Okay, truth time.
Do you talk badly about other people?
Do you ever gossip?
I must admit that, even as a somewhat mature Christian, there are times when I talk about other people. But only the ones that annoy me.
Surely there is a clause in the Bible about gossip being acceptable if it is about annoying people.
I have tried to improve this fault of mine with varying success.
Then several years ago, when my son, Mitchell, came home from seminary for the summer, I noticed something. He didn't talk poorly of others.
I could tell he wanted to, at least at times.
But he didn’t.
It was exasperating.
It was absolutely gorgeous and I wanted to like him. So I asked him to teach me his thought process.
I loved loved loved what he shared with me.
Now, this was first posted in 2017 (on my original blog, "Prayer and Duct Tape") but I wanted to resurrect this post because I am focusing on Creating a Beautiful Family Culture. And what would happen to our families if we all committed to NOT talking about others? Whewee. I know. SO, I think this is worth the repost.
I will teach you what my Mitch taught me.
It's pretty cool.
Note: In May 2019 Mitchell discerned out of seminary after being there for four years. They were good years and he did all of the right things as he left. (He sought counsel, he fasted, he prayed, etc.) He is now working construction for EBBY here in Wichita and dating a wonderful woman.
Okay, back to my story:
Mitchell had a great sophomore year at Conception Seminary. He said there were many reasons for that and said that a handful of pre-theologians really changed the emotional atmosphere at seminary that year.
I first wanted to know what a pre-theologian was. He explained that a “pre-theo” is a guy that comes into seminary with at least a bachelor’s degree. They are mature, thoughtful and balanced.
(If a young man goes to seminary straight out of high school, he will spend a total of eight years in formation. He will get a philosophy degree at a minor seminary and then a theology degree at a major seminary. If he enters formation after he has a bachelor's degree, he is "almost" in theology; he will spend only two years getting his philosophy degree and then four years in theology at major seminary.)
Father Pat York is a phenomenal priest of the Wichita Diocese and he was the Vice-Rector and Dean of Students at Conception for three years.
Father York knew/saw/witnessed that in the small college (under 100 guys) there was ample temptation to bring up another person's faults when that person wasn't around.
Father York, in his wisdom, worked closely with the (older) pre-theos and challenged them to make a difference at Conception Seminary, knowing that they'd only be there for two years.
He brought up the temptation to gossip. And Father knocked on the table and said, "If they aren't at this table, then don't speak poorly of them."
Gossip, as we all know, only creates a bad spirit.
So the pre-theologians took up Father's challenge to make a difference in this realm at Conception Seminary.
And they decided to focus on mealtime, when four to six guys would be seated and talking, a perfect place for meatloaf to be served with a side of slander and a pat of gossip.
So, during that seated time, if a seminarian began talking about another, a pre-theo would knock on the table and simply say, “They aren’t at the table.”
(Mitch said it was amazing. AND it was incredibly effective. With the example and guidance of the pre-theos, he learned to talk about guys as if they were sitting at the table.
By the end of the year, if someone would talk about another person, no matter where they were on campus, a guy would knock on whatever material was around, which was the mental reminder/reset that they needed.
THAT is what Mitch brought home with him from seminary that semester. We all noticed a difference in him.
When I first learned this from Mitch, I taught it to my 5 kids at home. Now, truth be told, that was four years ago and because they were 7, 11, 13, 13, and 15, THEY were more open to the idea. They easily knocked for each other. It was a good thing for my family.
However, I now have four teenagers: 15, 17, 17 and 19. (Plus David at age 11.) My teenagers are amazing. I love them. I LOVE their crazy. I love their wit and joy and spunk.
But one thing about them: they don't like to be mothered. I mean, pampered, yes. But they are stretching into themselves and they don't like to be CONTROLLED by a mother. Me sitting down and Implementing the Knock for THEM would make feel like babies.
So even though this worked four years ago, I don't see it making much impact on my family dynamic if I tried to IMPLEMENT THIS WITH THE TEENS.
What's a mom to do? Because I love this idea. And it had worked well in a college setting.
Well, while sitting in church without any of my children around (where I do my best thinking) I had this thought:
What if I'd implement this for myself during Lent this year? My first reaction. No. I'd rather teach a concept than live it.
HA. How's that for honesty?
I kept sitting with the idea. And it grew on me. And it grew and grew until I wondered if it was the best idea I had ever had.
See, I do have a tendency towards gossip. I just do. If I give my children The Power of the Knock, telling them in honesty and truth that Mama Bear wants to improve in this area, they will easily keep me on the right path. They'd probably delight in resetting me.
And, I know from my own life, that the most inspiring people are those that work on themselves vs trying to fix me. (The interesting thing, I usually end up imitating those that simply focus on themselves!)
Huge revelations over here. As my children grow and mature, I certainly have to grow and mature.
I'm feeling excited to get "schooled" by my maturing kids. Should be interesting. I'll keep you posted.
Thank you, Fr. York. We love, love, love you.
You Better Knock, Knock, Knock on Wood, Baby!
P.S. For you spring chickens out there, the title of this post is from a hugely popular song from 1979, Knock on Wood, by Amii Stewart. (She sounds like Debbie Harry, the lead singer from Blondie.)
See what you missed from the 70’s. Amii’s costume. Oh.my. It’s like thunder and lightning….it’s sort of frightening.