Soft Authority by Mark Hamby

Softened Authority

A Lamplighter Moment from Mark Hamby

Recently I was reading a devotional by 17th century author Francois Fenelon. His wisdom is beyond anything I have heard or read before. He is particularly insightful when it comes to parenting and teaching. Listen to what he shares about children who don’t get the point—well, quickly!

He writes:
”No teaching is effectual without example; no authority is endurable unless it is softened by example. Begin with acting, and then you can speak…bear patiently with every possible weakness in others. Wait for those souls whose progress is slow; you run the risk of disheartening them by impatience. The more vigor you need, the more gentleness and kindness you must combine with it.”

“Study to understand the hearts of those under your care, and to adapt yourself to their needs, rather than overwhelming them with an abundance of words. Let them see that your heart is open to them, and let all learn by experience that they can open theirs to you with safety and comfort. Avoid every kind of harshness, and find fault, when it must be done, with kindliness and consideration. Decide slowly, but firmly. Above all, correct yourself if you would be able to correct others” (Dialogues of Fenelon, p. 19).

Having reared three children, I only wish I had learned these truths years ago. As a result of placing responsibility above relationship, I frustrated my children. What Fenelon possessed is what we need today if we are to raise our children within the boundaries of grace and truth.

What makes Fenelon’s teaching stand the test of these past 400 years is that his wisdom is from above wisdom which is first pure, peaceable, and gentle. If you long for this kind of wisdom – to be able to be patient, kind, and considerate to your children – then it is available for the asking. In James 1 we read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (v.5).