Swinging Lambs

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me well that my dream retirement job is farming. I want to own a small piece of land raising sheep, goats, and chickens and be as self-sufficient as possible. As I prepare for that eventuality, I have been reading books on shepherding, veterinary medicine, and other interesting topics.

I was reading about lambing procedures when one technique, used when a lamb is born with breathing problems, caught my eye. “Grasp the lamb firmly and swing it aggressively in an arc several times in order that centrifugal force will expel the fluid in the lungs. Make sure you have a good grip on the lamb to avoid throwing it out of the barn.” Wow. I can hardly wait for that.

Keven Law / CC BY-SA 2.0

Keven Law / CC BY-SA 2.0

I was struck with the similarities of disciplining kids in our schools or our families, as well as “mentoring” wandering staff, parents, and church members. Discipline done correctly is difficult, and my observation is that it doesn’t get done as well as intended for several reasons. Just as we would do to the lamb that is struggling to survive, we must grasp them firmly and take action. In some cases the swinging doesn’t work, and we must actually let them go and throw them out of the barn for the good of the larger community. That’s tough to do, especially in a Christian environment where we apply “grace” to the situation.

Throughout the scripture, there are multiple examples of fallenness and forgiveness, but I have yet to find one where the consequences of sin are removed. The Bible clearly teaches those consequences are used by God to correct us, or helpful in others’ lives who may be struggling in the same way, but those consequences aren’t miraculously removed as if the sin never occurred. The Apostle Paul tells the church to expel unrepentant members of the Corinthian community from their midst. I believe there are clearly times when grace should be applied, but I also believe there are times when we need to remove “the little leaven that leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

Henry Cloud’s book Necessary Endings is an excellent resource for working through issues like this when dealing with staff, parents, and students. He characterizes dealing with three types of people: the wise, the foolish, and the evil. He compares and contrasts the three using the following diagnostic:

“When truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.” With wise people, according to Cloud, the key in “swinging them” is to “talk to them, give them resources, and you will get a return.” Thankfully, we often deal with wise people who need direction but are willing to listen and make those changes.

“The foolish person tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.” With foolish people, Cloud advises, “stop talking to them about their problems; they are not listening. And stop applying resources; they will squander them. Instead, give them limits and consequences.”

In strong contrast, evil people are in the world to hurt you—intentionally. Foolish people will hurt you unintentionally; evil people desire to bring you down. Cloud recommends we protect ourselves from evil people. Most of us deal with the first two types much more frequently than evil people, but I have had the occasion to interact with them. These are the ones to throw out of the barn to protect the herd.

I hope this will spur a conversation in your faculty meetings, administration and board meetings, as well as around the dinner table. I know some will disagree with the need to throw some lambs out of the barn, but I’d encourage you to look into the scriptures and discuss this!

In a future blog, I’ll take this analogy (and animal imagery) one step further in considering the programs in your schools. In many schools and organizations, there are sacred cows that need to be reconsidered if we are to move forward. Stay tuned!

– Joel Westa

Leave a Comment

Filed under Governance, Personnel Issues

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *