Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Struggle Virtue

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win." John F. Kennedy, 1962

My husband quotes this speech to our kids often. He shortens it to, "We choose to [do these things] not because they are easy, but because they are hard." It's used as an encouragement to a child who is frustrated and trying to give up on homework/chores/project/anything. It's a pep talk of sorts, to keep them on track, to help them plod through. To bolster their resolve, in order to finish the task.

It doesn't always work.

Our kids give up quickly. They are easy to come to me and say, "Mom, I need your help," when they don't really need my help. They get frustrated when something seems too big, too daunting. And while I may have been quick to come to their rescue when they were younger, I am starting a weaning process that should have been done years ago. I want my kids to view struggle not as a weakness or failing, but as a strength. After I heard THIS NPR STORY, it reaffirmed something that I knew to be true. In the west, we put so much emphasis on our natural ability, on our inherent skills, rather than the process. We say that a kid is good at something because they are smart, or athletic, or artistic. But if they can't do something, we allow them to push it aside in favor of something they can do.

I think of kids who are forced to play piano (not so common as it used to be). They hate it, they complain, but they do it. They are made to practice, practice, practice. And then, guess what? They can play the piano. I think about scientists who work for years and years and years on the same problem, daily putting in their hours for a solution and coming up empty at the end of the day. I think about artists who don't whip up a painting in 30 minutes, but work for months and years making sure it is just right. Thomas Edison said it perfectly, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Struggle should be a natural part of the learning process.

There is so much in the scripture about hard work, too. There's a bunch of Proverbs that summarize to this: The more you work, the better you'll eat. And then there's this one in the second testament:"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." Colossians 3:23

God told Noah to build an ark. He told him how. But He didn't do it for him.

God told the Israelites to build a temple. He told them how. But He didn't do it for them.

Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples IN EVERY NATION. That's a load of work. And hard. And dangerous. But He left them with, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

If I am to make people who will go forth from my house into the world, I want them to be brave. I want them to persevere. I want them to change the world.

And I don't want them to call me and say, "But Mo-ommm, it's too haa-aard."

Just as my friend Jen put it HERE in her blog about raising brave and dangerous (in the good way) kids, so I also want my kids to have the skills to see struggle as a part of life, to view adversity as an opportunity to overcome.

Academically, I want them to flourish. In life, to persevere. In faith, to learn patience and value struggle and accept the big big challenges from the Lord. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

1 comment:

  1. I've read this several times since you've written it. I love this post. I need it for my children, but mostly, I need it for myself. Thank you.