Obedience out of Fear, or Love?
The cowboy clinician was fun to watch, and had much to share with those of us in his audience. I was especially intrigued by his ability to demonstrate how the rider’s body position is reflected in the horse’s body, and therefore, its performance. Great stuff. From my perspective, there was one decidedly sour note in the performance. Whenever the horse refused to ‘give his face,’ the cowboy snatched up on the reins in a manner that forced the horse’s head up into an awkward, unnatural position, and rode him this way in fast tight circles, refusing to release the rein until the distraught animal ‘gave’ his head to the bridle.
In other words, the trainer was using the widely accepted practice of training via pain avoidance. While it’s true that the horse wasn’t being abused, it was nevertheless in noticeable discomfort. This approach will certainly help achieve a trainer’s short term goals–but there is a better way.
It is occasionally necessary to resort to pain avoidance measures in order to establish the trainer’s unquestioned authority. The rider must become in effect the herd boss, and horses are notoriously physical when establishing their initial herd pecking order. But once a rider has established his or her authority, inflicting pain or discomfort should be avoided in favor of using tools and techniques that help win the animal’s trust and cooperation. That’s not to say we can’t put the horse in a position where he will avoid pressure–but pain (or actual discomfort) and pressure are two very different experiences. Pressure is essentially an emotional trigger, pain is a physical sensation.
It is much better to gain an animal’s obedience via trust and mutual respect, than it is to create an equestrian partnership with an animal whose underlying motivation is simply to avoid pain.
Always a wise Trainer, the Lord prefers to teach us by leading and guiding us into an understanding of the truth, and then encouraging us to do the right thing based on our love for Him, and our desire to please our Master. He does resort to using pressure on us when necessary–especially when we are young and immature. While we may endure great pain at times, and it will have a redemptive purpose if we so allow–rarely, if ever, does the Lord use pain as an incentive toward Godliness, or as a standard means of instruction.
Our loving Father doesn’t seek to create a world full of robotic ‘yes-men’ who obey him primarily out of fear. Rather, He instructs us in such a manner that we learn of His great love toward us, of His mercy and wisdom, grace and compassion. Pleasing such a One as He reveals Himself to be becomes our greatest desire. When we know we are pleasing to Him, we enjoy a sense of great peace and satisfaction. This, too, is part of His reward–and ongoing training–for those who love and obey Him.
Luke 1:68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he swore to our father Abraham,74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.
Your sister in Christ,