Sunday, September 30, 2012

Don't Give Up.

Don't give up. 

Difficult times make you stronger. 

Enduring hardships builds character. 

Like gold that is tested in fire, afflictions purify you. 

The struggles of life shape you into the person God wants you to be.

Sound familiar? Life's hard times have an enormous impact on us.  Our suffering draws us closer to God by stripping away our selfishness and by teaching us to lean fully on God's grace instead of our own strength. In other words, our trials form us in God's image. 

I know my own children and the students I teach will face difficulties in their lives (indeed, some already have). What they will need is the virtue of fortitude, or "firmness in difficulties and constancy in pursuit of the good" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1808) which strengthens us, and helps us stand firm when life gets tough.  

How can our children acquire this virtue, especially when the last thing any of us would want is for them to suffer? 

One thing I've found incredibly helpful with young people is to build their character through the small experiences that come up each day. For instance, having consequences for poor behavior and lovingly following through on those consequences builds the child's resilience. Allowing a child to face the consequences of his or her choices can also boost a child's perseverance, if the adult acts with patience and love. When a child doesn't make the team or misses first place, it's an opportunity for him or her to learn perseverance

I sympathize with the desire to shield kids from consequences.  I have a five year-old, and it's hard for me to knowingly allow him to choose a path I know he might end up regretting, no matter how small the disappointment might actually be. However, he will never develop the virtue of fortitude if I shield him from even the small hardships and disappointments of life. Those disappointments will become the building blocks of virtuous behavior later in life

Photo credit: bernat... via photopin cc

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