Growing Pains | An AMH Blog Series
Warm, winter light filled the little Chinese restaurant with its golden glow. As my family enjoyed their lunch, the sun wasn’t the only thing in the room beaming. I was deeply engaged in conversation with my parents about the upcoming science fair. I was in 8th grade, in love with everything science, and thrilled to be able to show off my knowledge at the school fair. The question of whether I would place in the competition wasn’t even a question in my mind. The actual question was where I would place: First? Second? Or maybe third?
Assuming I’d always win
I distinctly remember my mom smiling, eyes squinting in the way they do when she has something to say to someone but doesn’t have the heart to say it.
So my dad did.
“Amber,” he started, “do you think you might be getting a little ahead of yourself? There are a lot of students participating in this science fair and you might not place.”
Not place? What was he talking about??? Clearly he needed me to help him understand.
“Dad, I know that. I’m not saying I’m going to take first place for sure,” I reassured him, “but there are three places, and I’ll definitely get one of them. Science is what I’m really good at.”
Reading the set-up, I bet most of you can tell where this story is going. My project “Does Music Effect the Growth of Plants” – which I was so convinced would wow the judges and other students alike – didn’t place.
I was devastated.
As consolation one of the judges let me know there was only one point between me and the boy who had taken third. That didn’t help. Bless her for trying, but that only made me feel worse.
To add one more dramatic detail, my sister took first place in her age bracket!
Thankfully my parents did a great job raising my sister and I to be happy for other’s successes. I was genuinely proud and happy for her, but since I was dealing with my own disappointment and frustration, I doubt I was as supportive as I would have been had I also won.
Learning to accept the losses
I analyzed the winners and ran the details of my project over and over and over again in my head. How maybe I could have made it better, maybe presented it better, maybe chosen a different topic, maybe, maybe….
I’d worked just as hard as the students who won. My project was thorough. My board was interesting. I didn’t lose for lack of effort. Something else was behind my loss and there was a more valuable lesson to be learned.
Acting on the attitudes of my heart
Although my effort was excellent, my attitude was not. I had told myself I wasn’t being prideful because I hadn’t assumed I would take first place. I had blinded myself to my own pride just because I hadn’t talked down to any of my fellow students or bragged about my project and likeliness to place. I thought I was okay because my actions weren’t prideful. Inside however, my heart was haughty.
We read in Proverbs 18: 12 “Before disaster the heart of a man is haughty and filled with self-importance, but humility comes before honor.”
Did you see the emphasis on the heart? We fool ourselves when we make sin all about our actions. Our lives are intricately motivated by what is in our heart.
God is not just interested in our actions. He cares deeply about what is going on in our hearts. He knows our heart FUELS our actions. The warning from Him in Proverbs 4:23 affirms this, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
I may have lost the science fair but what I gained was more valuable than a ribbon and recognition. I learned my attitude was as important as my achievement. For me it was pride, but this lesson applies to any self-serving attitude whether it’s apathy, bitterness, pessimism, or just a complaining or critical spirit. In time, the state of our hearts will manifest itself in our actions. If we don’t want these attitudes to become characteristics that define us, we need to stop hiding them in our heart.
Growing up isn’t easy.
Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way.
What lessons did you learn the hard way? Share in the comments or on our fb page. The AMH team will be sharing some of our own life lessons in our April blog series – Growing Pains. And we’ll be compiling a list of your life wisdom to share at the end of the month! Follow along with us on the journey!