No Child Should Die a Victim of Comparison

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Toxic levels of expectation are causing young people all over the world to lose sight of their value as precious, irreplaceable individuals.

When researching Dying to Win I spent hours agonizing over whether I was making a solid argument based on the data I could find. I questioned the accuracy of translated reports and tried to calculate the statistical significance of my findings.

And then I woke up to the reality of the situation: it doesn’t matter how many kids are pushed to the brink of suicide. The loss of one precious child is a tragedy–and we’ve lost many all over the world.

In several countries in Asia news agencies report on student suicides attributed to academic pressure. Researchers in America have found a frightening correlation between youth suicide rates and the academic calendar year. You, like I, may know the feeling of having your heart sink with unthinkable news about a young person in your own circle of friends and neighbors.

When I read and share statistics, I feel the weight of heartache they must represent. I also know that there is an element of mystery. We can’t know perfectly why someone committed suicide– or what could have been done to prevent it. But we can guess that life isn’t getting any easier for the kids in our world.

When I look at what kids are dealing with today I find a common theme: comparison. We compare test scores. We compare bodies. We compare athletic abilities. Everyone wants to be number one.

And when kids don’t fit in they get bullied.

You and I can’t change the world, but we can look in the mirror and start there.

I remember walking through my parent’s living room when I was in college. The Dr. Phil show was on and a little girl, maybe three years old, was talking about her fear of getting wrinkles. Her beautiful young mother’s insecurities about aging had warped that child’s body image. I walked into the bathroom and wiped the makeup off my face.

It wasn’t that I would never use makeup again. But, for the sake of every little girl around me– and the ones I might have someday– I needed to be able to recognize that my worth was deeper than the face I presented to the world.

Today I am a mother with two young daughters and three young sons. I’m thankful for the years I spent preparing for this role because it’s a big job and I am far from perfect every single day.

My hope is that I will be able to help my children learn to exercise sound judgment, embrace their gifts, and appreciate the people around them. I want them to know their own value as precious, irreplaceable individuals who will experience deep abiding joy in life. And that they will love others in a way that is life-giving in a difficult world.


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