Posts tagged “free will

Too Big a Deal?

I was recently asked to write a 500-word article on school discipline as a non-coercive process. The short essay appeared in Leading the Journey, a newsletter for SDA school administrators. As a result, a few of you may have already read it; I reprint it here for those who haven’t –

Sometimes I wonder if I make too big a deal out of the Choice Theory thing, or if it is even a thing at all. Doubts and stinkin thinkin seem to lurk. Yet while distracted by these temptations to doubt, I soon come back to what, for me, are unchangeable realities. These realities include –

  • God places an exceptionally high value on love and freedom.
  • He designed and created humans for free will and internally driven choices.
  • He died to redeem us, to restore us, and to preserve our freedom to choose.
  • The sanctified life is about our becoming, through Jesus, loving, powerful, and joyful self-managers.

Regardless of where my thoughts and feelings may want to take me, these truths are not going away. These are the truths that jolt me out of my occasional sulking and doubting.

God Values

Adventist schools have a tremendous opportunity and, indeed, responsibility to teach students what it means and what it looks like to be sanctified self-managers. Whether we’re talking about how learning is organized, or about how classroom Procedures are implemented, or about how discipline is applied when serious infractions occur, students need to be shown how to evaluate their own behavior and make choices for improvement.

For students to gain this important (eternal) life skill, Adventist schools must let go of management strategies based on rewards and retribution and instead pursue strategies based on redemption and restoration. Reward and retribution (punishment) strategies are tools for controlling students from the outside, even though humans were designed for internal control. Attempting to externally control students is like putting regular gasoline into a diesel engine. The sputtering results are predictable.

God Values-3

We tend to like students that comply, even if it places their ability to self-manage at risk. The prodigal son’s brother was compliant and we can see what that led to. And so our challenge is to outline behavioral standards that are realistic and relevant for kids and then to artfully support them toward achieving their learning and living goals. Redemption and restoration don’t have to be words and concepts only associated with the mysteries of Bible class. Instead, they can be concepts that become very real to students as teachers and principals model the spirit of redemption and provide students with a means to on-going restoration. For instance, when we problem-solve with students do we tell them how it is going to be or do we help them effectively self-evaluate; when students get in trouble do we simply apply a punishment or do we ask them how they are going to resolve the problem?

In the book Education, EGW made a very powerful point when she described that “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one . . .” (p.30) To this end may we each become fully-equipped self-managers and as we do, may we help our students become the same.

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The Better Plan workshops this summer at PUC are designed to help educators become fully-equipped self-managers, with the hope that you will then be able to share these insights and skills with students.

The Better Plan 1    June 25-28

The Better Plan 2    July 9-12

Contact Jim Roy for more information on the workshops at thebetterplan@gmail.com or at jroy@puc.edu.

My Dear Maggot

screwtape

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis’s 1942 classic) pulled back the curtains that shield us from Second Heaven and revealed conversations that occurred between an uncle and his nephew. Both of them were demons and as such both of them were in the business of tempting human beings toward wrong turns and wrong lives. Uncle Screwtape coached and counseled his nephew, Wormwood, as the younger tempter struggled to influence the life of the human to which he was assigned. It should come as no surprise that one day Wormwood himself would become the coach and pass on his knowledge to a younger relative, in this case his grandson, Maggot, a fledging tempter trying to learn the ropes.

My dear Maggot,

How touched I am that our communication is deepening and that you are so willing to lay open your thoughts and your struggles regarding your tempting strategies and the apparent lack of success that you are thus far experiencing. Honesty is not a trait that we demons display with any consistency, so I commend you for your candor. This openness will assist me as I counsel you toward more effective approaches. Keep in mind, too, that you are planting seeds of discouragement and resentment that will grow in due time. Be patient with your patient. Remember that you are in the business of making others discouraged, not in getting discouraged yourself.

In your recent letters you have shared so many details – your patient’s tendency to seek the Enemy, to want to be close to him, to want to get involved with helping others – which are all serious problems that need to be dealt with. However, it seems to me that in rushing from a tree here to a tree there, you are missing the bigger forest. Frustration over individual details are keeping you from seeing the bigger picture. Not that these details are unimportant. It’s just that seeing the bigger picture first will serve as a foundation from which to launch a more effective attack.

