I'm going to presume that I am not the only one that has wished my parents had forced me into doing something when I was younger that I could now be extremely accomplished at.
When you see talented musicians, linguists, dancers and other highly skilled people it's hard to not feel inadequate in comparison; particularly when the instrument that you are the most highly skilled at is the recorder.
I used to watch Top of the Pops religiously every Saturday evening. It was the one time my viewing preference was honoured over my two brothers so it was a pretty big deal. I can distinctly remember when the singer Jo-Jo appeared on the scene with her classic "Leave (get out)". She was just thirteen and only a year older than I was at the time. Upon learning this, my Dad turned to me and said "Well hurry up, time's running out."
I realise that he was joking and most likely wouldn't actually want a teenage popstar for a daughter but it was the idea that at the fragile age of twelve doors were already starting to close for me that was distressing.
In my pre-teen defiance I remember thinking that if it was anyone's fault it was my Dad's for not having forced me into singing lessons and moving to America to pursue the dream I didn't know I had. This brings me to what I actually want to talk about as I did not intend to write an article about my missed opportunity but about the concept of force and its different contexts.
Force has fairly negative connotations in my mind, going hand in hand with violence and with an implication of physical dominance. Of course like all words it can get thrown around a lot particularly with children claiming that they were "forced" into doing something that consequently got them into trouble. In reality however it is quite difficult to force somebody to do something completely against their will.
You can plant seeds, make suggestions, bombard people with information and even make threats but without the use of horrific type of force I alluded to earlier, it is extremely difficult to do.
To go back to our earlier example, how could my Dad have actually forced me to become a great singer (or at least a famous one)? He could have signed me up for lessons and dropped me off and told me I couldn't go and play unless I did my practice first but he couldn't actually do the singing for me. He couldn't transfer his drive and desire for my success into me. He couldn't make me want to be a popstar.
It's all in the sale
However Dad could have made it sound appealing. He could have presented me with career options and made that one look like the best option. He could have introduced me to child prodigies and shown me what was possible if I only worked hard enough. Maybe if he had just been really excited about it as a general idea on his own, I would have picked up on it and eventually felt it myself. I fear my analogy is starting to wear a bit thin but I think my point is still clear.
It is very hard to get people excited about your ideas and make them want to be a part of them unless they are open to it in the first place. When I see evangelising occurring in the form of flyer pushing I can't help but shake my head. It's so impersonal and honestly quite irritating and I can understand why it turns people off. I personally don't enjoy having anything thrust at me as I walk down the street. I would probably instinctively turn down someone handing out money if they were going about it in the same intrusive fashion.
I'm sure there is a story out there about a thrust flyer changing someone's life and introducing them to God which is great. I wouldn't dare condemn the practice when it has the right sentiment behind it but I just feel that there is merit in more of an individually tailored approach. I have always tried to present myself as being open enough about my beliefs that my friends feel comfortable asking me questions, knowing that I will answer thoughtfully and honestly. If somebody was troubled and needing a place of safety or reflection I wouldn't hesitate to suggest coming along with me to church.
It is not my intention to claim that it is only possible to reach people that you already have a relationship with or to discredit the efforts of people more bold than I. However, I do want to be an advocate for being a positive influence in your own community and starting from there.
When people suspect that somebody is trying to take away any of their autonomy, the instinctual reaction is to fight against it; just look at the recent freedom rally in Paris. But by living as we have been shown and giving God's love and Grace freely and generously, people will be drawn to that and the idea might just catch on.
Helen McIntosh is a 22 year old trying to create more than she consumes. Writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new. Helen is from Wellington NZ and is currently living in England.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html