What's the Measure of Success?


We went to my 6th-grade daughter's middle school awards ceremony last night, and I was left wondering what we're teaching our kids about success.

Besides the fact that it seemed we were rewarding every small achievement a child could accomplish, the teachers chose one student from each grade to be the recipients of a special award. The award was given to the child who best represented the ideals of what it means to be a student at my daughter's school. All three winners were girls. All three were pretty. All three were outgoing, excellent students and popular with their peers.

Don't get me wrong. All of those things are great qualities to have, and each girl chosen was certainly deserving of the award. But it made me stop and wonder what we are teaching our kids about success. Is a child who is less outgoing any less successful? Is a child who excels in shop class or home ec any less successful than a child who excels in more traditional subjects? Is the child who is a fabulous musician but struggles in math less successful than a child with a 4.0 grade point? Is the child who spent all semester pulling a D to a B in an honors class less successful than a child who easily made the honor roll all four quarters in easier classes?

It made me stop and wonder what I'm teaching my kids about success. My older daughter is painfully shy in a crowd. She definitely needs to overcome some of that in order to function in this world, but I wonder if my efforts to help her move out of her shell are motivated by what's best for her or by a need to have her "fit in." My younger daughter makes some unconventional choices about the things she likes to do. I wonder if some of my efforts to sometimes steer her choices toward the mainstream are motivated by a need for her to be like other girls or by true concern for her.

Am I sending the message to my girls that the way God made them isn't enough? Society sends that message so often. If you don't fit in the carefully constructed image of success, then you can get left by the wayside, especially in those pre-teen years. And I wonder if I'm contributing to that.

Because, you see, God doesn't measure success by how smart we are, how popular we are or how good we are at sports. He measures success by whether we're following hard after Jesus. He measures success by how much we love His Son. He measures success by how well we love each other. And that's not measurable on any human scale.

I want to send my girls the message that while academic and social success are good things, they aren't the most important thing. I want them to know that God doesn't base success on how high their grades are, how many friends they have or how well they succeed on the sports field. I want them to know that God uses a different measure of success, and I want them to seek His success, not the world's.

So, while we'll still be cheering on our girls' accomplishments at school and on the field, while we'll still be encouraging them to make decisions that lead to having good friends, we'll also be focusing on raising girls who go hard after God and seek His measure of success even when it doesn't match up with the rest of the world's.