Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Persuasion (not about the book) (09/01/11)
TITLE: Intangible Influence
By Shanta Richard
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When the sun climbed up high in the sky and the sheep were hot and thirsty he guided them with his staff to the still, cool waters of a pool under the trees. There they rested, walked around or grazed randomly until it was time to go home for the night. All the while the shepherd watched them because sheep were very timid animals and would panic at the smallest provocation. They would not drink from a running stream. A harmless land snake rustling in the grass, a surprised baby rabbit or even the shadow of a vulture flying in the sky could scare them into a stampede. The shepherd had to calm them with his gentle persuasive words and soft music. He had to know them personally and they had to trust him.
Just as he is gentle the shepherd has to be strong and fearless to guard his sheep against the animal predators and human robbers. His was a lonely and dangerous life. Caring for his dumb and docile sheep, and controlling them with patience and calmness, is a stressful job. A horse can be controlled by a whip, an ox with a rod, an elephant with a prod and a dog with a shout. Try that with a flock of sheep and you will cause a pandemonium. As far as sheep are concerned, it is wise to follow Aesop’s advice, “Persuasion is more effective than force.”
While reading the Bible, I had wondered why God is compared to a shepherd and not to a fisherman or a farmer. Later I realized that a greater relationship exists between a shepherd and his sheep than that exists between the fisherman and his fish or the farmer and his crop. The shepherd has a persuasive touch as he softly nudges, gently coaxes and intangibly influences his sheep.
The Bible calls Church leaders Shepherds. They have to practice the gentle art of persuasion to keep their congregation united and to encourage new believers. Often when people are threatened and fear is used to convert them they will remain only as long as they are scared and then one day they will leave. In other words if force is used to convert a person he will remain converted only as long as force is applied and once it is lifted he will drift away. St. Thomas Aquinas has said that:
“To convert somebody go and take his hand and guide him.”
Persuasion is love in action, an intangible influence, and the power of sound expressed in words and song. A person thus converted will remain faithful to the end because:
“Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer.
One melts and the other breaks to pieces.” (Henry D. Thoreau.)
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