I’ve learned so much about not only these boys but also about myself in these breakout groups. The boys in my group were between 16-18 and dealt with a lot of the same issues that I dealt with growing up…pressure to perform in school, the self doubts and inevitable need to compare yourself to your peers that “perform” better than you, and the difficulty of obedience and submission to authority.
…In the end my advice to them about self-doubt was something like this; If you feel little by comparing yourself to somebody “superior” all the time, you’re only seeing 50% of the picture. There is undoubtedly also somebody else looking at you, comparing themselves to you, thinking you are “superior” to them. This is the other 50%. Take a step back to get a wide view. In the bigger picture, you’re neutral when you put yourself in the middle of these other two.
But what you would say to the one who sees you as “superior” and feels down about him/herself? Unless you’re a not-so-nice person(aka jerk), you’re probably going to encourage that person and explain to them that they shouldn’t feel down. You may take pride in what you are more refined in but then reach out your hand to help the other person in whatever way they need to learn and grow in that area. You may even just be humble and deny that you’re that good, and thank that person for the compliment…but then again, proceed to encourage them. In the same way, the one who you compare yourself to that is “better than” or more “superior” than you will probably have the same thoughts toward you. They won’t want you to feel down on yourself, explaining that you can achieve just as much, if not more, with just a little more practice and discipline, and maybe just guidance.
In life, you’ll always be able to compare yourself to somebody better. There will be no end. Instead of focusing on the doubt when you end up comparing yourself(which is inevitable), focus on the opportunity to grow. Focus on the encouragement, and ultimately, what God’s purpose is for you in that current setting. If everything were so easy for you to achieve, you wouldn’t work hard and develop your character. God made things difficult for us so that we could grow and learn. Sometimes you have to earn what God is going to bless you with, because when you achieve it, there will be great responsibility in wielding that blessing. Wart(childhood King Arthur) wasn’t able to pull that sword out of the stone immediately, Daniel-san had to wax on and wax off before competing, Rick Kane had to ride the old wooden finless surfboards before riding the Thunderbolt against Lance Burkhart at Pipeline(only 2% of you will understand this last movie reference…and if so, HIGH FIVE!!).
Chances are, the professional athlete who had to practice hard to make the bigs has a more refined character than the professional athlete who was born with raw talent and just stepped into the bigs. Embrace the hardship, toiling, and the struggle. For it is God given, and to embrace these things is to embrace God. It’s in these times that you’ll grow the most.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wefare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Now the most interesting part of teaching this to the boys is that I realized I need to remind myself of this daily. (It’s funny how much you learn by teaching.) I realize that as I grow older, my flesh wants to be more and more independent, more prideful, and feel like I don’t need anybody else. But as I learn to hand my heart over to Jesus, I understand that quite the opposite is true. I wish to be less independent and more dependent on Him, filled with humility, and focused on what God’s plan is for me, not my plan for myself.