“I thank God…”

When we tried brick-and-mortar school, one of the things that frustrated me, especially with Catholic school, was the competitiveness of it all. We teach humility and self-mortification. We teach the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. Then our kids go to school, where they are told to worry about “success,” compete with their peers, get “good grades,” etc. But don’t bully anyone and make them feel small.  Then we take activities that should be “fun” and make *those* about pride and competition. Really, all “success” comes from “privilege,” but we needn’t be negative about it.Back when Rush Limbaugh was starting out, he’d say, “I have talent on loan from God.” It was intended to sound arrogant while making a point: we *all* have talent on loan from God. I was privileged to have a stay at home mom and a schoolteacher father. I was privileged to have Marfan syndrome.

Yet people put on airs and insist they’re better than everyone else because we have “better jobs,” or “better degrees” or enough money (or time) to “eat healthy,” etc. There’s an _Andy Griffith_ where Opie gets in trouble for not contributing to the school’s fundraiser “for the poor” and it turns out he’s saving money to buy a coat for a little girl in his class who can’t afford one.  Another time, he wants a job for spending money and finds out the other kid trying for the same job is helping support his disabled father.  We find it so much easier to be charitable to the “Other.”


We give awards for being healthy or rich or putting ourselves above others, or for the easy philanthropy of voter drives and blood drives and fundraising. We do not recognize the kid with CF who finished the school year at all in spite of weeks in the hospital. We do not recognize the girl who dropped out of school to have a baby instead of having an abortion. We do not recognize the kid who falls asleep in class and doesn’t finish his homework because he’s working FT after school to help support his family. And, of course, if you can’t afford the money for the “award” or the “proper” clothes,


Do we have the false thankfulness of the Pharisee or the true thankfulness of a child?

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One response to ““I thank God…”

  1. Overemphasis on competition is wrong, yes, and children need to understand that winning isn’t everything, but they also need to learn how to handle it, because it is everywhere in life, not just in school. If you audition for a part in a play or try out for a spot on the team, not making it can teach you more than getting the role. You can ask the judges what you need to work on, how you can improve. If you never seek feedback from others, you live in an insular world of self-judgement, often missing your biggest flaws, or exaggerating the tiny ones that don’t really matter. And you also need to learn how to identify constructive vs. baseless criticism, because you will get plenty of both in life. Experience is a great teacher.

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