I once heard an inexperienced speaker address a large crowd of young people, suggesting that they could do anything at all if they set their minds to it. So confident was he of his claim, that he asked someone to give an example of a dream they wanted to pursue. A sixteen year old called from the back, “I want to be a pilot.” The speaker excitedly affirmed him and suggested that nothing could hold him back if he set his mind to working hard enough. The teen called out, “But I’ve been rejected already because I’m colour blind.” The speaker paused and tried again, “Guys, you can do almost anything at all if you set your minds to it!”
Sometimes, the you-can-do-it mantra is inherently dangerous. People not only cannot do everything, but they are not expected to. Also, extremes of affirmation can cause some people to think they are the centre of the universe and that the world owes them. Some get pumped up, but also set up… for a big let down. By all means, I would want to encourage people to pursue their goals and to work hard. We’re not about to tell people, “You can’t do it”! There is no doubt, too, that many young people are under-affirmed. Everyone needs encouragement, but impressionable young lives need balance and realism and to know that it is OK to be good at some things and not at others, but that they are still loved and that they are equally valuable in the eyes of God and people.
Coupled with this is the need to submit to authority because it guides and shapes destiny when used responsibly. Parents, teachers and other leaders are not there to make that destiny a reality, but to coach and guide the person to be the best that they can be, to learn from mistakes, to correct wrong mindsets and to pursue excellence. It is a sad day when rebellion is felt necessary due to a dampening by the very people who are supposed to be bringing out one’s best. But rebellion often stifles development, too, because it resists and challenges authority that is a protection and a provision for our betterment. The more that parents and leaders can promote active listening, affirmation and clear boundaries to minimise that rebellion and the power struggles that accompany it, the more that young people will be appropriately guided with balanced encouragement to pursue reasonable goals with passion and conviction.