Giving Confidence To The Convinced

Sometimes we live up to our expectations, but sometimes we also live down to them. When the expectations are low to begin with the challenge is getting people who have close their eyes to open them up and see the possibilities. It’s applauding their efforts to break through into new territory that they didn’t believe they could ever enter.

I’ve experienced this in a variety of ways during the course of my life and, as I look back on it, what occurs to me is that I had certain people at different times who said they believed in me, believed that I could do whatever it was that others had told me I couldn’t do.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of my students at lunchtime about various adolescent items of interest. In the midst of our conversation, she made a statement that caused me to pause and clarify a false assumption. She said, “We’re the dumb group, aren’t we?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Our pack (the name given to our section of students) is the dumb pack. That’s who we are.”

“You’re wrong.”

“I heard that’s why we’re in this pack, because we’re not the smart kids. They put us in this pack because of it.”

“Let me correct you on that. Students are not grouped together in packs on the basis of who is smart and who isn’t. Quite frankly, you may have the dumbest language arts and social studies teacher in the school, but you are not in this pack because your chances of being successful are less.”

She smiled, grasping the fact that I believed in her ability to be awesome. It was a defining moment for me. In this year where this writer, a pastor for 36 years, has been called upon to guide a pack of eight-graders in their pursuit of education, I realized that my purpose, my aim, is to instill confidence in this following of students. I am called to them to believe in themselves. In the midst of teaching them how to construct an essay, I must convince them to believe in themselves.

Having coached basketball for close to 30 years, one of the things I would say frequently to my players who were reluctant to trust their ability to do a left-handed layup is “What’s the worse that can happen?” The response almost all of the time would be, “I’d miss it.” “Exactly”, I’d say. “And I’m okay with that. What I want you to know is that you have there ability to do it. It may take a few times, a few days, but I believe you can do it. And if I believe you can do it, why don’t you start believing you can do it?”

For the last three months of this school year, I’m going to preach over and over again to my flock of 57 students, “I believe you can do it. There may be people who have convinced you that you can’t, but this voice is telling you that you can.”

“You may have decided that you can’t and, as a result of that conclusion, you’re making it your goal to succeed at not succeeding, to be successful at being a consistent irritation to your teachers, as well as your classmates, but I believe you can achieve what has been pounded into you that you aren’t capable of.”

“And just like in coaching, where I sometimes have to have a refocusing activity of running a few sprints to get my players back on track, I’m not going to allow you to not reach what is easily in your grasp. Why? Because I believe in you! In all the noise of the voices who are telling you that you can’t do it, I’m going to yell “Yes, you can!”

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