by Molly Audiss
It took me well into my thirties to realize something about myself. I was born a person who was naturally driven by fear of negative consequences. I actually trusted in Jesus to save me as a young girl, mostly because I feared dying and going to hell. I never wanted to get in trouble or be called-out in school. I obeyed the rules because I didn’t want to face punishment. Many of my actions came from a desire to escape something bad happening. Many people have this type of mindset. It can be due to outside influences, but I believe it is mostly part of how each person instinctively sees the world. Children raised in the same home will have different responses to positive and negative outcomes. I was not raised in an abusive home. My parents loved me and sacrificed to give me a Christian education. They kept me in church regularly my entire childhood. I had many loving relatives and authorities in my life along the way, also. I was simply born with a personality that was naturally motivated by fear of consequence.
There is nothing wrong with this; some instinctively work for reward, others work so keep from loss. Yet, as I began to understand myself better as an adult, I saw something interesting. If, at times, I chose to do something for a positive outcome, that victory was more powerful in my life. For example, I decided before I entered college that I wanted to graduate as the valedictorian of my class. That goal stayed in front of me and motivated me to work harder, to deny myself sleep when I needed to study, to give up free time for homework, etc. Setting a tough goal (a positive outcome) actually kept me on track for 4 years, much longer than the opposite- doing all of my work so that I would not fail my classes. I did earn my goal, but more more valuable than a plaque or “bragging rights,” I received the knowledge and confidence that I could do hard things!
The challenge to achieve a goal is greater than the fear of failing. Some of us must overcome our own natural mindsets to realize this. Each time I set something before myself that has a specific purpose with a specific reward, I find that I am much more motivated for a much longer period of time, than simply doing things to keep from loss or failure. Find a “why” and let it drive you!
As we work on improving ourselves, and as we lead others to reach their potential, choose positive motivators over leading with intimidation tactics, guilt-tripping, or causing fear. These negative tools will often cause conformity, but not real change.
Praise is a greater engine for change than criticism.
Love is a greater motivator than hate.
Reward is a greater inspiration than punishment.
Acceptance has a greater influence than condemnation.
We have heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” It’s true. Sometimes people lead by negative means due to their own fear and insecurity. Sometimes they lead by fear because that is how they were trained. Sometimes it is unintentional; it’s all they know. It’s a habit.
As I was trained to become a teacher, I had many great, influential teachers. But I also received some instruction along the way that encouraged me to major on intimidation tactics in the classroom. As a naïve, first-year teacher, I quickly realized that leading by fear was not getting me the influence I wanted
to have with my students. Thank God my boss, Dr. Don Boyd, our school principal, was a godly, loving Christian. He taught us teachers to love and pray for our students. He showed us, by example, how influential a loving, praying teacher was in the classroom. I have tried since that time to be a teacher whose students feel loves and accepts them. Do you have a child under your influence, at home, church, or school, who is known as “that kid”? You know, the one whose bad reputation precedes him? He is probably used to being labeled as bad, and he acts out what everyone already thinks about him. What if you were the person in his life who saw the good in him and praised every single tiny glimmer of good you saw? People often rise up to their the level of what others see in them. (Proverbs 27:21)
Who had a great impact on your life? Be it a parent, grandparent, a teacher, a preacher, a coach…. They may have been strict, even tough on you. But I promise you this- you felt LOVED by them. You trusted them because you felt safe with them. Your walls were taken down, and you let them in. Then their wisdom penetrated deep inside of you, and it changed your life. This is the type of leader I want to be!
Please don’t think I am saying that punishment or “tough love” is never appropriate. It is sometimes necessary! Proverbs instructs us to use negative methods on those who are fools and scorners. Jesus Himself spoke harshly to those trying to turn simple minds away from the truth of the Gospel. He even had a very negative “house cleaning” of the temple one time! And that’s the point- ONE TIME. Daily He led and taught with gentleness and kindness. Harsh, negative words and actions should be used FAR LESS than love, patience, acceptance, kindness, grace, and mercy. This was also demonstrated over and over by Christ on Earth.
My pastor makes this statement, “If duty brings you, let love keep you.” Love is the greatest power for change the world will ever know. (I Cor. 13:13) It’s good to do the right thing because you have to; but you will continue to do right things consistently if you get to. Switch to thinking in a positive way. When we do what we do because of love for God, we will do them for a lifetime. When we love those we lead, and they know we love them, we will have greater influence over them. There is no real, lasting change brought about by fear. Love changes people.
Are you trying to start a new habit or quit a bad habit? I suggest ADDING good things before you try to TAKE AWAY negative things. Example: Want to eat healthier? Start by adding vegetables, more water, and exercise, and get that habit before you take away all unhealthy food. You will fill up on good food and eventually crave the unhealthy food less. POSITIVE CHANGES are lasting changes.
It’s a Biblical principle that light is greater than darkness; good wins over evil. ADD in all the good things you can into your life- your eating, your schedule, your training of others. ADD love, praise, grace, gratitude. Soon you will begin to see the changes you are hoping to see. GOOD is magnetic; LOVE is powerful. GOD is the one who changes us. Fear of evil, negativity, warnings of failure, intimidation, guilt-tripping, all these negative methods will never have the long-term desired affects you seek for yourself or others.
“…the goodness of God leadeth us to repentance..” Romans 2:4b