My Kids Grow and So Do I


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Is Disciplining Spiritual? Part 2

An Every Day Example

Today I would like to follow up on last week's post on discipline. What follows is a prime example of discipline applied spiritually and it perfectly illustrates the steps involved.

     As I may have mentioned before, I teach English as a second language at a high school in the Netherlands. I want to tell you about an exchange I witnessed the other day, an exchange between my fellow-teamleader and a 16-year-old student. I'll call them Curtis and Sandy.

Discipline at School

     Sandy had mailed Curtis, her teamleader, to let him know how she felt about the framework the school had set up for practical research projects, saying that both the time path and the deadline were absolutely outrageous and that she had no intention of staying within the framework. Both content and tone of the mail were way off-base, and so Curtis called her in to talk about it. As I was working on an another matter in the room Curtis and I share, I was in a perfect position to observe what happened next.

     Curtis opened the conversation by conveying his surprise at the tone of her e-mail and he asked her what was wrong. Sandy, sounding emotional, went on a rampage of indignation at the set guidelines for the project, once again stating her firm decision not to adhere to any of it. Curtis, still a bit surprised by her vehemence, proceeded to explain the grounds for the time path and the deadline, asking her to commit to it, just as all other students were expected to. She would not budge, with her tone of voice supporting her stance. She insisted on being allowed to follow her own more relaxed time path and deadline.

     At that point Curtis told her clearly: "If this is how you want to do it, we've come to the end of our conversation. I'm ready and willing to help if you decide you could use my help. There is nothing I can do for you now." And he showed her the door.

     The next morning, Curtis came into the room with a smile on his face. He had received a message from Sandy in which she had apologized for her behavior and had said she would adhere to the framework set for the project. He then made arrangements for coaching sessions. Needless to say I complimented Curtis on the splendid way he had handled this situation.

The Steps Involved

How is this a good example of spiritual discipline? Let's put the features of spiritual discipline next to the practical steps Curtis took in this example:

As soon as a particular behavior is out of bounds, a time-out is appointed.

Curtis ended the conversation.
Focus on the behavior, not the person.                      
Curtis indicated his willingness to help Sandy if she showed willingness to conform to the guidelines.

After some time for reflection, contact is once again established.
Curtis' open door helped Sandy to make up her mind and conform to the guidelines after all.

Respect and harmony are restored.
Sandy communicated in a polite way; Curtis made follow-up appointments for her.

     Instances like this fire up my inner drive for working with young people. The new generation are worth each and every effort we make on their behalf, each and every drop of sweat we shed.

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