Making Obedience a Pleasure
THOUGHTFULNESS and consideration are truly oils that help to lubricate the machinery of human relations. This is especially true when these qualities are manifested by those who have the duty of eliciting obedience from others. Many persons chafe at the thought of having to obey; and this is true of both children and adults. But when persons having authority are thoughtful and considerate, obedience can be made a pleasure where otherwise it might be an irksome duty.
For example, parents have God-given authority over their children. But how do they exercise it? Some parents may insist that their children obey them but give no thought as to whether they obey willingly or begrudgingly. No doubt this lack of consideration on the part of adults is one reason why, in these “last days,” so many children are “disobedient to parents.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) How can parents make obedience a pleasure for their children? Most helpful is for them to show empathy, for empathy is conducive to thoughtfulness and consideration. To be empathetic means for parents to put themselves in the shoes of their children, as it were. Commands to children should be given in terms that a child can easily grasp and from a child’s point of view. Important also is that a command or a request be given in a kind, loving tone of voice, and yet firmly if need be. Above all, never should a command be given in uncontrolled anger.
It is very helpful, when time and circumstances permit, to explain why a certain thing should be done. And, of course, there always are reasons. It is ideal to be able to work together, as father and son, or mother and daughter. Where such is not possible a request might be coupled with some such remark as ‘while you are doing this, I’ll be doing that.’ For obedience to be a pleasure, there must also be consistency. Parents must practice what they preach. If they want their children to respect them, they must show respect for authority. All such factors, it might be said, apply with even more force where adults are concerned. To obey means to submit to the authority properly exercised by one over another, which may tend to go against the ego or pride of some. Thus the Bible tells a Christian to do “nothing out of . . . egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.”—Phil. 2:3; compare Galatians 5:26.
Wives are told to ‘be in subjection to their husbands in everything.’ But if the husband also follows the Bible’s counsel and ‘loves his wife as he loves his own body,’ if he shows empathy and consideration, then his wife will certainly find it a pleasure to obey him. (Eph. 5:22-28) To demonstrate: a husband who is bighearted, understanding and has keen mental discernment will couple his requests with appeals to his wife’s reason, her loyalty, her love. And he will not forget to praise her for her capable support as his helpmeet and her industriousness, even in small things.—Prov. 31:10, 27-31.
Likewise, it is thoughtful and considerate to give reasons before making a request. For example, a husband may say: ‘Our expenses this past month far exceeded our income and if that continues we will not be able to go on vacation this year. So this month let’s try to live within our means—right, dear?’ Not to be overlooked by the husband is reasonableness in making requests, keeping in mind the words of the apostle Peter: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.”—1 Pet. 3:7.
Similar principles may be applied in the relationship between a worker and his boss, foreman or overseer. The Bible commands those having authority over others in secular matters not to be abusively threatening them, as bosses are frequently prone to do, which hardly is conducive to making obedience a pleasure. Also, God’s Word commands such to be “dealing out what is righteous and what is fair.” There is nothing that does more to take away the pleasure of working than having to work under unjust and oppressive conditions.—Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1.
Here, too, appealing to reason is helpful and so is appealing to the willingness of the other. Thus an elder in a Christian congregation might preface his requests or assignments with a word of appreciation of assignments or volunteer service willingly performed in the past. An overseer might seek the cooperation of fellow workers by kindly asking whether they would like to assist in this or that project, or by sharing with them some of the burden of the task at hand.
Especially helpful in making obedience a pleasure is expressing appreciation for work done. This is such a simple thing that it may be overlooked as old-fashioned, but it still works today, as a report appearing in Today’s Health, August 1972, showed. There was a clerk whose duties included sweeping the center aisle of the company warehouse. The first time that the boss noticed how well the clerk had swept the floor, he exclaimed: “Hey! Nice job you did there.” Commenting on this, the clerk said: “That’s all, nothing else, but every day or every time I swept the floor he would say something nice about it. . . . Simple words like these can make a person feel that he or she has achieved something. Somebody cares about what you are doing and that what you do is important. So every time you do it, you do it better.”
It is easy for parents to get out of touch with their children, for husbands to be thoughtless in dealing with their wives and for employers or overseers in the business or industrial world to be so absorbed in their responsibilities that they overlook the human element in dealing with those under their authority. But empathy, so conducive to thoughtfulness and consideration on the part of those who make requests or give orders, can do much to make obedience to them a pleasure, instead of a duty reluctantly discharged.