Monday, October 23, 2006

Winning the Popularity Contest

Just as we longed to be popular when we were children, we hope that our own offspring will enjoy their share of popularity. “I’ll love my children whether they’re popular or not,” we tell ourselves, and it’s true, but nevertheless we want life to be easy for them. We don’t want them to know the pain of being rejected by other people.

When a child of mine comes home from school some days and pronounces, “Nobody likes me,” the mother tiger in me rears up, and I want to march over to the school, shake up the kids who teased him and demand, “Why don’t you be nice to my child?” After all, I know that my child is the most wonderful being that God ever created. He is smart and funny and cute and sweet. Why can’t everyone see that I have the most fantastic kid in the world?

But when I look back on my own childhood, I realize that the taunts and the teasing made me a better person. Yes, they were painful to go through. But I gained a “tougher skin” because of it. I learned that I’m never going to please everybody, and that, indeed, I shouldn’t. I realized that I should just be the best “me” that God created, and not worry about whether everyone likes me or not.

And that is the lesson I try to impart to my own children. If they look beyond themselves, they will see that all children are teased and ridiculed by their peers at one time or another. And it hurts so very badly when it happens to them. But I also tell my children that the only person they need to please is God. He made them perfectly, and He doesn’t make mistakes. His opinion of them is much more important than that of the team captain or the head cheerleader. Being popular with God wins the popularity contest.

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