Success and Pressure

Let’s talk about success in today’s society, with our children, with ourselves, and with our ability to emulate and imitate the Lord’s merciful acts. 

Technology has become quite my friend, just as easily as it has become my enemy.   While I rely on technology, and more specifically social media, to keep me up to date with the news of the world, I also find it to be quite stressful especially where my children are concerned.  

Podcasts are one of my favorite things to listen to.  I enjoy getting snippets of news via NPR podcasts, or listening to 60 minutes while I’m doing laundry or the dishes.   In a lot of cases, I’m listening to news specifically through my Amazon Echo and Echo Dot while I read and write blogs, pay bills, and finish up any writing projects I’m working on.   It’s a different level of multi-tasking, than what my parents were used to.   One podcast I enjoy listening to is Focus on the Family.   In most cases, they have short little 20 or 25 minute devotionals and/or anecdotes about family and living a Christian life.  Last week, one of the podcasts focused on success and pressure.   They asked the question, “How do you define success?”   And obviously, in today’s society success is defined in a more superficial and at times egotistical way as opposed to a spiritual one.   So, today I wanted to discuss that in this blog. 

Many parents will say their child is successful if he or she gets into a good school.   If he or she wins the MVP trophy in soccer, scores the most goals in basketball, wins the geography bee, the spelling bee, is the valedictorian, or makes the President’s list.   I don’t want to take away from these parents, because they are right…their children are successful, but they’re falling short at times in the way the Lord asks us to be.   The Bible tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, to live for something bigger than what is on the surface.  

So many parents these days have created a thin line between a child doing his or her best and satisfying the egotistical needs and desires of his or her parents.   Ok, ok, friends, I know what you’re saying to me, “let he who doesn’t sin cast the first stone.”   It is not my place to judge or to “preach” because I am just as guilty.  For any of you who follow me on Facebook, you’ll see my often times shameless posts about my children completing tasks, some of those tasks are completed at an earlier age than their peers.   That is my pride shining through and some could call it my gloating, and this is where I state that technology and social media, specifically, are my worst enemy.   They encourage me to not focus on success in a Christian manner.

How many of you out there post photos of your children online?   I’d be willing to bet that every one of you who reads my posts and have children, do this.   You’re proud of your children and you want to share it with the world.   I get it, I do, but does it add too much pressure on us as parents to encourage (and some of you go a few levels above encouragement) our children to succeed?   Are our children becoming an appendage of our own superficial egos?   Think about that for a moment. 

This past Sunday, my pastor discussed “The Exceedingly Great and Precious Promises of God” from 2 Peter 1:5-11 and it correlated a lot with how we determine success, or at least I was able to relate it in my Christian struggles to be a good mom and mold my children into successful adults.   I want to look at two particular passages from 2 Peter 1. 

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fail, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:10-11

Peter wrote a second letter because false teachers were troubling the church and disturbing the faith of some by their heresy, immorality, and greed.   Perhaps I’m seeing a parallel in what Peter found and how we, Christians and non-Christians, are determining what makes our children successful.   We are placing realistic and un-realistic requests and stresses upon our children, and why are we assuming these are the only ways to be successful?  Thanks to social media, the competitive factor amongst parents has increased.   Our children’s success, or lack thereof, becomes a direct reflection upon how well we are raising our children.   We can be seen as failures.   We are labeled as dead beats and disconnected parents.  We allow ourselves to dwell upon a shallow view of success.   I struggle daily to make sure that what I’m conveying to my children as “success” isn’t something that is just defined by our society. 

So, what was my point with the post?   To encourage all of you to relax a bit, to let go, to not pin your child’s goals upon what Nosey Neighbor’s kids down the street are doing.   God created us in His image and He has a higher purpose for us and our children than what society leads us to.   This is not to encourage an indolent nature with our children, but continue to guide them and influence what true success is.   And just like Peter says in 2 Peter 1: 5-8,

                “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

And isn’t that how true success should be defined? 

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No Regrets

“You want to be a pilot?  Well, are you training to be a pilot?   Are you studying to be one?   Are you doing anything that is helping you to accomplish that dream?  No?  Well, then you’re just living a fantasy.”

Those were the words spoken at a high school graduation I attended on Friday night.   I call myself a writer, but I was just asked by a friend over the weekend how my writing was going.   We don’t see each other that often, since she lives out of town, but we both share a love of writing and a love of books.  Apparently, she is, or I should say was, a reader of my blogs and she noticed I hadn’t written in a while, a month to be exact.   “Well, you do have two boys.  You’re hands are full,” she said eager to make me feel not guilty for not writing.   She’s right, but being a mom is no excuse for not still finding some time for me.

Thursday I listened to a news report on Morley Safer.   The veteran reporter, an original of CBS’ 60 Minutes had passed away.   Being the dork that I am, and always have been, I love news programs and 60 Minutes is one of my favorites.   I had recorded the special from the previous Sunday, which was a story on basically the life of Morley Safer.   I listened to his news reports from Vietnam, how he had once occupied the same desk as Edward R. Murrow (whose reporting from WWII I would love to hear), and got a glimpse of his office at 60 Minutes.   He still used an old typewriter and wrote stories in a manner of Hemingway.   His words were melodic and could put you right into the scene.   You could smell the surroundings just from the words he used.

Years and years ago, my dream was to be a journalist.   I didn’t want to be on television.   No offense to any of my former colleagues, but television reporting is too froo froo.   The story seems to be lost in all of the graphics and commercialization of television.   No, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.   My idols were Woodward and Bernstein.  I wanted to be a writer, but for various reasons in my life (mostly immaturity and a lack of discipline)I never followed through with that dream, and now it is a regret.

Over the weekend, my husband and I also attended a memorial service for a former friend and teammate.   We were told stories of our friend and how he followed his dreams, at times perhaps with the occasional regret, but he was doing what he loved.   All of this has weighed heavily upon me and while I try to not have regrets, I worry about whether my boys may encounter this.

I go out of my way, sacrificing of myself, to make sure my boys experience everything.   I want them to be able to do everything they want to do, so that one day they don’t wake up and say, “I regret not taking the time.”

For me, I regret not writing for my college newspaper.   I regret not being more involved with the political parties at my school.  I regret not taking the opportunity of a research assistant for a book (which has been published and without me) more seriously.   I regret taking all of these opportunities for granted and thinking to myself, “no worries, Amy, another opportunity will come along.”

My boys are 4 & 2.   Perhaps they are too young for me to worry about taking things for granted.   Perhaps they won’t be like me and just assume that everything will be there tomorrow.   I don’t regret being their mother.   My life may not have been the way I had originally imagined it to be, but it is an exceptional life and not a fantasy.

I may have missed my chance to be the next great journalist or writer.   I may have forfeited an opportunity to write briefs for the State Department, but I have new opportunities presenting themselves daily.

We all have regrets.   Morley Safer said he felt guilty for being gone months on end on assignment while his daughter grew up.   He stopped short of saying he regretted what he had done.   I’m thankful to have the opportunity to be at home with my children as they grow.   I now just need to find a way to still carve out time for me and not beating myself up for what I perceive to be my shortcomings and failures.   They’re all superficial and callous, but they are what make me who I am and there is still a strong sense of determination to at least make my children not experience their regrets to the level I still do