Being Smart Isn’t Enough
By Jeannette Webb
I meet them too often. They are good students – sharp, pleasant. They are the kinds of kids you enjoy having in your home and are grateful that they populate your homeschool or church group. They pretty much hang with the crowd, not causing trouble, but not exactly leading the charge. They’ve always stayed comfortably within range of where they know they will be successful. Many of these young people have amazing fantasies about who they are and what they will accomplish.
And they are headed for disappointment.
It can manifest with a National Merit potential letter and suddenly they decide they want to attend a competitive college. But there is nothing in their academic track record to prove they are able to cut it at a tough school – no AP tests, no SAT Subject tests, no anything above and beyond the normal high school record. They are smart people with no credentials.
It can show up when they present their straight A’s to a college and think they have an easy in and are beaten out of a slot by someone with lesser grades but who has lived life fully and contributed to society in a meaningful way.
It becomes apparent when they are repeatedly unsuccessful in securing scholarships that leadership is defined differently than being a member of an established group.
However, all these scenarios are very surface and thus, in the scheme of things, not that important. The truly heart-breaking thing is that they haven’t reached their potential. They’ve missed who they could have been with the right guidance.
Let’s look at this another way. Jesus, the master storyteller, shared in Matthew 25:14-30 the Parable of the Talents. We all know the story. He gave one slave 5 talents who traded with them and doubled the money. He gave another slave 2 talents who also doubled his capital. The final slave was given 1 talent and the man buried it in the earth to keep it safe.
Here’s the thing most people miss. The two slaves that were successful and praised for their efforts took a risk. They traded with the money. Instead of doubling it, they could have lost it all together and had to face their master empty-handed. They could have failed. To be honest, the third slave didn’t really fail as he did not lose the money. But he was punished for leaving things as they were and not improving them.
Getting uncomfortable yet? I sure was as a young mother realizing the incredible potential of my little children that was mine to enrich or to bury. One way was safe and cozy, one was risky with the potential for disappointment.
We took the path less traveled by, the road of growth that was fraught with obstacles and was anything but safe.
We failed on occasion. We could have done things better sometimes. But we chose to surround our kids with people who were smarter than they were (adults), find mentors to guide them, set up training opportunities to stretch them, and give them a rigorous education that would call out their best. We challenged them often and, as a result, their feet were firmly planted in reality (though softened with the idealism of youth). They understood what they were capable of and the sacrifice it would take to get there.
Others have described my kids as fearless and I think that’s true. Nothing daunts their spirit or their joy as they face incredible challenges. But they can do this easily as adults because they had lots of practice as children walking a lonely road.
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