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Gentleness and Communication

with Ron Jenson | May 31, 2006

Today on the broadcast, internationally known author and speaker, Ron Jenson, continues explaining the qualities needed for effective leadership by focusing on the characteristics of gentleness and communication.

Today on the broadcast, internationally known author and speaker, Ron Jenson, continues explaining the qualities needed for effective leadership by focusing on the characteristics of gentleness and communication.

Gentleness and Communication

With Ron Jenson
|
May 31, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

Ron: And she started asking me questions and, of course, I started to answer the questions, I mean, I'm America's life coach, right?  I fix people, and I wanted to fix her, of course, and she didn't want to be fixed.  She leaned forward and said, "Honey, I don't want you to answer my questions," and every part of my being was screaming out, "Why in the world are you asking these questions if you don't want me to answer them?"  But I listened for an hour and a half, and when we got done, she reached across the table, grabbed my cheeks in her hands, planted a romantic kiss on my lips and said, "Honey, honey, honey, thank you.  This is the best conversation we've ever had."

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 31st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Sometimes being a man who takes the lead means just sitting back, being quiet, and listening.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  We are talking this week about men being leaders and stepping up to the responsibilities of leadership.  Not the privileges but the responsibilities of leadership, and that's something that we need to be coaching men to do when they are young men, when they're still teenagers.

Dennis: You know, you've heard me share, over the years, how I've interviewed young men who have wanted to date my daughters, and I suppose, over the years, I've probably interviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 young men who have wanted to take my daughters out for a date – or – some young men who have wanted to marry one of my daughters, and I've thought about this a bunch, since I've done this a number of times – the second most important component that I am looking for as I interview a young man who I'm considering giving my daughter away in marriage to is that of leadership.  Does he possess the qualities of leadership that make him out to be a man of God who can truly love and lead my daughter?

 Now, the first and most important quality I look for is whether or not he is walking with Jesus Christ, is personally submitted to Him, and whether he is in pursuit of Jesus Christ as a disciple, as a follower.  And I have a friend with me today who is going to equip some men in not only how you can interview young men who want to date your daughters but help you clarify what it means to lead and how you can begin to develop 10 core qualities that Paul spoke about in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, that really summarize what it means to be a godly leader.

 Ron Jenson has written a book called "Taking the Lead," and he joins us on FamilyLife Today.  He and his wife Mary are great friends of Barbara's and mine, and we're just thrilled to have you on the broadcast today, Ron, welcome.

Ron: Great to be here, Dennis, thanks.

Dennis: Ron and Mary speak at our Weekend to Remember conferences; have done so for a number of years.  We've, as I mentioned earlier, we've vacationed together.  He's a – well, Ron is a man of the influence.  He likes to influence people, he likes to love on people and make an impact for Jesus Christ, and I'm really pleased to say that Ron and Mary are among our closest friends, and it really didn't take him twisting our arm to be able to have him on FamilyLife Today and talk about this new book he's written for men on leadership.

 Ron, I want to start here at the outset with just a quick summary of the 10 qualities that we mentioned earlier about what it means to be a godly leader.  Because 1Thessalonians, chapter 2, does outline, in a very simple way but in a very profound way, qualities that every man needs to embrace.  Share them with our listeners, please.

Ron: Well, the 10 are and, again, they're important because I think this is the best grid in all literature of what leadership is, and I think one reason guys don't lead is that they don't understand what a good, godly, balanced leader is.  And in this text, we find him – team orientation, we're part of a team, we need others, and others need us.  A disciplined life – we discipline ourselves for godliness; gentle spirit; fond affection, there is deep emotion and affection; effective communication; personal openness – that's really dealing with transparency; servant leadership; hard work – part of leadership is just working hard; and then being a godly model – it's not being perfect, but it's being progressing into the likeness of Christ; and then caring confrontation.

Dennis: Yes, and I want to go back and talk about the third quality you spoke about there – gentleness.  Now, you speak about what gentleness isn't in your book.

