Humility: An Attitude Worth Seeking
- Thursday, April 20, 2000
At times it's dangerous to believe your own press. Home schooled teens have heard their parents tell the story of their home school success countless times. Such stories are usually told for the laudable purpose of defending one's right to choose home education. Nonetheless, the natural effect of listening to such stories plus a genuine record of success breeds a tendency toward pride.
It's rare to find a fully developed attitude of arrogance. But a tendency toward being a little more sold on oneself than is appropriate is fairly commonespecially among 15- to 18-year-old home schoolers who have been taught at home for a decade or more.
I have three suggestions for curbing such attitudes. Eliminating inappropriate pride without curbing healthy self-confidence requires a delicate balance. But it is a balance worth seeking.
First, we should encourage our teens toward community service. The best overall antidote to pride is to learn to place a high value on the lives and interests of other people. And there is nothing like selfless community service projects to learn about the needs, desires, and value of other people.
A group of home school teens could work with a church in a low-income neighborhood to set up a reading clinic for elementary-aged kids. There is no need to use words to brag about your own reading skills when you prove your excellence by the act of teaching someone else to read.
Visiting nursing homes to sing, play instruments, read the newspaper aloud to a person losing their sight, or just listen to a lonely grandmother tell the stories of her youth helps a teen of today gain a perspective on the wisdom and the value of those who have gone before.
Physical labor for efforts like Habitat for Humanity or other reclamation projects are a great way for a book-smart teenager to see that he or she still has things to learn. Perhaps the best service project of all is to learn to help one's own family with humble chores and sacrificial care of younger siblings. Most teenagers, when they are around their friends, pretend that they have neither parents or siblings. Service to one's family requires a special brand of humility well worth cultivating.
Second, I would encourage home school teens to read biographies of true heros and heroines. Reading of the success of John Quincy Adamsas a 14-year-old he was in the diplomatic service of this nation as the private secretary to the first American foreign minister to Russiatends to place that high SAT score in a different light. Biographies of great men and women will serve two purposes. First, they will show our teens that there is still room for improvement. Second, such life stories inspire our older children to strive for the kind of excellence that is ratified by history.
The third way to turn arrogance into a healthier attitude is to give your teens a challenge that is greater than their current abilities. If high school work is easy, give them college level assignments. If they write essays with aplomb, encourage them to write a book. If they have a special knack in a certain area, expose them to someone who is a national expert in that field. Let them see both the possibility of true world-class excellence and their own need to improve their skills if they are going to reach such a level of success for themselves.
There is great merit in true success. But a successful individual with a healthy attitude knows that others excel in different areas and that pride is not justified. Real winners also know that they can and should improve.
Don't let your teens think that they have arrived. Give them access to the projects, books, and people that will help them see that they've just really begun.
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