At the tender age of three, you’re pretty young, and I’m quite amazed at how you’ve already come to understand many things about the world. But there is still so much to learn. In the years to come, there are some precious lessons about life you will need to acquire. And I’m noting them down now also as a reminder to myself to not forget to teach you these critical truths along the way.
So to set the record straight,
1. You are not as special or unique as they’ve made you think you are.
They threaten to deceive you into thinking that when God created you, He was in an exceptionally positively creative mood and decided to produce the world’s most outstanding human being. Well, you're not. There are many, many other human beings in this world more talented, more intelligent, more well-endowed than you. And this has no effect whatsoever on how I feel about you as my son; because regardless of how highly intelligent or retarded you might be, I will still love you as deeply as only a father can.
Make no mistake about this. I love you regardless of how you are. I don’t need you to be the most successful man in society or to be recognised as the most talented man of your cohort just so that you are worthy of being my son. Your daddy is after all, like anybody else, a common man. Be ordinary, and love God deeply with your ordinary life, and know that you are already loved.
As a father, I resent it when they lie to you about how you are so unique and special, and then go on to tell all other children the same thing about themselves. If this world was truly made up of such unique and special people, then we should logically be a society consisting of all highly successful, highly able, and highly rich people, and we would all be gods. I want you to know the truth, that God made us ordinary. In fact, He even made Himself ordinary so that we could find Him among us. Let us not exalt ourselves beyond what we truly are.
2. Being talented will not be a guarantee of your success in life.
Why? Firstly, because you’re not the only intelligent and talented person in the marketplace. This relates a lot to my first point. No matter how special you think you are, there is always someone more “special” than you. And contrary to the popular myth that the talented and the fittest would succeed in this world, no one gets to the top based purely on talent and capability. We all have been given our specific vocations in life, and you will, in time, have to discover yours through much prayer and discernment. When you do find your vocation, you are going to be required to work really hard like everyone else in order to make it in life.
Secondly, talent is no guarantee of success in life because success has been erroneously defined by this unruly world. Don’t fall for all those senseless definitions of success like being rich, being famous, and being influential and powerful. Even seemingly religious people have come to define success that way. The truth is, your success in life will ultimately be measured by how holy and virtuous you are as a man. And unfortunately, holiness in this world can often (although not always) be attained only at the expense of worldly success.
The world is rather silly, if you think about it. First they tell you that you have to be talented and able in order to succeed in life. And then they realise that with this definition, many other members of the human race are therefore to be defined as disabled, or at best, untalented. Hence, in order to preserve their definition in a way that does not render them guilty of discrimination, they have to keep the playing field level by justifying that these oddities are not “disabilities”, but rather, “special abilities”, just so that all people feel they are given equal opportunities to “succeed”. They emerge with ridiculous theories about how everybody is equally intelligent, just in different ways. Should they even have embarked on such a definition for success in the first place?
Remember this, no matter how many academic scholarships you may get, no matter how rich you become, no matter how high a position you’re endowed with in life, these achievements will never – NEVER – make me more proud of you than the measure of holiness you attain in your life. Don’t strive to be successful. Strive to be good.
3. Those who do chastise you aren’t necessarily people who don’t love you.
You know all those moments when you received positive affirmations and compliments even though you got the answers wrong? Those were falsely constructed environments engineered by your parents and teachers who wanted to nurture an inflated sense of self-esteem in you. The problem was, we forgot that a high self-esteem is not necessarily a healthy self-esteem. If this perpetuates, your impression of yourself is probably going to be higher and better than it should be. One day, you will have to get your feet down to earth and come to terms with the ordinary person that you are and know that you get smacked by the world when you get the answers wrong. In the real world, your employers, superiors, colleagues and even friends will not give you positive strokes when you mess up. Society will remind you that when you fail to perform or meet expectations, there will be no mercy for you, and the only way to survive will be to either shape up or ship out.
So from now itself, you’ll have to start learning that there is such a thing as “wrong”, “bad” and “lousy”. Not everything in this world is as subjective and relative as they like to make it seem. There are many areas of life that are to be measured objectively, especially when it comes to issues of faith and morals. Sure, it’s easier to listen to comments that are pleasing to the ears and soothing to your emotions. The only problem is, such comments aren’t necessarily honest. You see, many parents and teachers today are taught that they should lie to you by saying things like “Good try!” or “Excellent attempt!” even when they think in their hearts that you’re a miserable failure. Because they are told that they should not dampen your spirit and should keep you happy, encouraged and spirited all the time.
Fortunately, not all parents and teachers fall for such humbug. And for these that do chide you over your wrong answers and failed performance, it’s not because we think you are inherently lousy. If we did think that you were intrinsically hopeless, we wouldn’t have bothered to pay any attention to you or expand any energy rebuking you. The only reason we have been so zealously, or sometime even aggressively, disapproving is that we believe you are capable of much more and much better than you have demonstrated yourself to be. We scold you because we believe in you, otherwise we might just leave you alone and take the easy way out of nodding positively at anything you say or do; after all, the world of social science tells us we must always be positively affirming.
For all those well-meaning lies the world is going to tell you about yourself, I’m sorry. In time, you will have to grow up and step out into the real world knowing that you are no less and no more human than all other human persons on this planet, and even more importantly, knowing that you’re not Almighty God. In the final analysis, we are all just trying to find our place on this humungous sphere and trying to make sense of many things, and the sooner you realise you’re not the centre of gravity, the better for you. Focus always on helping others to find their place, and you will soon discover yours.
Love God and love your neighbour. And I will be a proud father.
Happy birthday, son.
Written this day, on your birthday and feastday,
the Memorial of St Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr
20 September 2013