Ron: Yes, and I do that because I think when guys think of gentleness, often they think of something very wimpy, and it's not that.  Again, this is Paul, Timothy, and Sylvanus writing this book to the Thessalonians.  They were rough, tough guys, though they are very different personalities – meaning all of us need to lead.  We can't cop out on personality.  But they were living under incredible hardship and difficulty, and they weren't ineffective, they weren't passive, they weren't living a false humility, they weren't weak.  Gentleness is none of those things.  Instead, the best metaphor for gentleness is really a wild stallion whose will has been broken, whose spirit is very much alive and brought under control of the master.  And what God wants for us is to be gentle in the sense that our spirits are alive, dynamic, but it's under the control of the Spirit of God.  That's really what gentleness is – strength under control.

Dennis: Yes, it's not weakness.

Ron: It's not.

Dennis: It's true strength of character.

Ron: It really is.

Dennis: Ron, as you were writing about this subject of gentleness in your book, I thought back to the days of science fairs with my kids, and a couple of my daughters – well, I don't know what it was about sometimes our children, but they would wait until the last possible minute to do the science fair project.  Now, a science fair project can be put together the night before.  But I want to underline the word "night" – the entire "night" before. 

And so when one of our daughters, and I don't remember which one it was, so this preserves their reputation at this point.   When one of our daughters started work on this after they talked on the phone and after they had lollygagged around for a number of hours, about 9:00 at night I was ticked off.  I did not embody this concept of gentleness like you're talking about and, frankly, I was angry at my daughter, and I was also angry at my wife, who rescued our daughter and stayed up until, like, 3 a.m. working on this magnificent science project, okay?  You know, I'm talking about it has panels that explain the experiment and has – well, we got a blue ribbon for it, I think, as I recall.

Well, the Lord convicted me that I was wrong in getting angry.  I went to bed.  I just sulked and went to bed in my anger, and I had a chance, on another child, to bring some redemption to the process and, sure enough, this one had the same disease the other child did – waited until the last minute and this time, instead of grousing and griping, I decided I was going to be this kind of man here, and I was going to be a gentle man with my wife and my daughter, as I recall, one of my other daughters, and I was going to participate in this science fair, and I was going to be gentle and not be harsh and not be angry and not sulk and not just go to bed.

 And, you know, my kids have never, ever mentioned this.  I don't know that any of them maybe even remember it, but I do.  And I think, for a man, if we do make mistakes in terms of being gentle with our wives or our children or in the workplace in who we relate to, the issue is not that we failed, although it's never good to fail, but the issue is that we confess and ask forgiveness when we've made a mistake, and then when we have the opportunity to replace harshness or a critical spirit or an angry spirit with a gentle spirit, we do so, don't you agree?

Ron: Oh, I do, and I have a very recent illustration of this with my wife.  We were on a vacation with our two adult kids, and my daughter was lying down on the couch, and my wife was sitting by the kitchen, and I said, "Honey, do we have any bottled water in here," and she goes, "The water that's in the refrigerator," in this condo belongs to our friends whose condo we were staying at, and I simply said this like this – I said, "That's not the question I asked.  Do we have any bottled water?"  And that's about how I said it.

Dennis: Probably more impatient than you just said it.

Ron: Probably.  I just – quick.  You know, I get sarcastic or quick or short.

Dennis: Yeah, I've seen you do that.

Ron: Uh-huh, yeah, and you've trained in most of that.

Dennis: This is one of the problems of having friends …

Ron: It's good to have friends, isn't it?

Dennis: And to have the friend on the broadcast.

Ron: I remember, we vacationed together.

Dennis: We have, we have.  We've both seen one another get …

Ron: There you go.

Dennis: Yeah, anyway, keep going.

