Children yelling at siblings and drivers screaming at other drivers. We pay lip-service to the word peace but find ourselves creating chaos by the choices we make.
When Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” – He accurately clarified His peace was not of this world. He lived in a relatively peaceful time where noise was the occasional ruckus between people or the sound of animals in the street or soldiers marching. It was nothing like our clattering din of continuous white noise.
We can’t do much about the cars, the music other people listen to or the arguments that escalate around us. We can’t do much about other people’s choices, but we can create an atmosphere of peace in our own lives.
The story of Jesus calming the sea is instructive:
And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:36-41 KJV)
I can’t imagine Jesus yelling, “Peace, be still.” I am sure it was a voice of perfect mildness, but a voice filled with majestic power. Even as the voice Elijah heard when the Lord told him to go to the mount.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (I Kings 19; 11-12 KJV)
Elijah “wrapped his face in his mantle and went out” to meet the Lord. The Lord showed Elijah the power of a soft voice. Jesus didn’t need to yell at the winds and the waves to stop a raging storm. His voice was filled with the power of His commanding presence.
When I was on the battleground of raising my children, I had just graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in theater. I was an expert at emoting. I could rage at the top of my voice; turn on the tears and be smiling the next minute. I could yell and scream with the best of them. Good talent in the theater – but not in the home. At first, my children would listen when I used my actor voice; they would cower and get right to work.
They knew I meant business. It wasn’t long before I realized this was a technique with diminishing returns. The more I yelled, the less they were inclined to hear me. I found myself yelling all the time, and nobody seemed to care. I just got hoarse and frustrated and, worse, the kids followed my example and started yelling at each other. I knew that was not going to work.
I was equally frustrated when I taught school. The more I talked, the less my students listened. I didn’t know where to turn. I asked other teachers. One teacher said, “I never smile until November.” That gave her a grave aspect, and the children realized from her stern demeanor she was serious. I was already becoming too serious, and I didn’t want to be labeled a grouch, so I didn’t take her advice. Besides, it was already past November. Another teacher told me to pile on the paperwork. Keep them busy until they want to pay attention to your teaching.
I did that for a while, but that was a mass of frustration too. I soon realized with every worksheet you give the students to complete, you give yourself a bigger workload. Every paper had to be graded. Ouch! In addition, I wasn’t sure the students were learning what they needed to learn. I was desperate. I needed some help now. I prayed and waited for an answer.
One day, I was cleaning the shelves in my classroom and found a Fred Jones video on classroom management. I put it in the video machine and began to watch. Wow. What a revelation. The teacher showed me the power of the “still small voice” and the magnificent force of silence and expectation. The video showed a student who was off-task.
The teacher simply walked up beside his desk and stood there with an expressionless face. The student instantly became uncomfortable and returned to his work. The teacher didn’t say a word; he resumed his walk around the room.
I thought, “Yeah sure, that was staged,” but I determined to try it. Next day, I walked around the room as the students were working. A student got off-task, so I merely walked up to his desk and just stood there looking at him with an expressionless gaze. He became uncomfortable and said, “What?” I leaned over and whispered, “You need to get back to work.” He did. I was amazed. That technique was worth all the training in all my education classes.
Fred Jones explained the expressionless face and stillness was an instinctive message for more powerful animals to get control over other animals. It made sense. Dogs that bark wildly when you enter a yard are not the ones to fear. The dogs that growl softly and hold their ground, bristling their fur, are the ones that send you packing.
Fred Jones’ technique was not as easily implemented at home because children are not confined to a desk, and you can’t just walk up to them and stare them down, but silent expectation still works. It is natural to give a command to a child and remind them again and again when they do not obey.
It isn’t long before you are in the counting. One, one-and-a-half, two, two-and-a-half, two-and-three-quarters – and when they still don’t obey, you think of another strategy. Finally, when you run out of ideas, you get angry. Children learn quickly they can play that game all day, and nothing is going to happen until Mom gets angry.
I tried getting angry on the first sign of disobedience. That’s when the yelling started. Guess what? I was angry all the time. I learned the best thing to do is give the command once and expect compliance. If the child doesn’t listen, the consequence should follow immediately, not after 10 or 20 coaching commands.
For example, if the child is watching TV and you ask the child to take out the garbage, and he or she doesn’t listen, you wait a few minutes. Nothing happens. Your next move is to turn off the TV and simply say quietly, “You may turn it back on when the garbage is properly placed in the can outside.” Stand your ground. Consider: The first person who speaks loses. After a while, your quiet demeanor will be all it takes to get the child to comply. They will learn you don’t waste words and peace is a premium in your home. They will also learn, as I did:
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 KJV)
King Solomon, considered the wisest person of all time, made that statement thousands of years ago, and it still has merit today. When Jesus said, “Peace, be still,” it was not just for the winds and the waves. It is a commandment to each of us. If obeyed, it will bring peace to our souls.
Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.