My son is anxious right now. He has a test tomorrow in Math that he is just dreading. It’s a time test on multiplying sevens. Blech! Now, you need to know that this little man is in the gifted program for both math AND reading so it’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, because he does! And if you quiz him on his sevens facts orally, he does a great job. Hand him a piece of paper and a pen and do the same thing, again does a great job. Start a timer, anxiety shoots through the roof and EVERYTHING suddenly flies out the window! The poor kid, truly is anxious about nothing… but not in the good way.
As a parent, this has been absolutely infuriating to me. I tell ya, this year has been a serious learning experience for me as it has been for him. Maybe because it’s bringing hard memories back to me from my childhood of sitting with my mom for what seemed like HOURS going over flash cards to practice for my own dreaded time tests. I loathed those flash cards. But whatever the reason, it has certainly made me question God on what exactly He’s trying to teach us all through this time testing period. I’ve figured out that it’s something that He tried teaching me when I was younger and doing time tests and it’s something that He’s trying to teach Gabe and I both together now.
You see, we all have a very high ability to succeed easily in what we’re good at. So when we struggle with something, it automatically frustrates us. The more we struggle, the more frustrated we get, the less we succeed (because we’re frustrated) until we just give up and stop trying all together. Obviously this is NOT the ideal outcome for us, with math facts or anything else in life. Since Gabe started Kindergarten, we have stressed that as long as he is doing his best and trying hard we are happy. I had come across a study where they tested two groups of students. One group was only praised for their achievement and success while the other group was only praised for their efforts toward success. After several months of this the testers noticed that in the group that was praised for success, when they were presented with an opportunity to choose to do something harder than their own ability, or to do an activity that was under their ability level, they would almost always choose the activity under their ability level… because they knew they would succeed and receive praise for their success. However, the group that was praised for their efforts, almost one hundred percent of the time would choose the more difficult option. Why? Because they knew that as long as they tried their hardest they would receive praise. They pushed THEMSELVES harder to succeed, they didn’t need their teachers or parents to do it for them. They also, consequently received better marks because they weren’t giving up as often either.
This is the strategy our children have been raised with. We expect the BEST performance from them and they most generally meet those expectations. However, if they are not able to achieve those expectations immediately, because let’s face it no one is perfect, the last thing we do is tell them we’re disappointed or upset with them. Because we know what the result from that becomes. Discouragement and true failure, giving up.
The truth is, Gabe cares more about how he succeeds than any of us do, because it’s HIS success! He’s always wanted to get straight A’s and be the best, and honestly deep down, who doesn’t want to be the best or do their best in something? This is the first time in all his schooling that he has ever really struggled with achieving the success he desires and expects from himself. And by golly I am going to do everything in my power, from prayer to practice, to make sure that he doesn’t give up! Success doesn’t matter, only BEST EFFORT. However, I have found that my own best efforts generally produce success on their own. Not always of course, but usually.
A message from God to me about my own performance in life (which I too have been struggling and frustrated with lately), and I believe we all could hear this message! “What I am asking is that you maintain your high achievement expectations (which I fully support and applaud you for!), but that you no longer call attention to your own lack of success in your own eyes. You have the ability to completely crush your own morale and cause yourself to give up altogether. Trust Me. I know that you want nothing more than to please Me, your Beloved teacher. I ask that you please be mindful of the words that you use with yourself concerning your test results. Words can be like bricks, you can throw them and maim or you can lay them down carefully and build with them. All we can ask and expect of you is to do your best. And then let ME do the rest… and I will. I always do!”
And you know, He DOES! Just look at the paralyzed man on the mat in Matthew 9!
1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
Jesus asked that poor man to do the ONE thing he absolutely could not do! I mean you have to wonder if the thought crossed his mind, “Ummmm, Jesus, that’s why my friends brought me here, because I CAN’T walk, I’m paralyzed remember.” But in spite of that very glaringly obvious fact, he still got up and walked! He put forth what little effort he could, and then Jesus did all the rest! And the man got up and went home. I read a church sign the other day that was perfect for this illustration. “Failure isn’t falling down, it’s not getting back up again.” True failure isn’t falling, true failure isn’t getting an “F” on a test, true failure isn’t missing the goal, true failure is not putting forth your best effort to move towards that goal. And if that’s really the God’s honest truth, which is what I ALWAYS strive to bring you, then true success is putting forth your best effort irregardless of the end result that it brings.
OH HALLELUJAH!!!! PRAISE THE LORD! We don’t have to BE perfect!!!!! We just have to keep striving for the expectation of perfection in love through Christ.
Fun fact, check this out:
Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Now tell me this, if faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, and make NOTHING impossible for us… and love is GREATER than faith… WHAT can love do?????
Love can make our best efforts equal success. Love can make our darkness into light. Love can change hearts and minds and attitudes. Love can make us patient, when we’re not. Love can make us humble, when we’re not. Love can lift us up when all we want is to stay down. Love can, when we can’t. Hallelujah! Can I get an AMEN!?!
Want to praise about this one? I do! Francesca Battistelli wrote “Free to be Me” after she backed into a lawyers car in a parking lot.
It helped me realize that although we’ve got a couple dents in our fenders, a couple rips in our jeans. We’re still trying to fit the pieces together, and PERFECTION IS OUR ENEMY. Because on our own we’re so clumsy, but on HIS shoulders, we’re FREE TO BE WHO WE ARE! We’re free to be who HE made us to be, imperfect beings in a now imperfect world trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got until we get to go home.