbing business. When I first started, every tool I picked up put big painful blisters on my hands.

But gradually something changed. After a few weeks, those tools stopped damaging my skin. The tools didn’t change, of course, but my hands did. The skin thickened into hard, tough calluses, and it was no longer an irritation to do my work.

Those first two or three weeks were hard, but after that, I seldom even noticed.

Calluses are not the opposite of sensitivity, they’re a complement to it. They keep us from being overwhelmed by it.

It’s possible that we misunderstand and have come to over-value sensitivity. Most of us are plenty sensitive — often TOO sensitive. Every little experience, every disapproval, digs into us and causes us discomfort. Developing a certain amount of toughness in dealing with criticism and emotional friction is a useful thing.

It’s possible, you know, to be both callused and sensitive at the same time.

Ever seen a concert violinist play? The tips of her fingers have thick, hard pads where she presses the strings. But with those hard, tough fingertips, she plays some of the most sensitive, heavenly music imaginable.

Now, that’s exactly what you should be aiming for in your personal relationships. The mental toughness to stand up to any emotional pressure, coupled with the sensitivity to coax the maximum beauty from every interaction in which you’re involved.

And once you develop these abilities, you’ll be able to pass them on to others. Such as your children, for instance.

Your kids — how are you raising them? Is your first concern their obedience (and your convenience)? Or do you want them to grow strong and resilient and able to embrace change without quibbling that “it’s too hard for me”?

If they learn these things, they’ll never come back whining that they’re being treated unfairly by life. They’ll simply dive in and live.

They’ll make it all look so easy.

And with any luck, one day they’ll turn to you and thank you for teaching them the skills to live the life of a leader, and not those of somebody’s obedient servant.