Ron: Well, anyway, so after I said that, Mary didn't say anything, but my daughter, Molly, goes, "Ewwwww."  I go, "What's the ewwww about?"  She goes, "That was harsh."  I said, "Harsh?  What?"  She goes, "The way you said that."  I said, "What do you mean?"  She said, "Lookit, if you were my husband, I wouldn't want you to talk to me like that."  I said, "Oh, man, what do you mean?"  And then – so she goes, "Well, that was just rude.  It was not what you said, it's how you said it.  Why couldn't you just be more gentle?"  And so I had to go in and prayer a little bit and work through that one, that humiliation, and come out.  And then I was telling Molly how proud I was of her for bringing that up …

Dennis: Absolutely.

Ron: And for rebuking me …

Dennis: Absolutely.

Ron: And a little bit later Mary said, "You know, that was good, honey, that you did that, but you actually could have apologized to me for" – so I got it twice.  And, you know, so much of this harshness is nonverbal.

Dennis: It really is.

Ron: It's tone of voice …

Dennis: You don't have to raise your voice and have your blood vessels in your neck be popping out.

Ron: No, and I realized what I had done there, and I've tried to be more aware of it ever since, but I can shut my wife's spirit down very quickly, and the metaphor, again, is we were gentle among you like a nursing mother tenderly cares for her children."  So think of a nursing mother tenderly caring for her child.  She's stroking the cheek of that little child, she's patient, she's available.  In the middle of the night when Mary was feeding our kids, and they would scream, I'd roll over and say, "Honey, I'm not equipped," and she would jump out and go take care of the kids.

 But that metaphor of a nursing mother is a great one for us to get in our minds when we think of what godly gentleness is.

Dennis: Longsuffering – you think of how a mom cares in that situation.  Yes, and there's also a side, Ron, of gentleness that goes beyond that nursing mother that protects.  Gentleness protects from evil, can protect your spouse from a child.  Gentleness really takes care of the other person that no harm befalls them.  And I like the illustration that you give out of the Scriptures at that point – what nursing mother wouldn't protect that child from anything coming after that little infant.

 Well, the third quality that you speak of is gentleness.  There's a fourth one here called "fond affection."  What do you mean by that?

Ron: Well, Paul, Timothy, and Sylvanus says "We loved you so much that we were well pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel but our very own lives because you became very dear to us."  So we loved you so much, one translator says, "We affectionately desired you because you became very dear to us."  I think we've lost the art, as men, partly because of the media and the culture, to show affection, and the two things that kill affection – one thing that kills affection and one that makes it happen – what kills it, often, is bitterness.  You know, so often in our Promise Keepers events and other events we've done at FamilyLife, we'll ask guys what they got from their dads growing up, or if they got the love or the attention they didn't get, and we've just found a lot of bitterness.

 So on the one hand, we just need to forgive and forget and let go – that's one thing.  On the other hand, we need to demonstrate affection, and that's a lost art.  I was amazed to be at the recent wedding that we were at …

Dennis: You're speaking now of my daughter, Rebecca.

Ron: Your daughter, Rebecca …

Dennis: And the young man I gave her to …

Ron: Yes, Jake.

Dennis: Jake.

Ron: And to have Jake's dad, who is a mutual friend of ours, who we think so highly of, he would greet us.  He'd come up and give all the guys a kiss.  In fact, I watched their family.  They all gave one another a kiss – on the lips!  I mean, that was kind of the modus operandi.

Dennis: Bill did not kiss me on the lips, however.

Ron: Well, but I remember years ago, when I learned this lesson.  It was a homecoming event.  My son had been nominated to the homecoming court at the high school he was at, and during halftime the parents would walk down the center line, the 50-yard line, from the visitors, the home team.  Many hundreds, probably thousands, of people there, and my son, Matt, was nominated the Homecoming King, which was a great honor, and as we would go around the corner to walk down the 50-yard line, he reached out and grabbed his mom's hand, and then he reached out to grab my hand, like he wanted to hold my hand, and I looked at all these people at the home side, and I thought, "Oh, man, he doesn't want to hold my hand.  They're going to think he's goofy."  And I thought, "This will be embarrassing," so I stuck my hand in my pocket and just touched his elbow, and we walked down there and had a great night. 