Since you have asked, I will begin to share with you some of the bigger, more essential elements that, I am confident, will re-focus and re-charge your efforts. Although I hate to quote the Enemy’s manual, it is instructive here to refer to a letter that traitor Paul (how he went to the other side is still beyond me) wrote to people in Corinth (a lovely city with so many wonderful problems). Anyway, he wrote that –

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose?    1 Cor. 4:20, 21

First, and I think you already know this, it is absolutely vital that you cloud and confuse the choice-power of your patient. This theme – the ability of humans to make effective choices – is rampant throughout the Enemy’s manual, yet so few humans really pick up on this. The minute they stray from this awareness we have them. For if they aren’t in the process of choosing, the alternative is that they are victims of circumstances, tossed to and fro by their tumultuous feelings. I smile just thinking about it. You and I both know that these disgusting little humans have been created in the image of the Enemy, with amazing internal guidance systems, but this must be hidden from them. At all costs.

You may at first question what I am about to write, but write it I must – religion is not our enemy. In fact, humans can be messed up by a lot of things, but nothing can mess them up as much as religion can. Paul (the turncoat) realized this when he wrote about the Enemy’s domain being about a lot of talk versus being about real power. Let his words be a lesson to you. Shower your patient with religion, let him marinate in its rules and habits and schedules. Just be sure to keep him in the realm of talking, and studying, and behaving. There are so many benefits from this focus! Where do I begin?

+ Being disconnected from the real power of the Enemy, they will try to surmise truth and reality from their own miserable, limited, little perspectives. The Enemy tried to warn them about this during his pathetic sermon on the mountainside (it is important to study what the Enemy says and does), when he pointed out that it is possible for them to think they are right(eous), when in fact they are right where we want them.1

+ One of the supreme benefits from the “lot of talk about religion focus” is its effect on their young. I savor this result as much as any of our victories. You would think they would have figured this out by now, but no, they continue to emphasize habits and lifestyles and right living. Let them talk, encourage your patient to talk. The fact is, and we must say this quietly, their young wouldn’t walk away from real power (who would?); their young walk away from talk. I’m almost laughing as I write this. Here they are desperate for power and they refuse to simply plug into the Enemy’s vast resources. It’s too easy, really.

+ Lastly (at least for this letter), without being connected to the power, religious humans lose sight of, and even move in the opposite direction of – I hate even to write the word – love. Based on what the Enemy has done for the wretched things you would think that christian would be a wonderful word to them, a cherished concept. Yet look at what the word christian evokes in people now, especially in that place they refer to as the United States. (united? lol as they would say) When humans hear that word now they often think about pictures of self-righteousness, political posturing, and meanness. This is a victory that must be placed near the pinnacle of our successes! One of the Enemy’s writers, that awful little Ellen White, explained this process perfectly, yet fortunately she may as well have been writing to a wall.

When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.2

I was worried, even scared, when I first saw what she had written, thinking that the earthlians would “get it” and head back onto the Enemy’s path, but I was soon reminded my fears were unfounded. They are more into being right, and making others be their view of right, than they are in being connected and (forgive me) loving. Keep your patient focused on the value of rightness. Prompt him to be willing to sacrifice others for the good of the right. And by all means, present to him the importance of religion and the value of knowing, dissecting, and being right.

I apologize for my droning, yet I remember with such affection the counsel I received from my Uncle Screwtape when I, like you now, needed it most. You are my cherished grandson and I yearn for your success. I look forward to more of our discussions.

Pridefully,

Grandpa Wormwood

P.S. – I know that you wanted me to specifically help you with a concept your patient is studying called choice theory. You are correct to be concerned about this. Hopefully, you can see how my letter begins to address these concerns. The concepts of choice theory are part of the Enemy’s way and I am glad you discerned this on your own. More on this later.

1. Matthew 6:22, 23
2. White, E. (1896). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, (p. 126-127). Takoma Park, MD: Review & Herald Publishing Association.

