Be Your Best

The start of a new school year presents a prime opportunity to help our children learn this life-lesson…and begin to prove it again and again and again!

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: School

"Do your best."
"Try your hardest."

Quite likely you can hear yourself saying this to your children—as well as the echo of your parents' voices saying this to you as you grew up. Expressions of encouragement come with the job of being a parent. We want our children to do well, to try hard, and to shine in the process. If our child succeeds in doing well and even more, if he or she is recognized for an achievement, our urging has worked – it's been supportive and instructional. What's more, it's helped the child learn an important moral lesson: To try hard is a very good thing and reaps a reward—a successful outcome.

But, what happens when trying really hard isn't good enough? What happens when a child has given it his/her best shot, tried harder than ever…and failed to be successful? And what happens when (s)he fails again and again even though (s)he keeps trying hard?

What happens is that it gets harder to keep trying hard.

And then, it's a question of: why bother? After all, failure from trying hard or not trying hard is all the same – it's still failure. The moral lesson crumbles as fast as the effort. This downward spiral seems to be inevitable…unless we identify the spiritual source of "Do your best" and "Try your hardest."

If we are God-centered, we approach life from the standpoint of God-given dominion, which was firmly established at the time of Creation in Genesis 1:26-27:

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (KJV)

Everything God created was declared to be "very good." And so, we strive our hardest from this foundation—from this basis of completeness. Take the Beatitudes, for example, in Matthew 5:1-12. The pure in heart see God – not the "sort of" pure or the "almost" pure. The meek inherit the earth – not the "sometimes" meek or the "partially" meek. And so on. Discerning the kernel of completeness in each Beatitude is very helpful when we think it's okay to be mediocre or to make only a half-hearted effort.

In the story of the talents,the individuals that received ten and five talents turned them into something wonderful. To do that, he had to recognize his worth as something that is completely separate from the talent. The talent was his means of expressing his worth, but the talent was not the source of his worth. God is. Worth comes from knowing the one true Source of being, of identity, and from feeling that Source in our hearts. We wouldn't—can't—exist without God.

"In Him [God!] we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Not partially—completely. Not eventually—now. Not at certain times—always.

So, why do we keep trying our hardest to do our best? Why not give up when it's too hard? Because not doing our best feels crummy. Think of it this way: standing up straight and tall feels good; being bent over causes the back, legs and neck to ache, and the body gets tired. And then discouraged. A half-hearted effort or no effort at all is the same as not standing up and staying upright. It also feels crummy not to be true to oneself – not to give something our best shot. A half-hearted effort is like a half-filled balloon. It doesn't lift very high in the air, it deflates quickly, and it has less energy and vitality than a full balloon.

Here's another key perspective: when we do our best, we bring out the best in others. The spirit we show inspires others to try to match us or better us – and how cool is that? It feels great knowing that we've helped someone else shine. On the other hand, if the other guy comes out ahead of us simply because we didn't put out any effort…well, that pretty much stinks. It doesn't feel good, it indicates a poor and selfish attitude, and it sure doesn't do right by our Creator.

God has expectations of each one of us. Made in His image and likeness, we have dominion over every dark and dreary thought in the book, including doubt, discouragement, disappointment, dismay, and most of all, distrust of our God, who finds just the right way for each one of us to shine. We have the God-given ability to consistently and persistently do our best and try our hardest – which equals true success.

The start of a new school year presents a prime opportunity to help our children learn this life-lesson…and begin to prove it again and again and again!