There is a philosophy of coaching that goes something like this, “First you tear them down and then you build them up.” The goal of course is to motivate the team to excellence, and not allow them to become complacent or to accept anything but their best. I think its origin is from how athletes build up their strength and endurance, physically. I’m not sure I buy this philosophy completely, but the apostle Paul does something similar in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica.
If you give 1Thessalonians a quick read, it’s almost like two separate letters, chapter’s one through three and then four and five. The first three, Paul gives the church members high praise for their faith, the love they show to each other and their endurance inspired by hope (1:3). In fact he tells them that they have become a “model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” Then there is a not so subtle shift in chapter four when he warns them to “avoid sexual immorality…for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” He punctuates it by saying, “He who rejects this instruction…rejects God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” Paul continues in chapter four and five to warn them about being idle and lazy in both the practice of their faith and the way they live their lives. Paul’s coaching technique is more like build them up and then tear them down!
What can we learn from Paul’s coaching philosophy? Most of us, especially when our relationship with someone becomes strained, immediately turn to criticism. But the reality is that when that first word of criticism leaves your mouth, whatever you say next has no chance of being interpreted as constructive. The emotional walls go up and mutually assured destruction begins. What’s missing is being thankful for what you have together right now, which is the starting point for resolving differences and a base upon which to build. It’s like the old saying, “If you can’t think of anything good to say then don’t say anything at all.” Instead of picking a fight, begin with telling your husband or wife what you are thankful for in them. You may find that your problem with each other isn’t as monumental as you first thought. Approach your spouse with gentleness and compassion instead of anger and contempt. This is how God deals with us, so shouldn’t we do the same?
“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” 1Thessalonians 3:9