Obedience vs. willfulness

Quickly and cheerfully carrying out the direction of those who are responsible for me.

Obedience is commonly viewed in terms of one’s respect for those in authority. Obedience also refers to one’s actions and attitudes that earn respect from authorities. Ultimately in the obedience relationship, there are responsibilities and there is respect going up and down the chain of command.

Obedience involves three aspects: Fulfilling the words of my authorities, fulfilling the wishes of my authorities, and fulfilling these with a cheerful attitude. Of these three aspects of obedience, it is the third that is often most difficult. In any position, an individual will face duties that are not necessarily enjoyable. Obedience is proven by maintaining a cheerful attitude in an unpleasant duty, or by putting one’s whole heart into disheartening work.

The following incident, taken from the life of a twelve-year-old boy, illustrates one simple idea that people of any age can use to foster a good attitude in the face of disliked duties. As a student in the sixth grade, William disliked health class more than any other class and dreaded his homework assignments. However, William did enjoy art. William’s parents urged him to do his best in health class, so he decided to change the way he did his homework. Instead of rushing through the health book, he took extra time to think about what he was reading. He wrote his answers out neatly and drew pictures from the textbook to illustrate his answers. After a few weeks of this practice, health became a favorite subject.

Why the change? Because William invested something that was valuable to him — his time and his drawing talent — in a task he did not enjoy. Consider how you can invest a little extra into those undesirable responsibilities you are given. If you can think of nothing more creative, at least invest a smile. Abraham Lincoln observed, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Rather than emotion determining attitude, attitude should guide emotion. Obey with an expression and effort that demonstrates genuine loyalty to those in authority.

Teach your children that whining compliance is not obedience. Before you can enact such a standard, however, you must check the consistency of your own cheerful attitude toward sometimes unpleasant authorities.

Brought to you by the Four Corners Character Council. Character First! Definitions and information used by permission. Copyright Character First Training Institute.www.characterfirst.com.

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