Maybe I was a pain in the neck at many Upper School faulty meetings at The Blake School, where I spent 25 years of my life.

At least to some administrators who chaired the monthly meetings.  Since I taught students skills of critical thinking and refutation, I often came to the after-school meetings still fired up in analytical mode. So I was often the first to “question” a policy or change (meaning remind me again, please, why in the world we are doing this).  Or ask for “clarification” (meaning I think I hear you saying only 5% of us would benefit….  I’m sure that couldn’t be right.  Could it?).  Or “wonder aloud” about how the proposed change would affect the faculty (meaning This is a joke, right?).

I had a lot of support from others – after the meeting: “I’m SO glad you said that.”  Emphasis on you.

I think that being positive is a wonderful thing, indeed a positive thing, much of the time.  Praise: good.  Compliments: fantastic.  Look for the silver lining: yes indeed.  Building self-esteem: of course.

But you cannot solve a problem unless you name it as a problem.  Sometimes, basic honesty demands that we are critical.

Look at Jesus.  As one person puts it:

Jesus was honest with his enemies. He unmasked the Pharisees and called them hypocrites because that’s what they were. He called Herod a ‘fox’ because that’s what he was. He challenged longstanding religious traditions that were doing more harm than good.  Jesus was honest with his friends. When the Twelve engaged in quarrels, he confronted them with the hard truth that in God’s eyes servanthood always trumps self-promotion.

Jesus was honest with everyone. He didn’t woo potential followers with sugar-coated promises of how easy their lives would be if they believed in him. He told them right up front about the cost of discipleship.”  (Internet source: The Lookout)

I hope that his kindergarten teacher nurtures my darling grandson’s self-esteem and builds his sense of confidence in himself and his ability to solve problems and grow.  I also hope they don’t go wacko in the process  because I’ve seen the results when students reach high school and find that there can only be ONE starting quarterback, ONE female lead in the musical, and that Harvard accepted only 9% of its applicants last year.  No matter how positive, no matter how high the self-esteem, reality intrudes.  We should be preparing kids – and ourselves – to blossom and grow in a variety of circumstances.  We start with honesty.

In his new book, Bill Gates lays out 11 rules that students do not learn in high school or college, but should:

Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are.  So and before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”

A nice dose of reality, I think.

So with our families and friends, we can be positive and encouraging without pretending problems are nonexistent or everyone can be the CEO or win a Nobel.  We can solve problems only if we name them first.  We can solve problems by attacking issues and not people.

As we swing into the next phase of the Search Process, let’s have Jesus as our role-model and pray for the moral courage to call it as we honesty see it, and not be threatened when others do so, too.  To be adult and remember we won’t all get everything we want.

Growth and progress are based as much on honesty as positivity.

See you in church


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