 The next day Mary came up to me, and she said, "Honey, do you know how much you hurt your son last night?"  And I said, "What do you mean?"  She said, "Well, when he reached out to hold your hand, he really wanted to hold your hand.  He wanted to walk hand-in-hand down the 50-yard line with you."  I said, "Why?"  She said, "Well, he's had an impact on a lot of these kids, led a lot of them to Christ, well-known, they all know how much he loves his parents and how close he is to his parents, especially to you.  And he wanted to demonstrate that nonverbally, and you stole that from him.  He'll never have that opportunity again." 

 You know, and so I melted into the ground, and I went an apologized, and that was very gracious, but I realized that I had been so conformed of the world's system when it comes to affection, I was trying to play this Rambo mindset, you know, of tough, and whenever Matt and I see one another now, to this day, we hug, we'll kiss one another on the cheek.  It will be fond affection and, you know, we forget how cultural in the Western world, especially our concept of affection is, and our young men and young women appropriately our kids are looking for the right kind of affection.

 I can go way the wrong direction, of course, but they're desperate for that, and we just need to demonstrate it.

Dennis: I think – you know, it's just a great feeling for two men to hug one another, and yet the culture has really robbed us because of how affection between men has been twisted, the culture has really robbed us of a great opportunity for us to express a fond affection that you're talking about. 

 There is also an affection that men need to express to their wives that they're not good at as well – this is the language of romance to our wives.  They want a fond affection that doesn't demand a sexual response.  They are looking for a touch of the hand, a snuggle, something sweet in their ears – "I love you, sweetheart, I'd marry you all over again" – fond affection can take a number of different faces, but it is a part of strong, competent, godly, male leadership, isn't it?

Ron: It is.  Yesterday we were at a hotel, and Mary and I went out and exercised in the morning and afterwards we went swimming a little bit, and I was just holding Mary in the pool, and she just sat there and said, "I love this, I love this."  I said, "What?"  She goes, "Just being here, just this quality time, this just communicating, really just my prattling on."  She said, "I just love this."  And, of course, being emotionally challenged like I am, I didn't have the full appreciation of that, but I do know how meaningful that kind of thing is to my wife and how meaningful it is to me, even though I might not connect at the same emotional level she does with that.

Dennis: I was just thinking about that, Ron.  There's probably not a man listening right now who is going, "I wouldn't think of just having my wife hold me."  And, for that reason, because it's not what communicates fond affection to us as men, we don't think about holding our wives because of that.  And our wives just need to be hugged and held many times – just for 30 to 45 seconds after we get home from work, after they've been challenged throughout the day with discipline of the little ones with running a household or perhaps coming back from work herself and preparing the meal and just the hassles of running a household this day, our wives just need us to gather them up in our arms and just say, "You know what?  I love you.  You're the best."

Ron: That's exactly right.

Dennis: This next quality of leadership – effective communication.  I think if there is one on the list that challenges men even more than fond affection it's the area of communication.  We, as men, don't do a great job on this, do we?

Ron: We don't, and we're not, by the way, not talking here about being great orators.  There's a lot of research out that indicates great leaders are often not great orators, and I think sometimes men get afraid of communication because they think of, you know, standing before a big group.  It just means I communicate in such a way that I connect, and as we often teach in our FamilyLife events, it's, on the one hand, first seeking to understand, and then it's seeking to be understood, and I think the hardest thing for us is seeking to understand.

 Mary came back from an event some years ago, and after the event she said, "Honey, could we go out?  I've got a lot of questions."  I said, "Sure," and we went out for coffee, and she started asking me questions, and, of course, I started to answer the questions, I mean, I'm America's life coach, right?  I fix people, and I wanted to fix her, of course, and she didn't want to be fixed.  She leaned forward and patted my hand, which I knew meant "Shut up," and said, "Honey, I don't want you to answer my questions," and every part of my being was screaming out, "Why in the world are you asking these questions if you don't want me to answer them?"  But I majored in communications, and I knew she wanted to be listened to, so I listened for an hour and a half, and did what we teach a lot and that is ask clarifying questions like "What do you mean by this?"  Or "Is this like when this happened to me?"  And when we got done, I had made no declarative statements.  We were an hour and a half into this "discussion."  I had made no statements.  I just asked questions, and I had to keep …

Dennis: Way to go, Ron.

