Self-esteem does not define an individual. Virtuous character does. Self-esteem and virtuous character are not one in the same.
Without a doubt, getting cut from a sports team hurts a child, but when disappointment from being cut is dealt with appropriately, the blow can be a tool to help the child develop stronger character.
We can't always avoid damaging situations... nor should we. Sometimes things are disappointing in life, for adults and for kids. Often we don't reach the goals we set. Other times we may be rejected or ridiculed. On occasion, we may even be told by others that we are not good or worthwhile. If we spend our lives avoiding damage, we will never challenge ourselves, never venture; never aspire to anything which could result in failure. The same is true for our children.
We need to encourage our children to work hard to do their best in school. Guide them to persevere individually and as a member of a team. Promote their development of friendships with new people. Motivate them to audition for the band. Encourage them to try to be anything they want to be, helping them understand that they may fail and that’s ok. While doing so, we help them focus on their greater purpose in life - to love and serve others.
Sometimes, they will fail; get a poor grade, get cut from a team. People may say things to them that are very hurtful. When those things happen, teach your child how to use the disappointment as a learning tool and as motivation for even greater commitment and effort. Encourage them to study harder, practice extra, and even to be extra kind. Most importantly, teach them how to put a setback into perspective, keeping their focus on their responsibility to serve their fellow citizens and community.
Doing these things will help their temporarily damaged feelings serve as fertilizer for the growth of true and lasting character. It will also help them to develop “grit”, which is where their strength of character comes from.
The Canadian artist Susan Gale states, “Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.” Allowing children to fail helps them to face their own weaknesses. Life is not always fair. The “good guy” doesn’t always win. Failing or getting hurt is an opportunity to learn and grow. Let it happen, and be there to make sure the lesson is learned. Instead of building “fake” self-esteem you will be building your child into an adult of virtuous character.
Our CEO Ed and I sat down and recorded an informal conversation last Saturday. You will get to see some of the clips in upcoming promotional videos. We spoke at length about what a hero is and what that means to both of us. While we talk about heroes a lot during school and in all of our school and board meetings we thought we should define what we mean by "hero".
Simply put, a hero is someone who gets up when they get knocked down - when life doesn't go your way you brush yourself off and try again.
Hallmarks of a hero
Heroes take responsibility when a victim makes excuses and blames others.
Heroes see a problem and work to fix it when a victim complains that there is one.
Heroes keep going when victims quit.
The hero's journey is the process a hero goes through to find their gifts and how they will change the world with their gifts. This process has stages.
The Hero's Journey
Everyday life in the ordinary world
A call to adventure - A discovery, challenge, or obstacle.
Resisting or refusing the call.
Meeting a mentor who changes their mind and encourages them to take on the journey.
Cross the threshold where their commitment is tested. Usually, the test is monsters within yourself of resistance, victimhood, and distraction.
Final Battle of overcoming and becoming changed.
Reward, journey back home to share your gifts with the world and becoming an ally.
This story is told again and again throughout time because it is the human story we all share. Harry Potter, The Sword in the Stone, Lord of the Rings...The myth is not about the treasure, it is about the journey, the struggle, and the resulting change within, that is the true treasure.
"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be." - Albus Dumbledore