411 Focus

Try realism instead of the super lies "you can be anything you want to be" and "you can make it, if you try"

Contributed By:Dorothy Nevils maslivend@sbcglobal.net

You can. Maybe.

I have never told a child, “You can be anything you want to be,” then fastened an extension to that lie, “if you work hard enough.” Nor will I ever.

If you’re in the company of those who consider themselves the neighborhood’s greatest encouragers, you’re probably tempted to wrinkle your forehead, look at each other in disbelief, and wonder why folks would withhold such encouragement from our young! Then you’ll probably jump into your history of “pumping up” all the kids you’ve encouraged with your “truth.” Now, here I come, the contentious party crasher, to sprinkle rain on this lovely parade!

Well, I’m sticking to it. Such a statement can, instead of pumping up, deflate the child just like a sharp pin stuck in the side of a beautiful balloon, bringing it down, to die a flabby mess, on the ground.

How can that be deflating? Why might you be tearing down, rather than boosting, the child?

Though it is not your intent, you are actually telling the child that its failure is its own doing, that its desire is not strong enough. That’s parallel to the “super lie” that, if you want something “bad enough,” it’ll happen… The indictment: “You failed. You didn’t apply yourself. You didn’t want it “bad enough!”

Let’s look at that realistically. Wanting, or reaching, does not equal acquiring. If that were true, who’d be blind? Can you imagine depending on someone to guide you… if the only requirement were desire? There’d be no hospitals, no need for surgeons, no medicines at all. People would have the power to will themselves to success and even health if desire is all that’s needed!

I am not one to set the bar so low that a child can choke on dust. There ought to be a need to stretch. However, what you ought to do is encourage the child to do his or her best. There is nothing wrong with tension, pushing a bit, just a bit further than the child perceives as its best, but not where failure is practically guaranteed. Your efforts must encourage, not discourage, and there can be a thin line between the two.

There was a very soulful song popular in my younger years that got almost everybody up and onto the dance floor. The blues singer would reach way down in his soul – seemingly lower than his soul – and croon, “You can make it … if you try,” stretching the word “try” long enough to feel your partner’s heartbeat for seemingly a whole minute, then taking it up a pitch and repeating… Dancers melted onto their partners’ chests, almost swooning as if it were gospel… but it wasn’t an indisputable truth. Trying lasted, and lasted… but making it didn’t…

Push a child, yes… but don’t feed that child a line of bull that says whenever he fails, it’s because he didn’t try hard enough. Let that child know that when he gives it his all, falling a bit short is okay. You want better, but best is what the word says!

Robert Browning summed it up rather poignantly when he wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp – or what's a heaven for?"

Story Posted:05/19/2018

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