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Influence vs Control

Your comments regarding the 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do got me to thinking. I was drawn to #7 – Expect your child to fulfill your dreams as an important one on which to comment, but now I see that each of them might be instructive under the choice theory microscope. We’ll do one at a time so that it won’t take (Tom) so long to read. Add your comments to fill in ideas that I leave out. Let’s start with #1 – Baby your child.

The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do

1. Baby your child.

Providing support and guidance, and certainly exerting supervision and control when it comes to safety issues, is necessary and appropriate. We wouldn’t let a three year old cross a busy street on his own, even if he pulled his hand away from ours and insisted that we leave him alone. We would grab his hand right back and keep him from running into traffic. There is a difference, though, between appropriate supervision and overprotective babying.

Often the difference has more to do with our need for control than it does with the needs of our children or students. Choice theory is based on the idea that every human being is guided by an internal control mechanism. We were created with free will, an incredible attribute that God has gone to incredible lengths to preserve, and, by extension, have been given the power, and the responsibility, to make choices. God values our freedom a great deal.

With this in mind it becomes clear that children need to learn about this freedom and, as soon as possible, learn to make good choices. The teacher or parent who understands choice theory will want to wean children from their control, rather than seek to perpetuate their control. Our goal is to fit our children for healthy lives, not because we are controlling their decisions, but because they are making good choices even when supervision is not around. We want them to be self-supervisors, right? (Think of Jochabed preparing Moses to leave home at 12 years of age.)

The paradox here is noteworthy. The important thing is influence. To have influence with our students or children is what we really want. Yet the more we attempt to control children, the less influence we have with them. There are too many well-meaning parents who have literally fought to control their children, to supervise at every turn, to oversee every event, threatening and punishing all the way, only to lose the thing they want most – influence. (When I visited my mother when she was living in a retirement center, I would hear stories from her about how some of the residents’ children – the children being 50 and 60 years of age – would have nothing to do with them, would never come to visit them, still angry about how they are continuing to be treated by their, by now, aged parents. A controlling spirit can last a long time.) The important thing is to stay connected. No matter what – stay connected. Because as long as you are connected to your kids, you have influence.

2. Put your marriage last.

3. Push your child into too many activities.

4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.

5. Be your child’s best friend.

6. Fail to give your child structure.

7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams.

Friel, J. and Friel, L. (1999). The 7 worst things good parents do. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Choice Theory in a Spiritual Jacket

Last summer (2012) I presented a breakout session on choice theory during the NAD convention in Nashville. In preparation for that breakout I got to thinking about the key beliefs of choice theory and how those beliefs jibed with key beliefs of Christian faith. Glasser developed what he referred to as the 10 axioms of choice theory, belief statements that, to him, were self-evident bedrock foundation points of his approach. I came up with the following belief statements to serve as a springboard for discussion during the convention breakout. I don’t think the list is comprehensive, so I invite you to help me complete it. I am also open to any questions you may have. Here goes —

Choice Theory in a Spiritual Jacket

God created us in His image – with free will being the most impressive of our attributes.

We are designed to create, to think, and to choose.

He created us to be in connection and harmony with Him.

He created us to be in connection and harmony with each other.

Every individual is designed to control himself.

We were not designed to control others.

Neither were we designed to be controlled by someone else.

Since God created us with free will, this would indicate that even God Himself will not control us.

Humans constantly behave.

All behavior is purposeful.

Our actions represent what we think will best meet our needs at that moment.

The only person we can control is our self.

The world of Choice Theory is a responsible world where individuals understand how and why they make choices and then own the results of those choices.

We choose our state of mind, including the misery we feel.

Instead of adults seeking ways to control the behavior of children, often extending this desire to control even into adulthood, their goal should be to wean children from such control as soon as possible.

(Remember that weaning children from our control does not mean weaning them from our guidance and influence. Our influence actually increases as our control decreases.)

Children need to understand their status as free will beings and the power that comes  with their ability to make choices.

Schools need to be a part of the process that helps students recognize and embrace their choice power.

 

Some of you may be curious about Glasser’s 10 choice theory axioms. Just in case, his axioms are listed below as they appear on his website.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.

All we can give another person is information.

All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.

The problem relationship is always part of our present life.

What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.

We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.

All we do is behave.

All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.

All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.

All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

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