We’re in it to win it, then (as we considered previously)! So, what is the big issue about initiative? Well, one reason is simply that initiative is ‘godly’.
God is One who takes the initiative. He created us and this world—– He took the initiative to do that. Then He took the initiative and sent His only Son to save us, even when we did not ask Him. He took the initiative in forgiveness, in reconciliation, in friendship, in restoration.
He did not wait for us to reach a certain point, but He stepped out and acted. All the way through history, God has shown initiative. And we are made in His image.
We can also see that Jesus showed initiative, not just by coming to live on earth, but by going all the way to death for us. He took the initiative when He spoke to the woman at the well, when He called His disciples, when He preached from a boat, turned water into wine, ate with ‘sinners’. He told of a shepherd who would go and look for a lost sheep; He told of a master who asked his servants to go out into the lanes and byways and bring everyone into his feast; He said, “I stand at the door and knock.” The ‘status quo’ of the day said, “an eye for an eye”; He took the initiative and said, “turn the other cheek.” And we are called to follow Him.
The people God used in the Bible also showed initiative. Moses went to Pharaoh and asked to leave Egypt, not being deterred by the first, second or umpteenth refusal. David took on Goliath using initiative in his approach. Elijah challenged the false prophets to a test. Paul was converted when he went to the Jewish leaders and asked for letters to give him permission to arrest Christians. Peter showed initiative, even though he often stumbled with it; he was always willing to try something.
The question is: How can we develop initiative in our youngsters? Again, we can look to the Bible (if we are prepared to show initiative) and find answers (Matthew 7:7) where Jesus gives profound yet simple advice on the matter: “Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Ask, Seek, Knock (an acronym of ‘ASK’, as it happens).
We are encouraged to ask, if we want to show initiative. Asking questions, after all, creates openings. It is not so much a matter of asking “Why?” but rather “Why not?” It is not so much a matter of asking “What?” but “What if?” We must not be too proud to ask, whether it is for forgiveness or permission. We want pupils to ask questions to find out the answer themselves rather than being told. That is learning. That is critical thinking. That is initiative.
We are encouraged to seek. We do not wait for something to be presented to us on a plate but we go looking. We must seek opportunities. Sumner Redstone once said that “Opportunity does not knock. You have to find it.” Milton Berle put it slightly differently when he said that “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Following on from the first point of asking, seeking is also asking questions, along the lines of “Can I?” and “May I?” We need to look for ourselves and not expect others to lay it before us. We need to seek opportunities. That is initiative.
Thirdly, we are encouraged to knock. We do not wait for opportunity to knock — we knock. We try. We do not batter down the door but we knock on it, to see if we may proceed. As many people have said: “Don’t wait for your ship to come in; swim out to it.” If we do not get an answer at one door, we move on to another and knock again. We knock. That is initiative.
So these three simple actions are not only vital but also pivotal in developing initiative. We need to give our youngsters the encouragement to do these things, rather than simply giving them the opportunities. It is not about them getting first place or first prize, but making the first move.
John F Kennedy famously said in his inaugural speech: “Ask not what this country can do for you but what you can do for this country.” Ask! Then do! Or as the famous evangelist, George Whitefield prayed: “Lord, help me to begin to begin.” We will not regret it, as the actress Lucille Ball once said, “I would rather regret the things I have done than the things I have not.” A wise-crack once put it, “A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” Well, right now, we are being told: we must use our initiative and help our youngsters to use theirs! Any takers?
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
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