Ron: I had to bite my lip …

Dennis: I am so impressed.

Ron: It was killing me.

Dennis: This is great.

Ron: It was painful.

Dennis: It was.  It's tough for us, as a man, to not offer a solution, isn't it?

Ron: It was.  And when we got done, she reached across the table, grabbed my cheeks in her hands, planted a romantic kiss on my lips and said, "Honey, honey, honey, thank you.  This is the best conversation we've ever had."

[laughter]

 I thought, "Wait a second.  I didn't say anything."  And I thought, "Oh, I'm getting the point."  She wanted to be heard, and a big part of communication, we need to know, as guys, this is so counter-intuitive but is to listen.  You know, people want to be understood.  They want to be cared for.

Dennis: You quote Hamlet in your book, and I'm impressed, Ron, that you quoted Hamlet, by the way, which goes, "Give every man thine ear but few thy voice."  That could be rephrased – give every woman your listening ear but hold your solutions and hold your tongue.

Ron: And that would be true for kids, too, by the way – or in the workplace. We need to listen more.  We don't do it effectively.

Dennis: We don't.

Bob: And, you know, I think, again, we don't think of leaders as listeners.  You know, when you think of the quintessential leader, you don't think of somebody who is spending a lot of time listening.  You think of somebody whose is giving instruction; who is saying, "Come on, let's go."

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: But if we're going to be effective as leaders, we've got to be listeners, we've got to be attentive to the needs of those around us.  They've got to know that we care about them, and part of the way that we demonstrate that is by listening.  And that's whether we're leading in the marketplace or in the home or in the church, and I think, as you do, Ron, that there are guys who need to step up and embrace the God-designed assignment to be leaders, to be men who take the lead.

 You've written a book on that subject, there's a study guide associated with that book, there is also a CD and a DVD so that this can be used in a group setting with a group of guys.  We have the "Taking the Lead" study kit in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and we want to encourage guys to get in touch with us and order this kit and consider using it in a group setting with a whole group of guys so that you can begin to sharpen iron together around these leadership principles we're talking about this week.

 Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and in the middle of the page, you'll see a button that says "Go."  If you click on that button, it will take you right to a page where there's more information about what's in the study kit that Ron has created.  There's the book, the workbook, the CD, and the DVD and, again, it's great for group use.  The website is FamilyLife.com, the button in the middle of the page says "Go," click on that and get more information on this resource from Dr. Ron Jenson.  You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information.  That's 1-800-358-6329 – 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  When you call us, someone can answer any questions you have about this resource, or they can take your order over the phone and have the material sent out to you.

 You know, all month long we have been mentioning the matching gift opportunity that was made available to us during the month of May, and we have appreciated the listeners who have gotten in touch with us to say we want to help out and make sure you can take full advantage of that matching gift.  And it occurs to me that we, also, Dennis, need to thank those folks who, month in and month out, provide the financial foundation for this ministry and help keep FamilyLife Today on the air not only in this community but in communities all across the country.

 It's a group of folks we refer to as our Legacy Partners and each month they send in a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We try to keep in touch with them with special updates on what's going on around here and provide them with resources throughout the year to strengthen their marriage and their family.

 If you'd like more information about becoming a Legacy Partner, it's available online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, but we wanted to take just a minute and say thanks again, not only to those of you who made a donation during May to help with the matching gift but to our regular Legacy Partners who we hear from each month.  We appreciate you standing with us here at FamilyLife Today and appreciate your financial support.

 Now, tomorrow we're going to continue to look at what real leadership looks like in the church, in the marketplace, and in the home.  Dr. Ron Jenson will be back with us, I hope you will be as well.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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