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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy: Let's start catching people doing things right
Larry Sheehy mug web
Larry Sheehy

In a discussion on effective parenting several years ago, a popular psychologist made the point that much of society is geared toward the correction of people's wrongdoing, rather than the encouragement of proper behavior. The truth of her comments is clear.

Law enforcement is designed to deter crime and catch lawbreakers.  Unless they engage in an unusual or especially noteworthy situation, not much attention is given by the police to those who live within the law. Much of the reporting in the news media involves negative information. More than one editor has suggested this is true because negative events are what attracts readers. Educators are spending more and more time dealing with misbehavior. 

Even Paul's instructions to Timothy regarding the nature of his preaching involved the necessity of "rebuking" the disobedient (1 Timothy 5:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:2).  “Discipline your son, for there is hope....” is the instruction given by Solomon to parents (Proverbs 19:18).

But effective leaders in every field recognize that balance is a key to achieving success.  Encouraging people to do what is right often begins with education about what is not right. But if we stop there, we have done what my dad used to call “a halfway job.” We need to know more than what is wrong. We also need to know what is right! The former doesn’t guarantee the latter.

It is too simplistic to assume that this involves only a contrast between good and bad. Proper leadership involves both positives and negatives. Again, responsible, efficient leadership embraces the concept of balance. Proper discipline and training is always positive. Parents are not to “provoke...children to anger,” and “discourage” them, but “bring them up in the disciple and instruction of the Lord”  (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). On the other hand, the refusal to lovingly discipline children will help ensure their destruction (Proverbs 23: 13, 14).

Whether it involves parenting, formal education, journalism, law enforcement or some other endeavor in which we want to affect the behavior of people, let's strive for balance between the positive and negative. This will encourage stability. Let's strive to point out the good people do, and inspire growth in the good. When it is necessary to point out the dangers in thinking or action, let's do it with such genuine concern in our words and manner that those about whom we are concerned, as well as those who observe our efforts will be drawn toward the right path.

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