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Strength through gentleness

By Jim Killebrew

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[June 19, 2014]  Bitterness, loneliness, hatred, retribution, anger or even rage are emotions that infect and break down the character into such a shattering, destructive way, that people who experience such emotions often reach a point of breaking. It is at that point that they begin their wrestle with God.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a lady who is internationally known for her devotion to God. At a young age she dove into a lake where she suffered an injury that left her confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic that has prevented her from walking or moving her arms for most of her life. Her condition has not prevented her from excelling in almost everything she has ventured. For years she has hosted a radio show called Joni and Friends, she has achieved honors and celebrity through her paintings. Yet there was a time when she experienced bitterness and anger toward God.

This is interesting that Joni experienced this type of bitterness. Her experience where she voiced her confrontation with God reminded me of something in my own studies. She said, “It was as if God were holding my anger up before my face and saying lovingly but firmly, ‘Stop turning your head and looking the other way. This bitterness has got to go. What are you going to do about it?’"

A psychologist named John McGee has developed the procedure of Gentle Teaching. It was very popular during the 1980’s and can be very powerful. Gentle Teaching does not focus on compliance or obedience, but focuses on teaching Individuals to feel safe with others. In order for this to happen, we must look at ourselves as caregivers. Looking at ourselves is assessing how we use our Tools (our hands, eyes, words and presence) to facilitate an understanding of safety with those we work with. We learn best when we feel safe. If the Individuals we work with do not feel safe, the learning environment is non-existent.

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Gentle Teaching uses the relationship between the Individual and the Caregiver as the foundation for teaching. This relationship requires a feeling of companionship. But some Individuals with cognitive impairments or challenging behaviors such as what Joni was experiencing do not develop effective strategies to experience a feeling of companionship. As a result, they may not feel safe. By trying to teach and provide a feeling of safety, we improve their quality of life.

It seems amazing to me that people like John McGee can stumble on a method of helping people by having the Therapist take the role of strength with gentleness with the person. It seems like just the thing Joni said that God did with her.

We need to understand that God is the author of all gentleness. His Grace is sufficient not only to lift us from ourselves, but to provide the true gift of relationship with Him. As good as all man-discovered "self-help" methods can be to console the grieving heart, it can never touch the reality of the loving God who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to offer Himself a sacrifice so that we may be lifted to Him and experience His wonderful Grace.

Don’t you know that God smiles at us as we “discover” things that He has already created and just placed here for us to find?


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